They say that sociopaths mellow with age. The other day I was remembering some of my more stupid escapades, realizing that it has been at least a few years since I have done something whose stupidity is almost wholly due to stunted emotional growth. I read recently in the New Yorker that even Tucker Max, one of the founding authors of the genre "fratire" and widely known and loved for his immense immaturity, has given up his former partying life, takes yoga classes, and is seeing a psychotherapist in the hopes of finding balance. [Is Tucker Max also a sociopath? According to his website: I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.]
Interestingly, the people who have fallen in love with me (as opposed to obsession) have essentially fallen in love with the child in me. People associate childlike qualities with a certain innocence. And there is something charming about a grown person, brilliant and successful, ruthless and hard, also showing the sometimes naïveté and guilelessness of a child. There was something about that contrast between the unyielding me that the rest of the world sees versus the soft me that most were blind to that appealed to my lovers' protector/nurturing instincts.
In the book The Little Prince, a pilot, long at odds with the seriousness of the adult world, gets stranded in the desert and meets a boy prince who is able to see past the unimportant details of life that cloud grown up eyes and see what is most essential about the pilot. In a Scientific American blog post entitled, "The Big Lesson of a Little Prince: (Re)capture the Creativity of Childhood":
Saint-Exupéry’s larger point about creativity and thought is difficult to overstate: as we age, how we see the world changes. It is the rare person who is able to hold on to the sense of wonderment, of presence, of sheer enjoyment of life and its possibilities that is so apparent in our younger selves. As we age, we gain experience. We become better able to exercise self-control. We become more in command of our faculties, our thoughts, our desires. But somehow, we lose sight of the effortless ability to take in the world in full. The very experience that helps us become successful threatens to limit our imagination and our sense of the possible. When did experience ever limit the fantasy of a child?
The article goes on to describe an experiment in which the control group was asked to respond to the writing prompt, "imagine school is cancelled for the day", while the experimental group was asked to respond to the same prompt while pretending they are 7 years old. Those writing as a 7 year old showed significantly more originality of thought: "Imagining yourself a child, it seems, can quite literally make your mind more flexible, more original, more open to creative input and more capable of generating creative output."
Interestingly the full Baudelaire quote suggests that the ideal is a childlike state of mind with all of the experience and knowledge we have gained as adults: "Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with man’s physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed." I hope this is what is meant by sociopaths "mellowing" as they age.