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Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think


Here’s how to make the most of it.

Story by Arthur C. Brooks
July 2019 Issue

“It’s not true that no one needs you anymore.”

These words came from an elderly woman sitting behind me on a late-night flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. The plane was dark and quiet. A man I assumed to be her husband murmured almost inaudibly in response, something to the effect of “I wish I was dead.”

Again, the woman: “Oh, stop saying that.”

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but couldn’t help it. I listened with morbid fascination, forming an image of the man in my head as they talked. I imagined someone who had worked hard all his life in relative obscurity, someone with unfulfilled dreams—perhaps of the degree he never attained, the career he never pursued, the company he never started.

At the end of the flight, as the lights switched on, I finally got a look at the desolate man. I was shocked. I recognized him—he was, and still is, world-famous. Then in his mid‑80s, he was beloved as a hero for his courage, patriotism, and accomplishments many decades ago.

As he walked up the aisle of the plane behind me, other passengers greeted him with veneration. Standing at the door of the cockpit, the pilot stopped him and said, “Sir, I have admired you since I was a little boy.” The older man—apparently wishing for death just a few minutes earlier—beamed with pride at the recognition of his past glories.

For selfish reasons, I couldn’t get the cognitive dissonance of that scene out of my mind. It was the summer of 2015, shortly after my 51st birthday. I was not world-famous like the man on the plane, but my professional life was going very well. I was the president of a flourishing Washington think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. I had written some best-selling books. People came to my speeches. My columns were published in The New York Times.

But I had started to wonder: Can I really keep this going? I work like a maniac. But even if I stayed at it 12 hours a day, seven days a week, at some point my career would slow and stop. And when it did, what then? Would I one day be looking back wistfully and wishing I were dead? Was there anything I could do, starting now, to give myself a shot at avoiding misery—and maybe even achieve happiness—when the music inevitably stops?

Though these questions were personal, I decided to approach them as the social scientist I am, treating them as a research project. It felt unnatural—like a surgeon taking out his own appendix. But I plunged ahead, and for the past four years, I have been on a quest to figure out how to turn my eventual professional decline from a matter of dread into an opportunity for progress.

Here’s what I’ve found.

The field of “happiness studies” has boomed over the past two decades, and a consensus has developed about well-being as we advance through life. In The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50, Jonathan Rauch, a Brookings Institution scholar and an Atlantic contributing editor, reviews the strong evidence suggesting that the happiness of most adults declines through their 30s and 40s, then bottoms out in their early 50s. Nothing about this pattern is set in stone, of course. But the data seem eerily consistent with my experience: My 40s and early 50s were not an especially happy period of my life, notwithstanding my professional fortunes.

So what can people expect after that, based on the data? The news is mixed. Almost all studies of happiness over the life span show that, in wealthier countries, most people’s contentment starts to increase again in their 50s, until age 70 or so. That is where things get less predictable, however. After 70, some people stay steady in happiness; others get happier until death. Others—men in particular—see their happiness plummet. Indeed, depression and suicide rates for men increase after age 75.

This last group would seem to include the hero on the plane. A few researchers have looked at this cohort to understand what drives their unhappiness. It is, in a word, irrelevance. In 2007, a team of academic researchers at UCLA and Princeton analyzed data on more than 1,000 older adults. Their findings, published in the Journal of Gerontology, showed that senior citizens who rarely or never “felt useful” were nearly three times as likely as those who frequently felt useful to develop a mild disability, and were more than three times as likely to have died during the course of the study.

One might think that gifted and accomplished people, such as the man on the plane, would be less susceptible than others to this sense of irrelevance; after all, accomplishment is a well-documented source of happiness. If current accomplishment brings happiness, then shouldn’t the memory of that accomplishment provide some happiness as well?

Maybe not. Though the literature on this question is sparse, giftedness and achievements early in life do not appear to provide an insurance policy against suffering later on. In 1999, Carole Holahan and Charles Holahan, psychologists at the University of Texas, published an influential paper in The International Journal of Aging and Human Development that looked at hundreds of older adults who early in life had been identified as highly gifted. The Holahans’ conclusion: “Learning at a younger age of membership in a study of intellectual giftedness was related to … less favorable psychological well-being at age eighty.”

