We learn many things over the space of our lives. With language, we can share such things with many others distant in space and time. With such a fantastic capacity, you might think we humans would hardly ever have to learn anything important directly for ourselves. But while we do learn many things from textbooks and mentors, we are surprisingly bad at teaching the most important life lessons. Like, for example, what its like to be married a long time, how to stay married, and when that is worth the trouble.
One contributing factor is that folks, late in life, almost never write essays, or books, on “what I’ve learned about life.” It would only take a few pages, and would seem to offer great value to others early in their lives. Why the silence? Some possible explanations:
- People don’t actually learn much that can be abstracted from their life details.
- People don’t want to hear the truth, and they won’t find lies useful, so why bother.
- Young folks already think they know all the answers, so won’t listen.
- It seems arrogant to offer lessons from your life when few others do this.
- When folks write on their life, they care much more to brag about what they did.
- Useful lessons will suggest the author had average success, which is shameful.
- The lessons of folks with way above average success aren’t useful to average folks.
- People are too weak to write when they feel old enough to tell lessons.
- Few care what people will think of them after they are dead.
- Most lessons have been written, but few can be bothered to read them.
None of these explanations seem especially satisfactory. What’s going on?