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Common Sense by Yoritomo-Tashi

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if self-control is allied to common sense, in order to maintain the
equilibrium between individual sentiment, natural to each one of us, and
the ideas of mankind as a whole.

"All classes of society are subject to this law, and, from the proudest
prince to the humblest peasant, every one is obliged to harmonize their
social duties with their personal obligations.

"Those who understand how to imbibe thoroughly the lessons of common
sense, never ignore the fact that morality is always closely related to

"If each one of us would observe this rule individual happiness would not
be long in creating a harmony from which all men would benefit.

"One thing we should avoid, for the attainment of universal
tranquility, and that is the perpetual conflict between individual and
social interest.

"The day when each one of us can comprehend that he is a part of this
'all,' which is called society, he will admit that sinning against
society may be considered the same as sinning against oneself.

"Passing one day before an immense cabin, built of bamboo, which stood
near a rice-plantation, I perceived a man who hid himself from my view,
without however being able to escape my notice altogether. I went
resolutely to him, to ask him the explanation of his suspicious movement.

"After an unsuccessful attempt to escape, he resigned himself to allow me
to approach him, and I understood the reason of his apprehension:

"He was carrying several pieces of bamboo which he had detached from the
house. He wanted, he said, to make a little blaze because the dampness
was chilling him.

"Without replying to him, I led him by the hand to the place where the
branches taken away had left a large space, a kind of opening in the side
of the house, through which a keen wind was rushing.

"'Look,' I said to him, 'the blaze that you are going to make will warm
you for a few minutes, but, during the whole night the cold wind will
freeze you--you and your companions.

"'In order to procure for yourself an agreeable but passing sensation you
are going to inflict upon them continued sufferings, of which you can not
escape your share.'

"The man hung his head and said: 'I had not thought of this; I was cold
and I allowed myself to be tempted by the anticipated pleasure of warming
myself, even if only for a few minutes.'

"And, convinced by common sense, he repaired the harm which he had done,
first by reason of selfishness, then by thoughtlessness, but, above all,
by lack of self-control.

"To dominate oneself to the point of not allowing oneself to become the
slave of miserable contingencies which appear as temptations to
self-indulgence, and conceal from their pettiness the beauty of the
consistent action--this is only given to the chosen few and can only be
understood by those who cultivate common sense."

Is this to say that reasoning should be a school for abnegation.

Such a thought is far from our minds.

Neither habitual abnegation nor modesty is among the militant virtues,
and for this reason the critics ought often to relegate them to their
proper place, which is the last, very close to defects to which they
closely approach and among whose ranks one must sometimes go in order to
discover them.

But, apart from the question of a sterile abnegation, we must foresee
that it may be important not to overestimate one's individual interests,
to the visible detriment of the general interest.

This is a fault common to all those who have not been initiated into the
practise of self-control by means of reasoning based on solid premises.

They are ready to sacrifice very great interests, which do not seem to
concern them directly, for some immediate paltry gratification.

"They act," said the philosopher, "like a peasant who should risk
his harvest in order to avoid paying the prince the rent which
belongs to him.

"Common sense teaches us that we should call to our assistance
self-control, in order to repress the tendencies which tempt men to
sacrifice the general interest to some personal and vehement desire.

"Rarely do these people find their advantage in separating themselves
from the mass, and the prosperity of the greatest number is always the
cradle of individual fortunes."

Leaving questions of primary importance to come to the subtleties of
detail in which, he delights, Yoritomo speaks to us of self-control
allied to common sense, extolling to us its good effects in practical
questions of our every-day life.

"We too often confound," said he, "self-control and liberty.

"We are tempted to believe that a slave can not possess it, inasmuch as
it is the special possession of all those to whom riches give a superior
position in the world.

"How profound is this error!

"The lowest slave can enjoy this liberty, which is worth all others:
self-control, which confers intellectual independence more precious than
the most precious of possessions, whereas the most powerful prince may be
altogether ignorant of this blessing.

"There are dependent souls who, for want of the necessary strength to
escape from vassalage to the external impressions will always drag on,
feeble and opprest by the exactions of a mental servitude from which they
can not free themselves.

"Others rise proudly, ready to command circumstances, which they dominate
with all the power of their volition governed by reason.

"It is common sense which will guide them in this ascent by keeping them
within the limits assigned to those things pertaining to reason and
rectitude of mind.

"Before everything, it is well not to forget that this faculty invites
those who cultivate it to seek always for exact facts.