This study may simply be showing that it’s hard to live up to high expectations, and that telling your kid she is a genius is not necessarily good parenting. (The Holahans surmise that the children identified as gifted might have made intellectual ability more central to their self-appraisal, creating “unrealistic expectations for success” and causing them to fail to “take into account the many other life influences on success and recognition.”) However, abundant evidence suggests that the waning of ability in people of high accomplishment is especially brutal psychologically. Consider professional athletes, many of whom struggle profoundly after their sports career ends. Tragic examples abound, involving depression, addiction, or suicide; unhappiness in retired athletes may even be the norm, at least temporarily. A study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology in 2003, which charted the life satisfaction of former Olympic athletes, found that they generally struggled with a low sense of personal control when they first stopped competing.

Recently, I asked Dominique Dawes, a former Olympic gold-medal gymnast, how normal life felt after competing and winning at the highest levels. She told me that she is happy, but that the adjustment wasn’t easy—and still isn’t, even though she won her last Olympic medal in 2000. “My Olympic self would ruin my marriage and leave my kids feeling inadequate,” she told me, because it is so demanding and hard-driving. “Living life as if every day is an Olympics only makes those around me miserable.”

Why might former elite performers have such a hard time? No academic research has yet proved this, but I strongly suspect that the memory of remarkable ability, if that is the source of one’s self-worth, might, for some, provide an invidious contrast to a later, less remarkable life. “Unhappy is he who depends on success to be happy,” Alex Dias Ribeiro, a former Formula 1 race-car driver, once wrote. “For such a person, the end of a successful career is the end of the line. His destiny is to die of bitterness or to search for more success in other careers and to go on living from success to success until he falls dead. In this case, there will not be life after success.”

Call it the Principle of Psychoprofessional Gravitation: the idea that the agony of professional oblivion is directly related to the height of professional prestige previously achieved, and to one’s emotional attachment to that prestige. Problems related to achieving professional success might appear to be a pretty good species of problem to have; even raising this issue risks seeming precious. But if you reach professional heights and are deeply invested in being high up, you can suffer mightily when you inevitably fall. That’s the man on the plane. Maybe that will be you, too. And, without significant intervention, I suspect it will be me.

The Principle of Psychoprofessional Gravitation can help explain the many cases of people who have done work of world-historical significance yet wind up feeling like failures. Take Charles Darwin, who was just 22 when he set out on his five-year voyage aboard the Beagle in 1831. Returning at 27, he was celebrated throughout Europe for his discoveries in botany and zoology, and for his early theories of evolution. Over the next 30 years, Darwin took enormous pride in sitting atop the celebrity-scientist pecking order, developing his theories and publishing them as books and essays—the most famous being On the Origin of Species, in 1859.

But as Darwin progressed into his 50s, he stagnated; he hit a wall in his research. At the same time an Austrian monk by the name of Gregor Mendel discovered what Darwin needed to continue his work: the theory of genetic inheritance. Unfortunately, Mendel’s work was published in an obscure academic journal and Darwin never saw it—and in any case, Darwin did not have the mathematical ability to understand it. From then on he made little progress. Depressed in his later years, he wrote to a close friend, “I have not the heart or strength at my age to begin any investigation lasting years, which is the only thing which I enjoy.”

Presumably, Darwin would be pleasantly surprised to learn how his fame grew after his death, in 1882. From what he could see when he was old, however, the world had passed him by, and he had become irrelevant. That could have been Darwin on the plane behind me that night.

It also could have been a younger version of me, because I have had precocious experience with professional decline.

As a child, I had just one goal: to be the world’s greatest French-horn player. I worked at it slavishly, practicing hours a day, seeking out the best teachers, and playing in any ensemble I could find. I had pictures of famous horn players on my bedroom wall for inspiration. And for a while, I thought my dream might come true. At 19, I left college to take a job playing professionally in a touring chamber-music ensemble. My plan was to keep rising through the classical-music ranks, joining a top symphony orchestra in a few years or maybe even becoming a soloist—the most exalted job a classical musician can hold.

