I always told myself I’d never be one of those people who got stuck in an intellectual rut with age.
I would maintain a sense of wonder, and constantly engage new ideas in new fields, never getting crusty or closed-minded. I couldn’t really imagine it being difficult to do so.
Now 40, I feel the steady pull of patterns and a decline in energy preventing that same level of exploration. The biggest hindrance is that with time, your bullshit meter gets better. And as time becomes more precious, you are inclined to abandon something at the first hint of bullshit.
This is a blessing and a curse.
If you let it continue unabated, pretty soon you end up whittling away every novel idea and are left with a handful of core truths and a handful of books or authors you know won’t waste your time so you come back to them over and again and little else. That’s not all bad, but it feels too safe and a bit defeatist.
But it sure is hard to go out there and engage lots of new ideas when the phoniness, sloppiness, and badness are easier to spot.
Cynicism shrinks a person, and I don’t want to shrink.
One of the keys for me is to remind myself the stakes are low. So what if you read some bad ideas? So what if you spend an hour on something frivolous? When you walk into the woods, do you consider it wasted time if you don’t encounter an amazing animal, or if you do encounter a stupid one?
I’m trying to get less ruthless with my judgements over time to stave off the tendency to shrink my intellectual landscape.