Common Sense by Thomas Paine in a language you can understand. If you’ve ever tried to read it you know what I’m talking about. It was one of, if not the most influential book in American history. But it was written over 200 years ago and the old English it’s written in, is nearly impossible to understand.
I was reading it because I was interested in it. I wondered why it was such an important book and so I started reading it. It was next to impossible. You have to read everything five times to make any sense of it and even then, you’re lucky if you understand it. There’re words we don’t use any more. The speaking style is basically backwards how we speak now, and the whole thing, is written in run on sentences. Try reading that. Try reading a book that completely turns up side down the way you would normally speak, with words sprinkled in that you don’t know what they mean, all written in sentences as long as a paragraph.
I really wanted to understand it. I had a printed copy with big margins. As I read it I looked up the words I didn’t understand. I had to get an old dictionary. I got the oldest I could find. Some of the words were fascinating. One of the most common he used was the word vis. It means in other words. In other words if you’re trying to explain something in an alternative way you would say vis. Strange word, and the fact that it was a word commonly used back then I have to believe people used it frequently. It’s interesting because you don’t hear people say in other words much anymore.
I translated the words I couldn’t understand, and I made notes. That’s how I was trying to understand the book. Basically, breaking down every sentence. It was brutal, extremely time consuming. I was about six pages into it, and I thought, somebody has to have done this before. So I went and I searched online. I couldn’t find anything. Then I thought I’ll bet other people would be interested in this, and I decided to translate the book and re-publish it.
When I decided to do translate Common Sense I was already working on a book that was well underway. I was about half way through a draft. I stopped working on it because I thought translated Common Sense would be quick and easy and something I could offer to people.
When I was in the early stages of writing it. The book really resonated with me. The principles it discusses and explains and the way he it explains it are extremely unique. Uniquely simple and pragmatic. And, it’s timeless. It’s a philosophy of government that’s never going away.
Because of that, the sanctity of the principles and the argument, it was critically important to me that I kept the original meaning EXACTLY. That was a tough challenge. And, the idea I could do it quickly was out the window. As soon as I got into it, I knew I had bit off more than I could chew.
I kept working on it. Sometime a sentence a day, sometimes a page. I would just keep chiseling away at it. It got easier as I went through it. I started to learn the language. That made things faster. I got it all written out and I went back and read it and made changes. Then I did it a second time. I read through the whole thing, out loud, and check it with the original text. If it was a choice between what sounded best and what was the most accurate translation I went with translation. It came out great.
I was afraid to have the book edited. I was afraid because I didn’t want the editor to change the meaning of anything. I decided that I would give it a try and if I didn’t like it I would just go with my original text. When I got the edited copy back it was kind of emotional. The editor did a fantastic job and even included a little note commenting on the book. My first good review!
The book is fascinating. He explains the origin of government. It’s incredible. I’m going to talk about that section of book coming up. It will change your whole perspective on government. It explains ninety percent of the problems we see today.
The most persuasive thing he does. The whole reason the book is so convincing is that he explained why. With every idea, principle and position, he explained why. The book is short, about sixty pages, but he addresses every little detail. It’s an exercise in God, government and common sense. It’s as much philosophical as it is practical.
What I want to do is take you through some of main principles and put them in the context of today. Many of things he wrote about are as important today as ever. It’s a way of thinking, a certain belief in society that’s worth preserving.