Never Learn

There are some lessons in life that we'll just never learn. Over and over, we make the same mistakes, wondering all the while how we manage to repeatedly be so stupid.

Even when we recognize our own poor judgment in time to prevent potential mistakes, we often find a way to rationalize going ahead with foolish behavior, as if we have no self control.

Some mistakes are big mistakes, like driving drunk, having unprotected sex or getting into a knife fight. Although we sometimes get away with those mistakes, there are long-term consequences when we don’t, so there is greater incentive to correct those types of behavior.

The damage caused by small mistakes, however, can exist only briefly -- maybe a matter of minutes or hours. Even though we regret what we’ve done, it's easy to do it again and again, because there is no lasting scar.

Take, for example, burning your mouth. How many times have you done that? Anyone with even a shred of intelligence should have figured out by the age of six that hot soup scorches the human tongue.

Yes, there is immediate gratification in not waiting an extra two minutes for your pizza sauce to cool. But that gratification is quickly lost, along with layers of skin from the roof of your mouth, if you don’t have patience. We all know that. We've all made that mistake before, probably hundreds of times. When are we going to learn?

Another food-related mistake is overeating. Just because there's a lot of food on our plates, and it's delicious, doesn't mean we have to hurt ourselves and ruin the experience. But, for some reason, we do it over and over again. We even look forward to special days like Thanksgiving, when we can gorge ourselves sick.

Maybe there's something deep in our animal mind that remembers hunting and gathering and how food can be scarce, so we stock up whenever possible and cram it down quickly.

That's obviously irrational, though. We've all had a few French fries swiped from our plates, but when was the last time someone came sprinting by and stole your burrito while you waited for it to cool?

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. Getting sunburned every spring is his favorite little mistake. Buy his book, “The Spowl Ribbon” at the Electric Fetus or online at paullundgren.com.