News and Tribune

December 2, 2013

CUMMINS: The decline and fall of common sense

Local columnist

— As explained in a previous article, the possibility of moving to another planet is looking better all the time. It’s not that I’m fearful of global warming, etc., which might literally blow us off the face of this Earth. It’s the people on Earth who over heat from failure to use good sense.

 If you’ve ever plowed ground in mid-summer, you knew the danger of over-heating your horses. What you did was stop and rest under a shade tree until your horses cooled down. Back then, it was known as using common sense or gumption, but now when we see people over-heating, we often add fuel to their fire. It’s like warming the body with popsicles. When you encounter someone blowing his stack, sit him down under a shade tree.  

In human relations, the Golden Rule makes a lot of sense. Then why don’t we do it? In foreign relations, there are two ways to settle disputes. One is to attack; the other is to negotiate for as long as it takes. Which makes more sense? In political relations, the search for common sense is a waste of time. The only commonality of the locked-in political forces is the quest to attain power. There is absolutely no sense in Washington, as exemplified by the manufacturing of the Lincoln penny, which costs 1.5 cents to mint.

Back in the old days, a farmer had enough sense to know that his horses helped keep food on his table. You feed me and I’ll feed you. When my granddad referred to a neighbor as having “hoss sense,” he meant a neighbor knew enough to plow straight rows rather than in circles.

Today, life in this modern world seems to be spinning circular in its tracks. There are three reasons for the decline of reason: One is blood-curdling politics, another is total reliance on the big computer and the third is that the human brain is steadily filling up with passwords, the keys to grains-of-sand data. How much information do you need before coming to the conclusion that rain is falling, a signal to get under a roof. How much common sense do you find in Congress? None, because there is a liberal and a conservative sense, and each preach the other evil and nuts.

There’s not much we can do about politics just as there’s not much we can do about Hell, except repent, but we don’t have the time to go straight since iThings now consumes practically every fiber of our being. Common sense today is not much more than selecting what software to download into your brain, filling it as the heart empties out.

Never thought I’d see the day a computer would warm my heart more than my wife. Maybe I’ve been living in the past too long when life was lovey-dovey simpler. You can’t sit on a front porch and talk to a wife or neighbor about Nature and needing rain. We don’t sit and talk about anything while running online in circles. Stop running and you gather moss, but I gather it for insulation. Roll along fast and far enough, and where do you end up? Where everyone else ends up — dead, so put your funeral on Facebook. Then knock on Heaven’s gate, which is programming (with kinks) for you to sign on. And you think signing up for ObamaCare is the Inferno.

Where did common sense go? Once again, we must rely on computer science where warm-hearted technicians lead us. They’re trying to program computers to use common sense. According to the nerds at Carnegie Mellon, they programmed 200 processors to identify 1,500 objects, 1,200 scenes and then make 2,500 associations. They discovered the processors understood that zebras tend to be found in savannahs, and that they look somewhat like tigers. That’s common sense? Common sense is discerning a docile zebra from a blue-state, liberal donkey or a red-state conservative elephant.

 Once the kinks are worked out, there is little doubt computers will process common sense. Think of all the mental blunders you’ve made. Any day now, you will be able to download some common sense. Excuse me — a breaking news flash.

Sources reported the Supreme Court has agreed to determine if a corporation has the right to freedom of religion. Hobby Lobby has sued the government over providing contraceptives, which prevent abortions, under the ObamaCare mandate. We should pray for the Supreme Court, but it’s not legal.  

— Contact Terry Cummins at