I worked in a very advanced classroom once. There were buttons on each desk, and you could measure the students’ knowledge before and after a lecture. Inevitably the situation finally arose where the post-lecture results were lower than the pre-lecture results! Though the likelihood was that the post-lecture questions were simply harder, the temptation was irresistible to tease the poor lecturer for having somehow erased any preexisting knowledge. Having said that, one of the lecturers at the same establishment had set a record low for lecture-content by falling asleep during his own lecture. Really.

All this may seem very second-hand anecdotal stuff, but I myself studied A-Level physics for two years, and then failed to achieve even a O-Level rating, despite having previously passed O-Level physics. And now I have been playing chess for two years and achieved a downgrade of my chess rating from 1506 to 1156. I have achieved a 30% degradation in my capability to play chess. Who says practice makes perfect? several people kindly analyzed my games and were able to identify the key errors, but none could explain how I had lost my previous ability to avoid these errors.

These two examples occurred when I was 17 and 57. So the phenomenon transcends age. What other abilities are slipping I wonder? Lately I have unintentionally upset correspondents in bulletin boards. One of these was a theology exchange. That’s to be expected, you say! Isn’t that a notorious topic for over-reaction by sensitive, if not dogmatic people? But no, I managed to upset people for exhorting them to try a spelling check to correctly write “your” (or “you’re”). What came over me? Am I turning into a grammar troll?

As I get older, I’m now wondering if I should pay attention to areas where my ability might diminish. Such as patience. Or the will to learn new things. As only my girth seems guaranteed to expand, perhaps I should think about keeping an open mind,.. And a closed refrigerator.

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