Message 13: Common Sense and Great Personalities

“The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next.”

-Henry Ward Beecher

On the stage of the world, each one occupies a place which at the start, as a rule, does not be the acme. Each era, for Common Sense, was an opportunity to manifest itself differently for truth of yesterday is not always the truth of today. Common Sense without yielding its devotion to truth takes various forms or shades. People of Common Sense are the ones who experience no anxiety because of this struggle.

They do not meddle in endeavors to reform laws. They submit to them by learning how to adapt them to their needs, and respect them by seeking to subordinate their opinion to the principle on which they are based. Common Sense, when it is the question of turning into great being, ought to adopt the characteristic of that animal called the chameleon. Its natural color is dull but it has the gift of reflecting the color of the objects on which it rests. Near the leafs, it takes the touch of hope. On a lotus, it is glorified with the blue of the sky. And after all makeovers, does not cease to possess the color of the ground- its real dull color. It is about giving situation a favorable color without contradicting them. Common Sense is intact as the dull color in chameleon and be differently colored as per the varying situations, people and time. Common Sense is the unfolding of an augmentation process which incites us to attune our environment to actualities. This is what great people did, do and will do.

A vast literature on great men and women is available everywhere in all languages.

Its not literature which commences your understanding of greatness; it is when you realize greatness in some people or event in real life; perhaps at that very tender age when you haven't heard about greatness. What gives you understanding of greatness starts from the ground of real life incidences. The medium could be an encounter with a person, a sound, an expression, a question, a gesture or may be a look. They give you experience and sense of greatness and you distinguish your very own set of qualities for greatness which is dependent on your sensitivity and sharpness. Common Sense, an exigency, physical or moral can determine in different individuals, a very different resolution.

A P J Abdul Kalam writes in his autobiography:

"I was born into a middle-class Tamil family in the island town of Rameswaram in Madras state. My father, Jainulabdeen, possessed neither much formal education nor much wealth; despite these disadvantages, he possessed great innate wisdom and a true generosity of spirit. He had an ideal helpmate in my mother, Ashiamma. I do not recall the exact number of people she fed everyday, but I am quite certain that far more outsiders ate with us than all the members of our own family…"[1]He further explains:

For five years, between 1966 to 1971, about 22 scientists and engineers had worked closely with Prof. Sarabhai. All of them were later to take charge of important scientific projects. Not only was Prof. Sarabhai a great scientist, but also a great leader. I still remember him reviewing the bi-monthly progress of the design project of SLV-3 in June 1970. Presentations on Stages I to I were arranged. The first three presentations went through smoothly. Mine was the last presentation. I introduced five of my team members who had contributed in various ways to the design. To everybody's surprise, each of them presented his portion of the work with authority and confidence. The presentations were discussed at length and the conclusion was that satisfactory progress had been made.

Suddenly, a senior scientist who worked closely with Prof. Sarabhai turned to me and enquired, “well, the presentations for your project were made by your team members based on the work. But what did you do for the project?” That was the first time I saw Prof. Sarabhai really annoyed. He told his colleague, “You ought to know what project management is all about. We just witnessed an excellent example. It was an outstanding demonstration of team work. I have always seen a project leader as an integrator of people and that is precisely what Kalam is.” 2

He continues, “I consider Prof. Sarabhai as the Mahatma Gandhi of Indian science – generating leadership qualities in his team and inspiring them through both ideas and example.”[2]

What made them different and what can make us different are two different

issues. Though the underneath roots are same, dynamics of humanity dress them new. Literature in the form of biographies, autobiographies and stories make you understand only the universal applicability of the underneath subtle quality; the Common Sense.

Of course, there is Common Sense as prevalent feature in great people but the manifestation varies in every person and includes different supporting qualities with them in each single case.

In fact, Greatness lies in augmentation.

Augmentation- the most dominant, inherent and fundamental feature of Common Sense.

Of course, there is Common Sense as

prevalent feature in great people but the manifestation varies in every person and includes different supporting qualities with them in each single case.

Greatness is mirage. Augmentation is atlas of territory of truth. If you have atlas, mirages on the way can really help you to speed up and explore them one by one. If you don't have atlas, you will be lost running after mirages one after another.

Greatness hasn't been about big money or power games; it's about betterment and augmentation. It gets nearer by bringing better self everyday, consistently and tirelessly.

