That memory disappeared. But it was renewed by a piece in the Times by Howard Jacobson on the pitfalls of growing old. I fear that he misses the biggest one - that, as we grow older, the world no longer seems new to us. Ideas that were once fresh and exciting become familiar and jaded; this is true not just in our chosen vocation, but in art and especially music too. Of course, there are always new ideas in any field - but these are only a small percentage of the total, and many of them are plain bad.
We stop asking what can we learn and ask instead: what can we teach?
Worse still, the need to scrabble for a living reinforces this process. Because there is a large demand for the illusion of certainty, we exaggerate what we know, and repress our youthful desire for novelty and uncertainty, as we pander to this demand.
Take, for example, these pieces by Bill Emmott and Wolfgang Munchau, both of which predict a weaker euro. The problem with these is not that they are wrong - though there‘s a 50-50 chance of that. It’s that, especially in Mr Munchau’s case, there’s insufficient acknowledgement of uncertainty and of ignorance. They key question to ask of any forecast - what’s the margin of error? - goes unanswered. (Clue - in FX forecasting it is enormous).
The problem here is not that Messrs Emmott and Munchau are bumptious prats - though they might be; I don‘t know them. It’s that the combination of the ageing process and economic pressures tend to turn us into bumptious prats - especially those with the misfortune to fall into “distinguished careers.”
For me, this is a big reason why I’m looking forward to retiring - only nine years to go, Inshallah. When I give up work, I can give up my (pretty vague) pretence to know things, and spend more time learning and reading. I can become mentally young again.
Better to be young and stupid than old and stupid - barring death, these are the only alternatives.