Thursday, December 15, 2011

Common Sense is not what is needed, Mr. President.

Common Sense isn’t what’s needed, Mr. President

If you listened to Mr. Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes, did you hear the phrase? Yes, that phrase. Personally, I listened until I heard the phrase “common sense”, after which I turned the Tube off. What calls for thinking in this present-Time, Mr. President, is not common sense. At one time, I had a Chinese employee who loved to repeat “common sense isn’t so common is it?” when client discussions became mired in details that clouded the bigger picture. Clients loved it; it simplified life for them. That is not what we need from our leaders, our friends, family members, or ourselves! Mr. President, I want to share this little paragraph with you, because I was disappointed when you called for “common sense” in a time that calls for thinking.

“That sound common sense which is so often ‘cited’ in such attempts” ascertain facts, by appealing to particulars> “is not as sound and natural as it pretends. It is above all not as absolute as it acts, but rather the shallow product of that manner of forming ideas which is the final fruit of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century (emphasis mine). Sound common sense is always trimmed to fit a certain conception of what is and ought to be and may be. The power of this curious understanding extends into our own age; but it is no longer adequate.
The organizations of social life, rearmament in moral matters, the grease paint of the culture enterprise – none of them any longer reach what is. With all the good intentions and all the ceaseless effort, these attempts are no more than makeshift patchwork, expedients for the moment. And why? Because the ideas of aims, purposes, and means, of effects and causes, from which all those attempts arise – because these ideas are from the start incapable of holding themselves open to what is.”

Instead of common sense, Mr. President, we need to think and to think differently from those ways we have allowed ourselves, or been allowed, to think. Certainly - if we are honest with ourselves - each of us already has some sense that we no longer truly engage with life and think. Television, cable news, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, radio pundits pushing a message supportive of one platform or another: each of these “channels” through which we are bombarded daily, deliver messaging that merely distract us from, allowing us to avoid, thinking. There are, in all likelihood for most of you, actual human beings sitting next to or across from you right now from you; and yet, in many instances, you are not connected, you have not come together, no thought is taking place.

Several avenues of help are available. Psychiatry, Religion, gatherings, engaging with thought, engaging and building with Others: these all seem to be better for us and for our times than staying plugged in and not thinking. In other words, there are multiple “Tubal-detox programs” available to any one willing to unplug, to engage, to recognize, as well as to accept the fact of their own Being-in-the-world and the Being of others. Such engagement brings with it awesome responsibilities, responsibilities which if accepted can negate both “common sense” and the failure to think so prevalent at present. It is hoped that we thus could find a path along which we could co-create a sustainable future, inclusive in nature, characterized by it ability to allow all to flourish. We need to repair and to re-weave the world and local tapestries. Common sense will never achieve either of those two goals.

Was heist Denken? was written by Heidegger nearly 50 years ago; and yet, its message is more relevant to our present-Now than any earlier time. Thinking is not “common sense”! At our most Sacred time of the Year, what greater gift could we give our friends, families, partners, lovers, employees and employers than to engage as humans, as thinking humans? Thinking requires that we unconceal that which has been hidden; it requires, in Heideggerian-speak that we come together to gather; that we no longer accept the concealed as truth.

Let me leave you, Mr. President, with Heidegger’s conclusion to this portion of his lecture. It applies in today’s Flat World more than in 1954.

“There is the danger that the thought of man today will fall short of the decisions that are coming, decisions of whose specific historical shape we can know nothing – that the man of today will look for these decisions where they can never be made.”

Mr. President, you have demonstrated that you understand and have internalized Michael Porter’s admonition: “strategy is choice”. We need you to choose to lead us out from tubal-land’s morass of conflicting utterances of concealment. Currently it seems as though the Sybil of Cumae is allowing leaves to blow, leaves that portend disaster, leaves inspiring fear. Mr. President, make the concealment stop. We need you to eschew common sense and to set the standard for thinking in America. Help us see that “common sense” is not the way.

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