Common sense (or lack thereof) in the 21st century

Just because you can do something, doesnít always mean you necessarily should. Iím not sure who originally came up with that particular saying, but thereís a lot to be said for it, philosophically speaking, if you ask me Ė whether itís in regards to science, politics or oneís personal life and the choices one makes.

A great example of this which immediately springs to mind: Scientists in Livermore, California, this past summer, who hoped to create a miniature sun by utilizing a Death Star-like laser, approximately the size of three football fields. Now donít get me wrong, the idea of an unlimited supply of sustainable energy, utilizing nuclear fusion, is of great interest to me, especially with the possibility of man-made climate change staring us in the face. Yet I canít escape the feeling that Iíve seen this one before (oh yeah, thatís right, didnít Dr. Octopus build one of these things in ďSpiderman 2Ē that almost destroyed New York City?).

And thatís just one example of scientistsí ability to outthink themselves on a regular basis in my opinion. For all the benefits modern science provides humanity, it seems thereís an equal opportunity for potential disaster. Think Sir Isaac Newtonís third law applied to everyday scientific, political or personal decisions, no matter the scale Ė ďto every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.Ē

And isnít that the honest truth.

Politically speaking, Iím of a mind that our legislators and elected officials could use a good dose of this little tidbit of wisdom. Youíd think politicians on both sides of the fence would have learned something from the November elections, yet alas, they obviously didnít. Bickering for the sake of bickering really gets us nowhere as a country, and yet thatís exactly what they continue to do.

I suppose Republicans figure if they can shoot down most everything our president says or attempts to accomplish until the 2012 elections Ė and their hope for a conservative, right-wing commander-in-chief Ė they will then, once again, have control over the country. Unfortunately, this would simply result in the same kind of indecision which currently plagues Washington, only the roles will be reversed. In this instance, Democrats are no better than their Republican brethren, even if I do lean toward their political philosophy. As to President Obama, Iíll reserve my judgment on his accomplishments, and failures, until his term expires, but thatís just me. I happen to think the man is trying his best to come out on top, for the American people, in what could be considered a no-win situation.

Closely related to the whole just-because-you-can-doesnít-mean-you-should concept Ė that all too familiar thought which crosses my mind at least a time or two per day Ė what on earth were they thinking. While thatís not the exact language I use when contemplating the foolishness (or sheer stupidity, depending on oneís point of view) of others, I typically try to keep those thoughts to myself.

My favorite what-were-they-thinking story was relayed to me by a close friend over this past summer. It involved a local residence, located outside the city, where theyíd recently set up a new trampoline. Harmless, right? In this instance, however, the homeowners had, in all their wisdom, placed their trampoline on a concrete slab (hopefully you can see where Iím going with this). Now donít get me wrong, I have no problem with trampolines, itís just the thought of falling (jumping?) off from one that terrifies me. Add a concrete landing surface to the equation and I think youíll understand what Iím getting at.

And thatís just one of thousands of what-were-they-thinking stories Iíve accumulated over thirty-plus years, not to mention the hundreds of times Iíve had to ask myself the same question. None of us are perfect, obviously, yet a little forward thinking in many cases truly goes a long way. Now I think Iíll go find myself a perfectly good bridge to jump off from, maybe in Brooklyn. My friend says itís definitely worth a try.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian.

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