But then, in my early 20s, a strange thing happened: I started getting worse. To this day, I have no idea why. My technique began to suffer, and I had no explanation for it. Nothing helped. I visited great teachers and practiced more, but I couldn’t get back to where I had been. Pieces that had been easy to play became hard; pieces that had been hard became impossible.

The data are shockingly clear that for most people, in most fields, professional decline starts earlier than almost anyone thinks.

Perhaps the worst moment in my young but flailing career came at age 22, when I was performing at Carnegie Hall. While delivering a short speech about the music I was about to play, I stepped forward, lost my footing, and fell off the stage into the audience. On the way home from the concert, I mused darkly that the experience was surely a message from God.

But I sputtered along for nine more years. I took a position in the City Orchestra of Barcelona, where I increased my practicing but my playing gradually deteriorated. Eventually I found a job teaching at a small music conservatory in Florida, hoping for a magical turnaround that never materialized. Realizing that maybe I ought to hedge my bets, I went back to college via distance learning, and earned my bachelor’s degree shortly before my 30th birthday. I secretly continued my studies at night, earning a master’s degree in economics a year later. Finally I had to admit defeat: I was never going to turn around my faltering musical career. So at 31 I gave up, abandoning my musical aspirations entirely, to pursue a doctorate in public policy.

Life goes on, right? Sort of. After finishing my studies, I became a university professor, a job I enjoyed. But I still thought every day about my beloved first vocation. Even now, I regularly dream that I am onstage, and wake to remember that my childhood aspirations are now only phantasms.

I am lucky to have accepted my decline at a young enough age that I could redirect my life into a new line of work. Still, to this day, the sting of that early decline makes these words difficult to write. I vowed to myself that it wouldn’t ever happen again.

Will it happen again? In some professions, early decline is inescapable. No one expects an Olympic athlete to remain competitive until age 60. But in many physically nondemanding occupations, we implicitly reject the inevitability of decline before very old age. Sure, our quads and hamstrings may weaken a little as we age. But as long as we retain our marbles, our quality of work as a writer, lawyer, executive, or entrepreneur should remain high up to the very end, right? Many people think so. I recently met a man a bit older than I am who told me he planned to “push it until the wheels came off.” In effect, he planned to stay at the very top of his game by any means necessary, and then keel over.

But the odds are he won’t be able to. The data are shockingly clear that for most people, in most fields, decline starts earlier than almost anyone thinks.

According to research by Dean Keith Simonton, a professor emeritus of psychology at UC Davis and one of the world’s leading experts on the trajectories of creative careers, success and productivity increase for the first 20 years after the inception of a career, on average. So if you start a career in earnest at 30, expect to do your best work around 50 and go into decline soon after that.

The specific timing of peak and decline vary somewhat depending on the field. Benjamin Jones, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, has spent years studying when people are most likely to make prizewinning scientific discoveries and develop key inventions. His findings can be summarized by this little ditty:

Age is, of course, a fever chill
that every physicist must fear.
He’s better dead than living still
when once he’s past his thirtieth year.

The author of those gloomy lines? Paul Dirac, a winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Dirac overstates the point, but only a little. Looking at major inventors and Nobel winners going back more than a century, Jones has found that the most common age for producing a magnum opus is the late 30s. He has shown that the likelihood of a major discovery increases steadily through one’s 20s and 30s and then declines through one’s 40s, 50s, and 60s. Are there outliers? Of course. But the likelihood of producing a major innovation at age 70 is approximately what it was at age 20—almost nonexistent.

Much of literary achievement follows a similar pattern. Simonton has shown that poets peak in their early 40s. Novelists generally take a little longer. When Martin Hill Ortiz, a poet and novelist, collected data on New York Times fiction best sellers from 1960 to 2015, he found that authors were likeliest to reach the No. 1 spot in their 40s and 50s. Despite the famous productivity of a few novelists well into old age, Ortiz shows a steep drop-off in the chance of writing a best seller after the age of 70. (Some nonfiction writers—especially historians—peak later, as we shall see in a minute.)

