The other day my mother recommended that I read a book – Common Sense by Thomas Paine. She said it reminded her of me. And I found that flattering. I’ve been poked fun at for a lack of common sense on many occasions, especially by my mother, so being told that a book titled common sense reminded her of me was intriguing – teasing my ego in a way.
I’m not a very well read person, though have begun working towards remedying my deficiency. Up until recently I never had any interest in books – partially from mental laziness, but equal-part an inability to relate to reading materials. I never felt it beneficial to read about love before having experienced it for myself. Or of adventure before having embarked on some of my own, greatly because expectations would then guide my experiences, not naivety – which enables a truly open mind.
The value I’ve come to admire in literature is not the learning of something new, but the explanation of experiences I’ve been privileged with. The human conscious can be passed down through writing. And many cherished writers of the past have beautifully worded the struggles we believe unique to ourselves. To often do I believe my experiences to be incomprehensible by others, but it is MYSELF who cannot comprehend the experience, and this lack of understanding prohibits me from sharing.
Without a foundation of experience much of the beauty of literature is lost. For there can exist know true connection between reader and author if neither have grounds to relate on. Thus, as much as I consider my lack of education a deficiency, I’m thankful for it. Instead of having invested countless hours, poorly digesting wisdom that I wasn’t yet mature enough to understand, I built a solid foundation of experience, which now, with more mild angst, I can begin to unravel.
I say this because within the first paragraph of Common Sense I was relieved of a long time frustration, one that I had developed from experience, but had not been able to articulate – Paine, however, wrote it masterfully. Here is that paragraph:
“Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following page, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable out cry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”
There is no reason in me detailing how I previously struggled with the message above. Those words would be no more than an illiterate explanation of what Paine had so wisely worded. Even if I wanted to do so, I don’t imagine I could. It is very difficult to express an inability for expression.
The message of this article may seem vague, but I can, and will, summarize the core meaning I intended behind it. If you have an interest, one even as vague as life, dive into it experientially before you do academically. For the pages will be meaningless without an experience to relate them to. And by starting with books you are limiting your expectations to what those have experienced before you.