"Knowledge, in all its aspects is, then, a perfect educator for those who
do not wish to build on the flimsy foundation of approximate truth.

"In pronouncing the word knowledge, we do not wish to speak of abstract
studies which are only accessible to a small number; we wish to express
the thought of instruction embracing all things, even the most humble
and ordinary.

"A man from the city was walking in the country one day, not far from a
vast swamp.

"All around it were a few miserable huts, the shelter of some peasants
whose business it was to gather the reeds from the borders, weaving them
into large baskets to be sold afterward in the neighboring country.

"Little by little twilight descended, slowly enveloping all things in a
mist of ashy gray, and vapors arose from afar over the stagnant water.

"The man from the city trembled, believing that he recognized fantoms in
this moving vapor; he sought to flee, but, unfamiliar with the locality,
he ran along the side of the swamp without finding the end of it.

"Exhausted from fatigue and trembling with fear, he resolved to knock at
one of the cabins.

"He was welcomed by a basket-maker, to whom he related his fright, adding
that he was unable to understand how this man found the courage to live
in a place haunted in such a terrible way.

"The peasant smiled and explained to the man, whose intellectual culture
was, however, infinitely superior to his own, by what phenomenon of
evaporation these mirages were produced.

"He demonstrated to him that these fantoms were only harmless vapors, and
the city man admired the knowledge which common sense had taught the
ignorant one."

And Yoritomo concluded:

"This peasant gave there a proof of what self-control allied to common
sense can do.

"Instead of allowing himself to be influenced by appearances, he confined
himself to reflection, and observation aided by attention led him to a
deduction resting on truth.

"The essential factor of control is cool-headedness, which permits of
seeing things in their true light, and forbids us to gild them or to
darken them, according to our state of mind at the time."

The Shogun adds:

"Fear, hideous fear, is a sentiment unknown to those whose soul communes
with self-control and common sense.

"The first of these qualities will produce a fixt resolution tending to
calmness, at the same time that it makes a powerful appeal to
cool-headedness, which permits of reflection.

"Fear is always the confession of a weakness which disavows struggle and
wishes to ignore the name of adversary.

"Cool-headedness is the evanescent examination of forces, either physical
or intellectual, with reference to supposed danger.

"Without self-control cool-headedness can not exist; but it only develops
completely under the influence of common sense which dictates to it the
reasons for its existence.

"Cool-headedness, by leaving us our liberty of thought, enlightens us
undoubtedly on the nature of danger, at the same time that it suggests to
us the way to avoid it, if it really exists.

"There can not be a question of fear for those who possess the faculties
of which we have just spoken, for it is well known that, from the moment
when the cause of fear is defined it ceases to exist; it becomes stupid
illusion or a real enemy.

"In the one case, as in the other, it ought not to excite anxiety any
longer, but contempt or the desire to fight it.

"For those whose mind is not yet strong enough to resolve on one or other
of these decisions it will be well to take up again the argument
indicated in the preceding pages, and to say:

"Either the object of my fear really exists, and, in this case, I must
determine its nature exactly, in order to use the proper means first to
combat it and then to conquer it.

"Or it is only an illusion, and I am going to seek actively for that
which produces it, in order never again to fall into the error of which
my senses have just been the dupes."

Looking over these manuscripts, so rich in valuable advice, we find once
more the following lines:

"Self-control and cool-headedness are above all necessary to aid in
dissimulating impressions.

"It is very bad to allow one of the speakers in a dialog to read the mind
of him who speaks to him like an open book.

"He whose thoughts are imprest vividly on the surface is always placed at
a glaring disadvantage.

"The thought of glorifying hypocrisy is far from our minds, for it has
nothing to do with the attitude which we recommend.

"The hypocrite strives to assume emotions which he does not feel.

"The man gifted with cool-headedness is intent on never allowing them
to be seen.

"It keeps his adversary in ignorance of the effect produced by his
reasoning and allows him to take his chance, until the moment when, in
spite of this feigned indifference, he reveals himself and permits his
mind to be seen.

"Now, to know the designs of a rival, when he is ignorant of those that
we have conceived, is one of the essential factors of success.

"In every way, he who is informed about the projects of his adversary
walks preceded by a torch of light, while the adversary, if he can not
divine his opponent's plans, continues to fight in darkness."

The most elementary common sense counsels then cool-headedness
when exchanging ideas, even when the discussion is of quite an
amicable nature.