One of the deep thoughts that consumed Einstein from 1905 to 1915 was a crucial flaw in his own theory; it made no mention of gravitation or acceleration.[3]

Sachin Tendulkar says, "I use to bat in four nets at one stretch. Whenever, I use to get tired, Achrekar (his coach) use to keep a one rupee coin on top of the stumps and say, "Anyone who gets him out will take this coin. If no-one gets him, Sachin takes it." Tendulkar till date contributes this technique in being instrumental for enhancing his concentration. He still treasures the 13 coins earned by him during the practice sessions.[4]

Augmentation is distinctive in us in the form of drive, determination and perseverance to keep standing and moving on all sides of the pre-decided roadmap. The itinerary may change or it must change with the dynamics of growth, aptness and indulgence but the qualitative aspect of this roadmap i.e. drive for improvement, must never fade. Great people have not exactly been those who were extraordinary but they were those who could understand and walk in order of territory of truth. Moreover, augmentation is the process of aligning yourself with the mission of your life; with the determination of living a great life along with a faith in God and his demeanor of teaching. It is identifying and barricading off track.

As Stanford's Provost, Condoleezza Rice was responsible for managing the university's multi-billion dollar budget. The school at that time was running a deficit of $20 million. When Rice took office, she promised that the budget deficit would be balanced within "two years." Coit Blacker, Stanford's deputy director of the Institute for International Studies, said, “there was a sort of conventional wisdom that said it couldn't be done... that [the deficit] was structural, that we just had to live with it." Two years later, Rice announced that the deficit had been eliminated and the university was holding a record surplus of over $14.5 million.[5]

Elizabeth  Ist of England became queen at the age of 25, and upon hearing of her accession to the throne, she is reputed to have quoted the 118th Psalm's twenty-third line, in Latin: "A Dominum factum est illud, et est mirabile in oculis notris" - "It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."[6]

If you are trying to find greatness, forget about greatness and solicit augmentation with the help of a map of territory of truth and you will come upon greatness. If you are passionate about greatness, passion should be occasional and common sense continual.

Mahatma Gandhi in his autobiography narrates: 'If I should be pledged to be faithful to my wife, she also should be pledged to be faithful to me' I said to myself. The thought made me a jealous husband. Her duty was easily converted into my right to exact faithfulness from her, and if it had to be exacted, I should be watchfully tenacious of the right. I had absolutely no reason to suspect my wife's fidelity, but jealously does not wait for reasons. I must needs be for ever on the lookout regarding her movements, and therefore she could not go anywhere without my permission. This sowed the seeds of a bitter quarrel between us. The restraint was virtually a sort of imprisonment. And Kasturbai was not the girl to brook any such things. She made it a point to go out whenever and wherever she liked. More restraint on my part resulted in more liberty being taken by her and in my getting more and more cross.…I  was very anxious to teach her, but lustful love left no time.

Without augmentation such words as progress,

improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. Those who perform augmentation consciously will have a better opportunity to manage the change. This makes sustainable greatness possible.

I think it was quite innocent of Kasturbai to have taken those liberties with my restrictions. How could a guileless girl brook any restraint on going to the temple or on going on visits to friend? If I had the right to impose restrictions on her, she had not also a similar right? All this is clear to me today. But at that time I had to make good my authority as a husband![7]

How could the human race have survived in the then existing world and survives now without augmentation, this is the result of this process which made human race the head of the planet. Without augmentation such words as progress, improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. Those who perform augmentation consciously will have a better opportunity to manage the change. This makes sustainable greatness possible.

" . . . I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower

would grow."  -Abraham Lincoln

 It is about doing what all you can do in your present capabilities, in your own time, in your own place as well as enhancing your capabilities and locus of control; it is about living for entirety, it is about expanding the mindset to the cause of goodness, decency, creativity, happiness and truth.

Rushdie came from a Muslim family but says that he was never really religious. In 1990, he issued a statement in which he claimed that he had renewed his Muslim faith, had repudiated the attacks on Islam in his novel and was committed to work for better understanding of the religion across the world.

Great men/women augment themselves primarily into two fields: character and aptitude with common denominator of total commitment. They sow themselves as a sapling, sprinkle fertilizer of character and trim that with their talent.

Three models of the Tata Nano were announced, and Ratan Tata delivered on his commitment to develop a car costing only 1 lakh rupees, adding that "a promise is a promise", referring to his earlier promise to deliver this car at the said cost.

The first step towards augmentation has always been taking responsibility. Taking responsibility for what has happened and more stupendously for what is going to happen. This turns into commencement of drive for augmentation. Excerpts from autobiography of Dr. Kalam:

"We had scheduled the first experimental flight trial of SLV-3 for 10 August 1979

"Stage I performed to perfection. There was a smooth transition from this stage to second stage. We were spellbound to see our hopes flying in the form of the SLV-3. Suddenly, the spell was broken. The second stage went out of control. The flight was terminated after 317 seconds and the vehicle's remains, including my favourite fourth stage with the payload splashed into the sea, 560 Km off Sriharikota.

The incident caused me profound disappointment. I felt a strange mix of anger and frustration. Suddenly, I felt my legs become so stiff that they ached. The problem was not with my body; something was happening in my mind.

The premature death of my hovercraft Nandi, the abandoning of the RATO, the abortion of the SLV-Diamont fourth stage – all came alive in a flash, like a long-buried Phoenix rising from its aborted endeavours, had come to terms with them and pursued fresh dreams. That day, I re-lived each of those setbacks in my deep despondency.

