Is it a part of the human condition that we universally need to learn through our own experience what is best for each of us? We seem curiously and inexplicably unable to heed advice from those who know better than ourselves what may be in our own best interest. We can all understand and agree that at a very early age when a toddler begins to walk that he needs protected from himself. A toddler has no capacity to understand what may be harmful; so we insulate him from common, everyday hazards and he has really little capacity to resist the efforts made on his behalf. As our toddler begins to grow both physically and mentally, it becomes necessary to teach him how to begin to recognize the dangers around him. When he reaches for the stove in use we say, "Hot!" so he understands not to touch the stove and get burned. Invariably though, he will most likely eventually reach for the stove and burn himself before he truly understands the advice given in his own best interest. He had to learn the hard way.
We continue to make rules for our young children, into their teen years, and all the way to adulthood to protect them from themselves. How often I would find myself thinking, "If he would just listen to me; I've already been through this situation and made the mistake I can see coming." But again, he has to learn the hard way. But then it hits me....it's not just him; I myself was no different. I was no better at taking advice from my parents or wiser, more experienced elders; I always had to learn the hard way as well.
So is learning the hard way part of the human condition? I believe it is hardwired into our very existence and continues throughout our lives. In a subsequent blog, I will illustrate how this phenomenon affects our lives as adults and finally discuss how it influences our overall approach as humans that "must learn the hard way" to fire safety and fire code compliance.