Learning Dutch is a gift that keeps on giving. One of the things I love about it is finding entertaining literal translations that aren't immediately obvious to native speakers.
One of the more common examples is 'pindakaas', which means peanut butter but literally translates to peanut cheese.
But I was more amused to learn that a skunk is called a 'stinkdier'. Literally: stink animal.
A vacuum cleaner hose is called a 'stofzuigerslang', or dust sucker snake.
And slugs are called a 'naaktslakken'. Literally: naked snails.
You can imagine how delighted I was when I learned the phrase to describe common sense in Dutch:
Going back the other way from Dutch to English, literally:
It's a phrase we hear more often that "people these days have lost their common sense." Given the collective state of mental health in the west, is seems pretty accurate to say we've lost our healthy minds.
The concept of common sense reminds me of the Hermetic Principle of Cause and Effect:
"Every cause has its effect; every effect has its cause; everything happens according to law; chance is but a name for law not recognized; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the law."
I know for myself that I sometimes I operate a little too far away from this principle. I find myself carrying out actions that I know will not lead to a desirable effect, and yet I "look through the fingers" (from the Dutch saying, "iets door de vingers zien", meaning to pretend you don't see something, or not make a big deal of it).
Other times I might tell myself a convenient lie that the consequences I face could not have been known before, or that there was an act of chance or fate at play. But really, I know in my heart it's untrue.
As the principle suggests, there may be laws at work that I do not recognise... much like the subtleties of translating language. But that's a different story than the one I sometimes tell myself (one that denies reality).
That's what I think common sense is about; developing a healthy relationship with reality.
One of the key features of that I might suggest, is being able to answer questions with "I don't know". And being okay with that.
Byron Katie says:
“When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.”
Healthy mind. Common sense. Cause and effect. Working with reality. And a healthy dose of humility for good measure.
Training the ability to operate from this place is perhaps one of the most useful undertakings in this Age of Information where we're constantly being influenced by advertising, media, individuals, and even governments deciding what is best for us.
Sometimes being in the world can feel like living in a place where you don't have a grasp of the language. It's tempting to defer our choices to an outsider. But actually, it's really essential we mediate this process.
It's a matter of information + intellect + instinct.
Interestingly, I've come to realise this is a big part of the work that I do with my clients. I've long struggled to articulate the transformation that happens when someone decides they are ready to take a deeper look at themselves, but it's actually kind of simple. They're learning to look correctly. This happens via the technology of being witnessed honestly in a safe place.
From there, the rest unfolds. And it's always my intention, that they should walk back into the world with a healthier mind when it comes to dealing with themselves.
"Of course I am worthy."
"Of course I am allowed to have needs and preferences."
"Of course I am allowed to have emotions (and they don't have to all be positive ones)."
"Of course I get to have goals, dreams and objectives."
"Of course I get to be proud of who I am."
Those are the kind of common sense statements I like to hear from my clients. And gratefully, I often do.
We all forget from time to time. That's being human. That's why it's important to have good people around us who can reflect back to us what we need to see, and we to them.
We're all in this together.
So let this be a reminder to you. Even if things get a bit lost in translation (or hidden in plain sight) sometimes, you can have some fun with it along the way. Keep your sense of humour. You can wrestle a bit with the truth until you find your way back to a healthy mind.
...until the next 'monkey comes out of the sleeve'.
P.S. Lost in translation: 'Nu komt de aap uit de mouw', now the monkey comes out of the sleeve, said when something or someone’s true character is revealed.
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