“What do you suppose could be the cause of it?” somebody asked me in the Block House. I tried to find an answer, but I was too tired to try and think it out, and gave up the effort as futile. The launch was conducted in the early morning, preceded by a full past week. Completely drained-mentally as well as physically – I went straight to my room and slumped onto the bed…"[9]

"The findings were presented to Prof. Dhawan at a meeting of top ISRO scientists and were accepted. Everybody was convinced by the technical cause-and-effect sequence presented and there was general feeling of satisfaction about the whole exercise of failure-management measures taken. I was still unconvinced though and felt restless. To me the level of responsibility is measured by one's ability to confront the decision-making process without any delay or distraction.

On the spur of the moment, I stood up and addressed Prof. Dhawan, “ Sir, even though my friends have technically justified the failure, I take the responsibility for judging the RFNA leak detected during the final phase of countdown as insignificant.  As a Mission Director, I should have put the launch on hold and saved the flight if possible. In a similar situation abroad, the Mission Director would have lost his job. I therefore take responsibility for the SLV-3 failure.” For quite some time there was pin-drop silence in the hall. Then Prof. Dhawan got up and said, “I am going to put Kalam in orbit!”, and left the place signaling that the meeting was over."[10]

Gandhiji in his autobiography describes about a friend of him that he was dazzled by his friends exploits and this was followed by a strong desire to be like him. Gandhiji says: I used to be haunted by the fear of thieves, ghosts, and serpents. I did not dare to stir out of doors at night. Darkness was a terror to me. It was almost impossible for me to sleep in the dark, as I would imagine ghosts coming from one direction, thieves from another and serpents from a third. My friend knew all these weaknesses of mine. He would tell me that he could hold in his hand live serpents, could defy thieves and did not believe in ghosts. And all this was, of course, the result of eating meat. All this had due effect on me. I was beaten. It began to grow on me that meat eating was good, that it would make me strong and daring, and that, if the whole country took to meat eating, the English could be overcome.

So he started eating meat. He adds: The Gandhis were Vaishnavas. My parents were particularly staunch Vaishnavas. And I was extremely devoted to my parents. I knew the moment they come to know of my having eaten meat, they would be shocked to death. Therefore I said to myself: “though it is essential to eat meat, and also essential to take up food 'reform' in the country, yet deceiving and lying to one's father and mother is worse than not eating meat.” This decision I communicated to my friend and I have never since gone back to meat.[11]

Greatness has always been choosing higher values; choosing bigger periphery made up of proactiveness encompassing higher good of more people. It has been a collage of traits which can not expand in only one direction; it has to be sown, grown and cropped in all the hinterlands, precincts and in public vicinity environing the life through equal and balanced efforts in all. One doesn't know greatness until has started living and rising above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?"

  • Mahatma Gandhi

“Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life – a kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are.”

  • Princess Diana

I never had children, never even thought I would have children. Now I have 152 daughters; expecting 75 more next year. That is some type of gestation period!

-  Oprah Winfrey

We figured out in preceding reading that Common Sense is the process of continuously exploring truth, aligning the behavior consciously with the truth and upgrading or changing the application of the truth as per the relevance by checking it against logic, time, place and situation. That is what augmentation is. Common Sense of the moment is the fruit of augmentation. An obsolete Common Sense doesn't work. Great people have always been ones with the sense of directness; they have a splendid sense of seeing the things as they are and conjugating it with common sense action. They had, have and will have the ability to introspect and bring about positive changes in themselves and also the ability to improve their fabric.

It is same as a library (the life) is augmented with a collection of volumes with a soul to it in the shape of a librarian (the Common Sense); that becomes a vitalized power by which the world goes on to improvement.

[1] Kalam, A.P.J. Abdul;  Wings of Fire, Universities  Press (India) Private Limited, Hyderabad, 2002, p 3 2 Ibid. p 63

[2] Ibd. p 63

[3] Gregersen,  Erik, The  Britannica Guide to  Relativity and  Quantum  Mechanics,  Britannica Educational Publishing, New York, 2011, p 152.

[4] PLANET CRICKET, sachin-tendulkar-story-master-may-continue-39389-26.html (accessed July 7, 2013)

[5] Condoleezza Rice, (accessed on 12 June, 2013)

[6] ACCESSION, (accessed May 10 , 2013)

[7] Gandhi, M.K., My Experiments with Truth, Kaveri Printers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p 11

[8] Kalam,  A.P.J. Abdul; Wings of Fire, Universities Press (India)  Private  Limited,  Hyderabad, 2002, p 92

[9] Ibid. p 93.

[10] Ibid. p 96.

[11] Gandhi, M.K., My Experiments with Truth, Kaveri Printers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, Pp 19, 20.