Whole sections of bookstores are dedicated to becoming successful. There is no section marked “managing your professional decline.”

Entrepreneurs peak and decline earlier, on average. After earning fame and fortune in their 20s, many tech entrepreneurs are in creative decline by age 30. In 2014, the Harvard Business Review reported that founders of enterprises valued at $1 billion or more by venture capitalists tend to cluster in the 20-to-34 age range. Subsequent research has found that the clustering might be slightly later, but all studies in this area have found that the majority of successful start-ups have founders under age 50.

This research concerns people at the very top of professions that are atypical. But the basic finding appears to apply more broadly. Scholars at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research studied a wide variety of jobs and found considerable susceptibility to age-related decline in fields ranging from policing to nursing. Other research has found that the best-performing home-plate umpires in Major League Baseball have 18 years less experience and are 23 years younger than the worst-performing umpires (who are 56.1 years old, on average). Among air traffic controllers, the age-related decline is so sharp—and the potential consequences of decline-related errors so dire—that the mandatory retirement age is 56.

In sum, if your profession requires mental processing speed or significant analytic capabilities—the kind of profession most college graduates occupy—noticeable decline is probably going to set in earlier than you imagine.

Sorry.

If decline not only is inevitable but also happens earlier than most of us expect, what should we do when it comes for us?

Whole sections of bookstores are dedicated to becoming successful. The shelves are packed with titles like The Science of Getting Rich and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. There is no section marked “Managing Your Professional Decline.”

But some people have managed their declines well. Consider the case of Johann Sebastian Bach. Born in 1685 to a long line of prominent musicians in central Germany, Bach quickly distinguished himself as a musical genius. In his 65 years, he published more than 1,000 compositions for all the available instrumentations of his day.

Early in his career, Bach was considered an astoundingly gifted organist and improviser. Commissions rolled in; royalty sought him out; young composers emulated his style. He enjoyed real prestige.

But it didn’t last—in no small part because his career was overtaken by musical trends ushered in by, among others, his own son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, known as C.P.E. to the generations that followed. The fifth of Bach’s 20 children, C.P.E. exhibited the musical gifts his father had. He mastered the baroque idiom, but he was more fascinated with a new “classical” style of music, which was taking Europe by storm. As classical music displaced baroque, C.P.E.’s prestige boomed while his father’s music became passé.

Bach easily could have become embittered, like Darwin. Instead, he chose to redesign his life, moving from innovator to instructor. He spent a good deal of his last 10 years writing The Art of Fugue, not a famous or popular work in his time, but one intended to teach the techniques of the baroque to his children and students—and, as unlikely as it seemed at the time, to any future generations that might be interested. In his later years, he lived a quieter life as a teacher and a family man.

What’s the difference between Bach and Darwin? Both were preternaturally gifted and widely known early in life. Both attained permanent fame posthumously. Where they differed was in their approach to the midlife fade. When Darwin fell behind as an innovator, he became despondent and depressed; his life ended in sad inactivity. When Bach fell behind, he reinvented himself as a master instructor. He died beloved, fulfilled, and—though less famous than he once had been—respected.

The lesson for you and me, especially after 50: Be Johann Sebastian Bach, not Charles Darwin.

How does one do that?

A potential answer lies in the work of the British psychologist Raymond Cattell, who in the early 1940s introduced the concepts of fluid and crystallized intelligence. Cattell defined fluid intelligence as the ability to reason, analyze, and solve novel problems—what we commonly think of as raw intellectual horsepower. Innovators typically have an abundance of fluid intelligence. It is highest relatively early in adulthood and diminishes starting in one’s 30s and 40s. This is why tech entrepreneurs, for instance, do so well so early, and why older people have a much harder time innovating.

Crystallized intelligence, in contrast, is the ability to use knowledge gained in the past. Think of it as possessing a vast library and understanding how to use it. It is the essence of wisdom. Because crystallized intelligence relies on an accumulating stock of knowledge, it tends to increase through one’s 40s, and does not diminish until very late in life.

