in Life

Strict progress is illusory

I’ll be 21 in a couple of weeks, and I already see the progression from when I was 12, 15, 17, 19, etc.

However, it’s not a strictly monotonic function of progress. Me_{2007} had a better life philosophy than Me_{2009}, though I think Me_{2012} has surpassed both, plus I know a lot more. I’ve learned things when I was younger that later I either forgot or learned something opposing the initial belief, and then later either relearned or realized the original belief was the correct one. I’m certain there are things I have yet to (or may never) learn/relearn and thus correct whatever is incorrect with my present self. Was there something I understood at age 16 that I don’t anymore, and such a thing would make me (even just marginally) better? Probably.

Do you find your self progressing after each year, or every few years, and never taking a wrong turn? As an extreme example, I can imagine someone having a bad drug problem in their 30s during which they’re worse off in every way than in their 20s, and only come out of it in their 40s. I think for most people, improvement and regression are more subtle and happen in many dimensions. Strict progress is illusory. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in your present values and discount the wisdom of your younger self just because you care about your present self more than your past self.

It’s also fairly obvious with older people that their minds just don’t work like they did when they were in their 30s. Are they really wiser, do they really have more total knowledge than at their prime? What’s the ratio of those who are and those who aren’t? I also like to point out that a lot of important knowledge and wisdom can be found in books alone without experience.

It’s easy to forget this fact among all humans regardless of age: other people (including your past selves) may be privy to information you are not privy to.