Our ideas grow old with us

Our ideas grow old with us, that is why we pay no particular attention to them, and we are quite astonished at younger minds not falling in love with them in their turn, as we did.

-Paradoxes of Faith, Henri de Lubac, p.98

Why do our our ideas grow old? The answer I think is that they are utterly wrapped up in context and more context. The context changes: we grow old, nations come and go, technology shifts, culture changes, and the rich meaning of our ideas is obscured. We deceive ourselves if we think we deal completely in “timeless truths”, the way a mathematician deals with pure numbers. Even the very words we use to express our ideas reveal the century, even decade, and geography in which they were forged, among other things.

If we really desire to pass our best ideas on, we could do better than to just write them down cleverly in books. This puts (though we or our contemporaries or editors cannot perceive it) a great burden on the reader years later to figure out what the heck we were trying to say. We need to teach our children and grandchildren how to decode them and adapt them. This means being a teacher and ideally, a father.