Careers that rely primarily on fluid intelligence tend to peak early, while those that use more crystallized intelligence peak later. For example, Dean Keith Simonton has found that poets—highly fluid in their creativity—tend to have produced half their lifetime creative output by age 40 or so. Historians—who rely on a crystallized stock of knowledge—don’t reach this milestone until about 60.

Here’s a practical lesson we can extract from all this: No matter what mix of intelligence your field requires, you can always endeavor to weight your career away from innovation and toward the strengths that persist, or even increase, later in life.

Like what? As Bach demonstrated, teaching is an ability that decays very late in life, a principal exception to the general pattern of professional decline over time. A study in The Journal of Higher Education showed that the oldest college professors in disciplines requiring a large store of fixed knowledge, specifically the humanities, tended to get evaluated most positively by students. This probably explains the professional longevity of college professors, three-quarters of whom plan to retire after age 65—more than half of them after 70, and some 15 percent of them after 80. (The average American retires at 61.) One day, during my first year as a professor, I asked a colleague in his late 60s whether he’d ever considered retiring. He laughed, and told me he was more likely to leave his office horizontally than vertically.

I need a reverse bucket list. My goal for each year of the rest of my life should be to throw out things, obligations, and relationships.

Our dean might have chuckled ruefully at this—college administrators complain that research productivity among tenured faculty drops off significantly in the last decades of their career. Older professors take up budget slots that could otherwise be used to hire young scholars hungry to do cutting-edge research. But perhaps therein lies an opportunity: If older faculty members can shift the balance of their work from research to teaching without loss of professional prestige, younger faculty members can take on more research.

Patterns like this match what I’ve seen as the head of a think tank full of scholars of all ages. There are many exceptions, but the most profound insights tend to come from those in their 30s and early 40s. The best synthesizers and explainers of complicated ideas—that is, the best teachers—tend to be in their mid-60s or older, some of them well into their 80s.

That older people, with their stores of wisdom, should be the most successful teachers seems almost cosmically right. No matter what our profession, as we age we can dedicate ourselves to sharing knowledge in some meaningful way.

A few years ago, I saw a cartoon of a man on his deathbed saying, “I wish I’d bought more crap.” It has always amazed me that many wealthy people keep working to increase their wealth, amassing far more money than they could possibly spend or even usefully bequeath. One day I asked a wealthy friend why this is so. Many people who have gotten rich know how to measure their self-worth only in pecuniary terms, he explained, so they stay on the hamster wheel, year after year. They believe that at some point, they will finally accumulate enough to feel truly successful, happy, and therefore ready to die.

This is a mistake, and not a benign one. Most Eastern philosophy warns that focusing on acquisition leads to attachment and vanity, which derail the search for happiness by obscuring one’s essential nature. As we grow older, we shouldn’t acquire more, but rather strip things away to find our true selves—and thus, peace.

At some point, writing one more book will not add to my life satisfaction; it will merely stave off the end of my book-writing career. The canvas of my life will have another brushstroke that, if I am being forthright, others will barely notice, and will certainly not appreciate very much. The same will be true for most other markers of my success.

What I need to do, in effect, is stop seeing my life as a canvas to fill, and start seeing it more as a block of marble to chip away at and shape something out of. I need a reverse bucket list. My goal for each year of the rest of my life should be to throw out things, obligations, and relationships until I can clearly see my refined self in its best form.

And that self is … who, exactly?

Last year, the search for an answer to this question took me deep into the South Indian countryside, to a town called Palakkad, near the border between the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. I was there to meet the guru Sri Nochur Venkataraman, known as Acharya (“Teacher”) to his disciples. Acharya is a quiet, humble man dedicated to helping people attain enlightenment; he has no interest in Western techies looking for fresh start-up ideas or burnouts trying to escape the religious traditions they were raised in. Satisfied that I was neither of those things, he agreed to talk with me.

I told him my conundrum: Many people of achievement suffer as they age, because they lose their abilities, gained over many years of hard work. Is this suffering inescapable, like a cosmic joke on the proud? Or is there a loophole somewhere—a way around the suffering?

