A Day Older; Hopefully a Day Wiser

As one gets older, one gets wiser. canstockphoto17888118

As one gets older, one gets wiser.

canstockphoto17888118

As I click on the computer calendar preparing to scribe this digital missive, aka the Week-Ender blog, I realize with a slight jolt that I will be turning another day older today; well, actually, another year older–happy birthday to me.

It is assumed that as one gets older, one gets wiser as well.  I suppose that varies with each individual, but generally, each minute we survive on this earth we have presumably learned something new.  Thus, each day we should be another day more enriched in some way.

Wiser people than I have told me that making mistakes is OK as long as you learn from them and don’t make the same mistake twice.  That is a noble endeavor, a worthy cause and a lofty goal and it’s one that I always shoot for; but I have to admit I have often had to make the same mistake more than once to learn the lesson the error in judgment was intended to convey.

I think that the level of consequence resulting from a mistake will dictate the degree of learning that is absorbed; the harsher or more pronounced the consequence is, the better the lesson is learned.

For example, as a young child my parents and older siblings told me that the stove was hot; it wasn’t until I put my hand to the flame and got singed that the lesson was driven home.

Another example: growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, I learned early about electricity and wiring and I was told that if wiring is frayed it is not safe to plug into a socket. It was not until I plugged in a frayed cord, nearly electrocuted myself and almost burned down our tool shed that I was imbued with the knowledge.

Then there was the time that my next oldest brother was trying to instruct me on the correct way to carry a full bucket of milk and carefully dump it into a larger can for shipment to the cheese factory. I didn’t listen and thought I had a better way; it wasn’t until I ended up dumping the entire bucket of milk onto myself instead of into the can that I surmised that my brother was on to something.

We humans, even the best of us, can be awfully hard-headed and stubborn; learning for some of us comes more from experiencing than it does from books or sage advice from others.

I recall a time as a budding Marine Corps combat correspondent learning the art of photojournalism; our instructors cautioned that when using a wide-angle lens subjects will be closer than they appear when looking through a camera’s viewfinder eye piece–and yes, this was a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, before digital cameras and big rear-viewing screens. You had to actually look through the viewfinder eyepiece to compose the photo.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I nearly got run over by an assault amphibian vehicle storming the beach on Okinawa that I truly understood that concept; in the viewfinder eyepiece it appeared that the 29-ton tracked vehicle was yards away from me as I photographed the beach assault. It wasn’t until I was deluged with a wave of sea water and sand that I realized the tracks of the monster had been mere inches from my feet. (And just to make it clear, I wasn’t on Okinawa during the original 82-day battle fought in WWII, 1945; I was deployed there in 1981.)

Years later when I was in a position of teaching young Marines the photojournalism trade, I would use that example to punctuate the importance of keeping both eyes opened when looking into the viewfinder; one eye in the camera world and one in the real world.

Therein may lie a lesson in itself; learning lessons and gaining experience is a hollow achievement if it is kept to yourself. Passing those lessons on to others is how we truly internalize the learning.

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