Nothing should so much shrivel our self-satisfaction as realizing that what we once approved of we now disparage.

— La Rochefoucauld, Maxims

Even in adolescence, I noticed that I frequently had a sense of outgrowing friends. People who used to seem fascinating or attractive came to seem boring, or even annoying. And even then, I wondered if this was a character flaw. Was I too superficial, impatient, unforgiving, or restless? Am I some kind of vampire taking what I need from people before tossing them aside? Yet, in most ways, I’m a creature of utterly predictable routine and habit. Why would I be any different in my personal relationships? But still, to this day, the pattern appears even in my intellectual relationships with writers and thinkers. Inspiration often decays into irritation; flaws come to overshadow virtues. Perhaps, like Diogenes, I’m wandering around with a lantern searching for honesty and integrity. Or perhaps, also like Diogenes, I’m only doing so ironically, to bring heroes down to my lowly level.

Nietzsche wrote a beautiful — and perhaps self-serving — aphorism about outgrowing beautiful things in the course of a relentless search for truth. The cork-like buoyancy of our self-regard keeps us from drowning in doubts, so it’s easy to rationalize our former enthusiasms away as necessary steps on the path to wisdom. Perhaps we have very high standards. But what if we’re simply selfish and easily bored?