We cannot escape the troubling conclusion that some—perhaps many—cherished generalities are at best exaggerated in their biological significance and at worst a collective illusion nurtured by strong a-priori beliefs often repeated.
Here’s what I commonly observe: the students who struggle in technical courses are those who skip the insight-developing phase. They capture concepts in their notes and they study by reproducing their notes. Then, when they sit down for the exam and are faced with problems that apply the ideas in novel ways, they have no idea what to do. They panic. They do poorly. They proclaim that they are “not math people.” They switch to a philosophy major.
Without insight you can’t do well.
Most of the time, and for most people, “forever” is that piece of time that we can see with our own eyes. Forever is the length of a single, human life.
This, I believe, is why a book feels permanent, even though enough libraries have burned over the centuries that we ought to know better. A well-made book, stored upright, in a dry, dark place, will survive a hundred years—that is, a lifetime. More if it is especially well printed, and only carefully handled, but a hundred years is a safe bet. Plenty of time to read it as a child, hold onto it through adolescence and adulthood, and then give it to your first great-grandchild. That’s as much forever as any of us can reasonably conceive.