From this habit there will result a very praiseworthy propensity to
exercise self-control, which is only a sort of superior cool-headedness.

It is also the cause of a noble pride, because it is more difficult to
win a victory over one's passions than to conquer ordinary enemies, and
he who, with the support of common sense, succeeds in ruling himself, can
calculate, without arrogance, the hour when he will reign over the minds
of others.



"A very common error," says Yoritomo, "is that which consists in
classifying common sense among the amorphous virtues, only applicable to
things and to people whose fundamental principle is materiality.

"This is a calumny which is spread broadcast by fools who scatter their
lives to the four winds of caprice and extravagance.

"Not only does common sense not exclude beauty, but it really aids in its
inception and protects its growth by maintaining the reasons which
produced its appearance.

"Without it, the reign of the most admired things would be of short
duration, granting that the want of logic had not prevented their

"What is there more commendable than the love of work, devotion to
science, ambition to succeed?

"Could all this exist if common sense did not intervene to permit the
development of the deductions on which are based the resolutions that
inspired in us these aspirations.

"But this is not all; without logic, which permits us to give them
solidity, the most serious resolutions would soon become nothing but
vague projects, shattered as soon as formed.

"In common sense lies the cause and the object of things.

"It is common sense which makes us realize that difference that
few persons are willing to analyze, and which lies between
judgment and opinion.

"We almost always succeed in readily confounding them, and from this
mistake results a too-frequent cause of failures.

"Opinion is a conviction which is capable of modification.

"In addition to this, as it is based on mere indications and probability,
it is rarely free from the personal element.

"Opinion depends upon the favorite inclination, upon the mood of the
moment, upon sundry considerations, which direct it almost always toward
the desired solution.

"Also it depends often on thoughtfulness or on the inexactness of the
initial representation, which we are pleased to disguise slightly at
first, then little by little to color in accordance with our desires.

"Falsehood does not necessarily enter into this process of tricking
things out; it is, three-quarters of the time, the result of an illusion
which we are prone to perpetuate within us.

"We are too often in the position of the three wise men who, while
rummaging in an old sarcophagus, discovered a vase whose primitive
function they were unable to determine with any certainty.

"One of them was a poet and an idealist.

"The second only prized positive things.

"The third belonged to the category of melancholy people.

"After a few days devoted to special research work, they met together
again in order to communicate to each other their different opinions
about the exhumed vase.

"'I have found the secret,' said the first.

"'I also,' affirmed the second.

"'I equally have found it,' replied the third.

"And each one based his opinion on preconceived notions which reflected
their bent of mind:

"'This vase,' said the first, 'was intended to hold incense, which
they burned a that epoch, in the belief that the smoke dispelled the
evil spirits.'

"'Nonsense!' cried out the second; 'this vase is a pot which at that time
served as a receptacle for keeping spices.'

"'Not so!' insisted the third, 'it is an urn of antiquated design used
for receiving tears; that is all.'

"These three serious men were certainly sincere in giving explanations
which each one of them declared decisive. They exprest opinions which
they believed implicitly and which their respective natures directed
irresistibly toward their peculiar bents of mind.

"Judgment, in order to be free from all which is not common sense, ought
then to put aside all personal predilections, all desire to form a
conclusion to humor our inclinations.

"Absolute impartiality of judgment is one of the rarest gifts and at the
same time is the noblest quality which we can possess."

We should then conclude, with the Shogun, that common sense aids in the
production of noble aspirations, and is not concerned only with that
which relates to materiality, as so many people would have us understand.

The Nippon philosopher teaches us also the part which he assigns to the
habitual practise of goodness.

"We are too easily persuaded," he says, "that goodness, like beauty, is a
gift of birth.

"It is time to destroy an error rooted in our minds for too many

"Goodness is acquired by reasoning and logic, as are so many other
qualities, and it is common sense which governs its formation.

"Have we ever reflected over the sum total of annoyances that people, who
are essentially wicked, add every day to those imposed upon them by

"Are we capable of appreciating the joys of life when impatience makes
the nerves vibrate or when anger brandishes its torch in the bends and
turns of the brain?

"People who lack goodness are the first to be punished for their defect.
Serenity is unknown to them and they live in perpetual agitation, caused
by the irritation which they experience on the slightest provocation."

Common sense indicates then in an irrefutable way that there is every
advantage in being good.