Acharya answered elliptically, explaining an ancient Hindu teaching about the stages of life, or ashramas. The first is Brahmacharya, the period of youth and young adulthood dedicated to learning. The second is Grihastha, when a person builds a career, accumulates wealth, and creates a family. In this second stage, the philosophers find one of life’s most common traps: People become attached to earthly rewards—money, power, sex, prestige—and thus try to make this stage last a lifetime.

The antidote to these worldly temptations is Vanaprastha, the third ashrama, whose name comes from two Sanskrit words meaning “retiring” and “into the forest.” This is the stage, usually starting around age 50, in which we purposefully focus less on professional ambition, and become more and more devoted to spirituality, service, and wisdom. This doesn’t mean that you need to stop working when you turn 50—something few people can afford to do—only that your life goals should adjust.

Vanaprastha is a time for study and training for the last stage of life, Sannyasa, which should be totally dedicated to the fruits of enlightenment. In times past, some Hindu men would leave their family in old age, take holy vows, and spend the rest of their life at the feet of masters, praying and studying. Even if sitting in a cave at age 75 isn’t your ambition, the point should still be clear: As we age, we should resist the conventional lures of success in order to focus on more transcendentally important things.

I told Acharya the story about the man on the plane. He listened carefully, and thought for a minute. “He failed to leave Grihastha,” he told me. “He was addicted to the rewards of the world.” He explained that the man’s self-worth was probably still anchored in the memories of professional successes many years earlier, his ongoing recognition purely derivative of long-lost skills. Any glory today was a mere shadow of past glories. Meanwhile, he’d completely skipped the spiritual development of Vanaprastha, and was now missing out on the bliss of Sannyasa.

There is a message in this for those of us suffering from the Principle of Psychoprofessional Gravitation. Say you are a hard-charging, type-A lawyer, executive, entrepreneur, or—hypothetically, of course—president of a think tank. From early adulthood to middle age, your foot is on the gas, professionally. Living by your wits—by your fluid intelligence—you seek the material rewards of success, you attain a lot of them, and you are deeply attached to them. But the wisdom of Hindu philosophy—and indeed the wisdom of many philosophical traditions—suggests that you should be prepared to walk away from these rewards before you feel ready. Even if you’re at the height of your professional prestige, you probably need to scale back your career ambitions in order to scale up your metaphysical ones.

When the New York Times columnist David Brooks talks about the difference between “résumé virtues” and “eulogy virtues,” he’s effectively putting the ashramas in a practical context. Résumé virtues are professional and oriented toward earthly success. They require comparison with others. Eulogy virtues are ethical and spiritual, and require no comparison. Your eulogy virtues are what you would want people to talk about at your funeral. As in He was kind and deeply spiritual, not He made senior vice president at an astonishingly young age and had a lot of frequent-flier miles.

You won’t be around to hear the eulogy, but the point Brooks makes is that we live the most fulfilling life—especially once we reach midlife—by pursuing the virtues that are most meaningful to us.

I suspect that my own terror of professional decline is rooted in a fear of death—a fear that, even if it is not conscious, motivates me to act as if death will never come by denying any degradation in my résumé virtues. This denial is destructive, because it leads me to ignore the eulogy virtues that bring me the greatest joy.

The biggest mistake professionally successful people make is attempting to sustain peak accomplishment indefinitely.

How can I overcome this tendency? The Buddha recommends, of all things, corpse meditation: Many Theravada Buddhist monasteries in Thailand and Sri Lanka display photos of corpses in various states of decomposition for the monks to contemplate. “This body, too,” students are taught to say about their own body, “such is its nature, such is its future, such is its unavoidable fate.” At first this seems morbid. But its logic is grounded in psychological principles—and it’s not an exclusively Eastern idea. “To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us,” Michel de Montaigne wrote in the 16th century, “let us deprive death of its strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death.”

Psychologists call this desensitization, in which repeated exposure to something repellent or frightening makes it seem ordinary, prosaic, not scary. And for death, it works. In 2017, a team of researchers at several American universities recruited volunteers to imagine they were terminally ill or on death row, and then to write blog posts about either their imagined feelings or their would-be final words. The researchers then compared these expressions with the writings and last words of people who were actually dying or facing capital punishment. The results, published in Psychological Science, were stark: The words of the people merely imagining their imminent death were three times as negative as those of the people actually facing death—suggesting that, counterintuitively, death is scarier when it is theoretical and remote than when it is a concrete reality closing in.

For most people, actively contemplating our demise so that it is present and real (rather than avoiding the thought of it via the mindless pursuit of worldly success) can make death less frightening; embracing death reminds us that everything is temporary, and can make each day of life more meaningful. “Death destroys a man,” E. M. Forster wrote, but “the idea of Death saves him.”

Decline is inevitable, and it occurs earlier than almost any of us wants to believe. But misery is not inevitable. Accepting the natural cadence of our abilities sets up the possibility of transcendence, because it allows the shifting of attention to higher spiritual and life priorities.

But such a shift demands more than mere platitudes. I embarked on my research with the goal of producing a tangible road map to guide me during the remaining years of my life. This has yielded four specific commitments.

JUMP

The biggest mistake professionally successful people make is attempting to sustain peak accomplishment indefinitely, trying to make use of the kind of fluid intelligence that begins fading relatively early in life. This is impossible. The key is to enjoy accomplishments for what they are in the moment, and to walk away perhaps before I am completely ready—but on my own terms.

So: I’ve resigned my job as president of the American Enterprise Institute, effective right about the time this essay is published. While I have not detected deterioration in my performance, it was only a matter of time. Like many executive positions, the job is heavily reliant on fluid intelligence. Also, I wanted freedom from the consuming responsibilities of that job, to have time for more spiritual pursuits. In truth, this decision wasn’t entirely about me. I love my institution and have seen many others like it suffer when a chief executive lingered too long.

Leaving something you love can feel a bit like a part of you is dying. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a concept called bardo, which is a state of existence between death and rebirth—“like a moment when you step toward the edge of a precipice,” as a famous Buddhist teacher puts it. I am letting go of a professional life that answers the question Who am I?

I am extremely fortunate to have the means and opportunity to be able to walk away from a job. Many people cannot afford to do that. But you don’t necessarily have to quit your job; what’s important is striving to detach progressively from the most obvious earthly rewards—power, fame and status, money—even if you continue to work or advance a career. The real trick is walking into the next stage of life, Vanaprastha, to conduct the study and training that prepare us for fulfillment in life’s final stage.

SERVE

Time is limited, and professional ambition crowds out things that ultimately matter more. To move from résumé virtues to eulogy virtues is to move from activities focused on the self to activities focused on others. This is not easy for me; I am a naturally egotistical person. But I have to face the fact that the costs of catering to selfishness are ruinous—and I now work every day to fight this tendency.

Fortunately, an effort to serve others can play to our strengths as we age. Remember, people whose work focuses on teaching or mentorship, broadly defined, peak later in life. I am thus moving to a phase in my career in which I can dedicate myself fully to sharing ideas in service of others, primarily by teaching at a university. My hope is that my most fruitful years lie ahead.

WORSHIP

Because I’ve talked a lot about various religious and spiritual traditions—and emphasized the pitfalls of overinvestment in career success—readers might naturally conclude that I am making a Manichaean separation between the worlds of worship and work, and suggesting that the emphasis be on worship. That is not my intention. I do strongly recommend that each person explore his or her spiritual self—I plan to dedicate a good part of the rest of my life to the practice of my own faith, Roman Catholicism. But this is not incompatible with work; on the contrary, if we can detach ourselves from worldly attachments and redirect our efforts toward the enrichment and teaching of others, work itself can become a transcendental pursuit.

“The aim and final end of all music,” Bach once said, “should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” Whatever your metaphysical convictions, refreshment of the soul can be the aim of your work, like Bach’s.

