Today I had some rare houseguests , namely a friend of mine and her three adorable and very inquisitive daughters. It had been my intention to have a Cops marathon to teach the children one of my favorite shows on television , but the shows ended up being deleted from the DVR and I was unable to show them the show, so we had to come up with alternate means of keeping the little ones occupied. It is not an easy thing, one might imagine, to keep energetic and bright and intensely curious children out of trouble. Now, as a child who was precisely that kind of child myself, I imagine that it was difficult for my parents and various surrogate parental figures to keep me out of trouble given my own native inclinations to cause trouble for myself (inclinations that I still have even as an adult). It is fascinating to see matters from the other side, though.
It was most difficult, of course, while I was preparing dinner. This is the case because little children do not necessarily understand that playing with children in a kitchen while one is using the oven and the microwave, trying to toss a salad and prepare silverware and glasses, is not an easy task. Silliness is definitely bound within the heart of a child, and as someone who has perhaps retained more than the usual amount of childlike nature within me, I am very understanding of children around me. Fortunately, most of the danger areas were avoided and there was no harm that came to the little ones apart from some bumping of heads and some minor scrapes, the sort of things that children endure readily without any kind of harm. Given the sort of harm that could have happened, it was a gratifying scene.
After dinner, when the little ones were getting a bit hyper, it was decided to let them play outside as a way of avoiding any kinds of problems indoors. Rather than simply run around outside, the children decided it would be fun to collect pine cones. What started as collecting a few at a time rapidly progressed far beyond this, as it became clear that the little children wanted to engage in what amounted to a desire to collect all of the pine cones around the entire building, a task which took some time and that the children were very skilled at. I had a bit of a view of my own childhood and my dedication to such tasks as destroying the road I lived on for slingshot ammunition, and the thoroughness in which I turned a driveway into a reservoir to hold storm runoff in seeing these little girls collect pine cones and place them on the exterior stairwell to my rented condo. It was humorous to witness the dedication to an entirely meaningless task that could so engross and amuse little ones, whose goal was to find and keep the most beautiful of the many pine cones that were collected.
One can witness implications for the behavior of adults in looking at the action of little children like my adorable house guests. The fact that human beings can collect and harness far more resources than we can effectively use, without very much care for what will happen afterward, is something that attracts the attention of many people. The tragedy of the commons largely results from people acting in a very focused and productive way but with only a narrow perspective, and with far more harm than a little one is capable of. What is cute and adorable and humorous and silly behavior in a child can be immensely more dangerous and troublesome from those who are bigger whose perspective and understanding are still on the level of children but whose capacity for damage and harm are far greater. Let us hope that such little children, and all who are like them, never lose their sense of wonder or their joy over simple pleasures, but that they gain a greater wisdom and understanding of the world around them and their own place in it when the time is appropriate. What is acceptable behavior with pine cones, after all, does not always work for all resources and in all situations.
 It does not happen too often:
 See, for example: