Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
Introduction to Common Sense by Thomas Paine 1776
What is “common sense”?
It’s just what you think it is. It’s what everyone thinks. It’s part science, part philosophy, part morality. It’s what everyone would think if everyone had the facts.
This story is about the search for common sense because it seemed to be eluding me. I thought I knew it all. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was a good guy and everything was as it should be.
Then I started asking questions. Questions like:
What Is The Meaning Of Life?
Well, that’s when things started to get a bit confusing because the answers were not substantial and didn’t really hang together.
Perhaps it was inevitable that I would be asking questions since my job was all about asking questions. I worked for a fund management company that invested Other People’s Money in unlisted businesses. If we heard a company pitch we liked, we’d have to check the facts. A big part of my job was “due diligence” or asking questions to see if the story we’d been told hung together. There was a quantitative element, like “are the numbers real?” and “are the contracts solid?”, and a qualitative element, like “is the boss straight?” and “is the management good?”. The trouble was, I turned my investigative mind on myself and my world and found myself in the uncomfortable position of either having to ignore the questions or get answers.
I couldn’t ignore the questions so I needed answers. I wanted to be comfortable doing what I was doing, living the way I was living. I also felt a responsibility to get answers because I was in a position to do so.
Well the questions were asked and answers were found. Mostly the answers are common sense. Answers are certainly commonly available. And mostly they are easy to understand.
Clearly, today, many people are looking for answers as well.
In the end it became clear that the ideas about “the meaning of life” are common sense and are not really new, being retellings of ideas that have been told before. (A book called “Common Sense” published around 1775-6, which pointed to the ineffectiveness and immorality of the monarchy, was instrumental in motivating independence of the USA.) Although the ideas are not new, they appear to be new and ground breaking to us because they often go against traditions and culture we have grown up with.
I imagined everyone would “get it”. Everyone would simply see what I called The Big Picture for themselves in their own way. But after a decade of pushing without much progress, and when the world seemed to be spiralling in the wrong direction, I was persuaded to write a book. That was five years ago. I never imagined writing a book would be so hard and take such time and commitment. Clearly it’s a talent I need to develop!
This is a book of philosophy and science. It is about the search for truth, the meaning of life and the answer to everything. These ideas can change the world, if you choose to adopt them.
During the journey it has become clearer and clearer that the Big Idea is truth. Truth is your anchor to the meaning of life. It is the guide to relationships at home or at work. It is the answer to the problems of the world. But to see that it is necessary to connect the dots. As that happens, you know and feel that truth is the answer. It’s common sense.