Are all life lessons universal?

The quote was something like, “I learned that you can’t stab people when you get angry.” My friend and I huddled around the computer in awe as a 30-year-old man was brought in handcuffs to spend the rest of his life in prison, his last words dangerously close to humorous, all things considered.

The humor didn’t come from his prison sentence, of course. And it goes without saying that it was not the result of their actions. It was that a grown man was “learning” something that any kindergarten child on this side of a “My mom is the best, because …” finger painting probably already has a firm grasp.

After the humor, however, came a bit of relief. Because as obvious as that “lesson” seemed to me, I had to feel grateful to have the kind of life I don’t need to learn lessons like that. Maybe if I had lived my whole life in that man’s shoes, I would have turned out like him. But, to my great advantage, our realities are completely different.

Then I began to think about the lessons that I had firmly acquired and stored in my mental agenda to use later over the years. Most of them financial, some relationship-oriented. Better savings plans, waste reduction, more effective forms of communication, etc.

Do others see the lessons I have learned in the same way that I saw the prisoners? Is Paris Hilton sitting somewhere laughing at people like me who are forced to learn the benefit of appreciating what you have? Does someone like her need to learn the advantages of appreciation when not in danger of experiencing the disadvantages?

To be sure, there are acceptable behaviors and common courtesy guidelines that we all need to play fair by. But in the game of life, are we all on an equal footing? It could be argued that raising your mind and getting better is beneficial to everyone regardless of social status, but benefit is not the issue here. The question is whether it is essential.

Does Paris really need to learn the street lessons from the man who lost his whole life to a bad decision? And, in turn, will the convict really benefit from the information she would have to offer him when he has no chance of ever experiencing it?

Perhaps there are others firmly positioned on the inner path of life, marveling at my ignorance of the world as they see it. Maybe one day my eyes will open to the realities of those with limitless possibilities, and maybe they won’t.

And if not … Then I guess it doesn’t really matter now, does it?

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