I pass on another of Arthur Brook's biweekly essays in the Atlantic. This one notes that Much like contemplating death can neutralize the fear of it, it can help to acclimate yourself to the idea of losing professional skills before it happens. After describing the meditation called maranasati ("mindfulness of death") that consists of imagining nine states of one's own dead body, he offers a corresponding list to deal with decline...
I feel my competence declining.Those close to me begin to notice that I am not as sharp as I used to be.Other people receive the social and professional attention I used to receive.I have to decrease my workload and step back from daily activities I once completed with ease.I am no longer able to work.Many people I meet do not recognize me or know me for my previous work.I am still alive, but professionally I am no one.I lose the ability to communicate my thoughts and ideas to those around me.I am dead, and I am no longer remembered at all for my accomplishments.
The fear of death is much worse when it is an amorphous phantasm—something lurking menacingly in the shadows—than when it is a plain reality. And so it is with decline. Unacknowledged, it is scary. Acknowledged and contemplated, it can become a normal, natural part of life’s cadence.
It is true that Western society glorifies youthful beauty and the machinelike efficiency of homo economicus. But you don’t have to play along with our culture’s neurotic exercise in futility. Become the master who, when your social or professional standing is threatened by age or circumstance, says, “Don’t you see that I am a person who could be utterly forgotten without batting an eye?”