And Yoritomo proves it to us, by using his favorite syllogism:

"Happiness," he says, "is above all a combination of harmony and absence
of sorrow.

"Wickedness, by inspiring us with discontent and anger, disturbs
this harmony.

"We must, therefore, banish wickedness, that we may cultivate goodness,
which is the creator of harmony."

Continuing still further the same argument, he adds:

"Common sense would have the tendency even to make us promise to be good,
so as to satisfy our own egotism.

"Goodness creates smiles; to sow happiness around one, is a way of having
neither eyes nor heart offended by the sight of people in tears; it is
the eliciting of an agreeable joy, whose rays will shed a golden light
over our life; is it not more pleasing to hear the ring of laughter than
to listen to painful sobs?"

So, we should never lose an opportunity of being good and that without
mental reservation.

Gratitude is not the possession of every soul and he who does good may
expect to receive ingratitude.

He will not suffer from it, if he has done good, not in the way a
creditor does who intends to come on the very day appointed to claim his
debt, but as a giver who fulfils his mission from which he is expecting
a personal satisfaction, without thinking of any acknowledgment for what
he has done.

If the debtor is filled with gratitude, the joy of being good is that
much increased.

There is a species of common sense of a particularly noble quality that
is called moral sense and which the Shogun defines thus:

"The moral sense is the common sense of the soul; it is the superior
power of reasoning which stands before us that we may be prevented from
passively following our instincts; it is by its assistance that we
succeed without too much difficulty in climbing the steep paths of duty.

"This sense discerns an important quality, which puts us on our guard
against the danger of certain theories, whose brilliancy might seduce us.

"It is the moral sense which indicates to us the point of delimitation
separating legitimate concessions from forbidden license.

"It allows us to go as far as the dangerous place where the understanding
with conscience might become compromised and, by reasoning, proves to us
that there would be serious danger in proceeding further.

"It is the moral sense which distinguishes civilized man from the brute;
it is the regulator of the movements of the soul and the faithful
indicator of the actions which depend on it."

We must really pity those who are deprived of moral sense for they are
the prey of all the impulses created in them by the brute-nature, which
sleeps in the depths of each human creature.

The man whose moral sense is developed will live at peace with himself,
for he will only know the evil of doubt when he realizes the satisfaction
of having conquered it.

Moral sense, like common sense, is formed by reasoning and is fostered by
the practise of constant application.

It is the property of those who avoid evil, as others avoid the spatter
of mud, through horror of the stains which result from it.

Those who do not have this apprehension flounder about, cover themselves
with mud, sink in it and finally are swallowed up.

Yoritomo again takes up the defense of common sense, with reference
to the arts.

"Can one imagine," he says, "a painter conceiving a picture and grouping
his figures in such a way as to violate the rules of common sense?

"We should be doomed, if this were true, to see men as tall as oak-trees
and houses resembling children's toy constructions, placed without
reference to equilibrium among green or pink animals, whose legs had
queer shapes.

"Madmen represent nature thus, which seems to them outlined in
strange forms.

"But people of common sense reproduce things just as sound judgment
conceives of them; if they throw around them at times the halo of beauty
which seems exaggerated, let us not decry them.

"Beauty exists everywhere; it dwells in the most humble objects, makes
all around us resplendent and, if we refuse to see it, we are blinded by
an unjust prejudice, or our minds are not open to the faculty of

"It is revealed above all to those who cultivate common sense and reject
the sophistries of untruth that they may surround themselves with truth.

"Such people scorn trivial casualties; they adopt an immutable
rule, reasoning, which permits them to deduce, to judge, and
afterward to produce.

"All beautiful creations are derived from this source.

"The most admirable inventions would never have been known if common
sense had not helped them to be produced, strengthening those who
conceived them by the support of logic, which demonstrated to them the
truth of their presumptions.

"Authority follows, based on the experience which, by maintaining the
effect of judgment, has armed them with the strength of the mind, the
true glory of peaceful conquerors."

Would one not say that the Shogun, in writing these lines, foresaw the
magnificent efforts which we are witnessing each day and that from the
depths of time he caught a glimpse of these brave conquerors of the
air and of space, whose great deeds, seeming at times the result of a
crazy temerity, are in reality only homage rendered to common sense,
which has permitted them to calculate the value of their initiative
without mistake?

And one can not be denied the pleasure of entering once more into close
communion of thought with the old philosopher when he says:

"Enthusiasm is of crystal but common sense is of brass."

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