Simpletons only learn the hard way, but the wise learn by listening. (Proverbs 21:11)
There is a clear difference between being a "simpleton" and being a wise learner. We rarely use the word "simpleton" anymore in our English language. In fact, I cannot remember hearing it used in very many situations in my entire lifetime. A simpleton is a fool, a knucklehead, a ninny of sorts - he does not seek to understand, therefore we call him ignorant. I grew up with the idea that a fool was some kind of ninny that just did not get what was going on, was too self-absorbed to see others, or just plain 'didn't get it' in life. I think we need to focus on the fact that the fool is one who is "ignorant" - he or she just doesn't get it.
Look at the root of the word which is ignore. The fool is one who ignores what is right in front of his face - it is there for the taking, but he doesn't even notice it, or if he does, he just plain steps around it. He spends very little effort attempting to grasp what he has evident in his immediate path, much less a future one. The fool is ignorant because he will not learn from what is available to him - he has the tools, but he lacks the initiative to use them. I think of initiative as the 'internal reason' for which we use what is given to us. We are moved to use something because we see the usefulness, even though we may not fully grasp its purpose.
The fool is oblivious to life oftentimes ignoring the very plain or obvious. Even when there is clear evidence, he chooses to ignore it as not pertinent to him, the situation, or the future. Being oblivious is really because of two traits common to the fool - being inattentive and being easily distracted. The ability to distract a fool is really quite easy because he lacks the intent "focus" that is required to stay on task - not because he does not have the ability to focus - just because it is the path of least resistance for him.
The warning to each of us is that the simpleton (fool) only learns things the hard way! Ouch! That stings! Ever feel like you could have learned a lesson just a little quicker, or a little easier? The obvious conclusion is that you were submitting to the path of least resistance (the fool's path) and had to learn that lesson the hard way. So, the tendency to be "foolish" in our response to life events is apparent in all of us - even though we may not call ourselves a simpleton. We make the choice - live as a fool, taking the path of least resistance, or live as a wise man, submitting to the path of learning.
Keep one thing in mind: The "hard way" is evident at the end of the path of least resistance. The path of learning may seem "hard" at first, but in the end, it is really the path of "least resistance". Submission to the process of learning is paramount to avoiding the life-course of a simpleton - a journey none of us really wants to take. Therefore, we need to learn on! Just sayin!