Bach finished each of his manuscripts with the words Soli Deo gloria — “Glory to God alone.” He failed, however, to write these words on his last manuscript, “Contrapunctus 14,” from The Art of Fugue, which abruptly stops mid-measure. His son C.P.E. added these words to the score: “Über dieser Fuge … ist der Verfasser gestorben” (“At this point in the fugue … the composer died”). Bach’s life and work merged with his prayers as he breathed his last breath. This is my aspiration.

CONNECT

Throughout this essay, I have focused on the effect that the waning of my work prowess will have on my happiness. But an abundance of research strongly suggests that happiness—not just in later years but across the life span—is tied directly to the health and plentifulness of one’s relationships. Pushing work out of its position of preeminence—sooner rather than later—to make space for deeper relationships can provide a bulwark against the angst of professional decline.

Dedicating more time to relationships, and less to work, is not inconsistent with continued achievement. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water,” the Book of Psalms says of the righteous person, “yielding its fruit in season, whose leaf does not wither, and who prospers in all he does.” Think of an aspen tree. To live a life of extraordinary accomplishment is—like the tree—to grow alone, reach majestic heights alone, and die alone. Right?

Wrong. The aspen tree is an excellent metaphor for a successful person—but not, it turns out, for its solitary majesty. Above the ground, it may appear solitary. Yet each individual tree is part of an enormous root system, which is together one plant. In fact, an aspen is one of the largest living organisms in the world; a single grove in Utah, called Pando, spans 106 acres and weighs an estimated 13 million pounds.

The secret to bearing my decline—to enjoying it—is to become more conscious of the roots linking me to others. If I have properly developed the bonds of love among my family and friends, my own withering will be more than offset by blooming in others.

When I talk about this personal research project I’ve been pursuing, people usually ask: Whatever happened to the hero on the plane?

I think about him a lot. He’s still famous, popping up in the news from time to time. Early on, when I saw a story about him, I would feel a flash of something like pity—which I now realize was really only a refracted sense of terror about my own future. Poor guy really meant I’m screwed.

But as my grasp of the principles laid out in this essay has deepened, my fear has declined proportionately. My feeling toward the man on the plane is now one of gratitude for what he taught me. I hope that he can find the peace and joy he is inadvertently helping me attain.

(c) Arthur C. Brooks is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a professor of the practice of public leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a senior fellow at the Harvard Business School.

LINK: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/07/work-peak-professional-decline/590650/

RU_ru: https://habr.com/ru/post/503530/

#life #work #decline #research #essay #news #happiness #social #literature #science #learning #study #mind #freedom #free #photo #lang ru #professional #carrer #depression #buddhism #enlightenment #religious #traditions #religion #psychology #story #success #progress #development
 

Eating someone

Farmed animals have personalities, smarts, even a sense of agency. Why then do we saddle them with lives of utter despair?

Bild/Foto
Lizzie #1. Photo © 2009 KevinHoran.com from the series Chattel

By Lori Marino*

We’ve all heard them and used them – the common references to #farmed #animals that appeal to the worst part of #human #nature: ‘pearls before #swine’, ‘what a #pig’, ‘like #lambs to the #slaughter’, ‘#bird #brain’. These phrases represent our #species’ view of farmed animals as not particularly bright, uncaring about their treatment or fate, and generally bland and monolithic in their #identities. My team of #researchers asked: ‘What is there to really know about them?’ Our answer: plenty.

I’ve had the privilege of being the lead #scientist for the Someone Project, a joint venture of two US #nonprofit organisations, the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, and Farm #Sanctuary. The Someone Project is an exploration of our #scientific #knowledge of the #minds of farmed animals. My co-authors and I have explored the #peer-reviewed literature on #intelligence, #personality, #emotions and social complexity in pigs, chickens, cows and sheep, and the journey ‘inward’ into the #minds of these animals has been nothing short of revelatory.

While most people accept that farmed animals possess simple #emotions such as #fear, they are less open to the idea that the animals’ emotions can be familiar and complex. One example is #cognitive judgment #bias, also known as #optimism and #pessimism. We all know the feeling of being able to take on the world when bolstered by good experiences and praise. And, unfortunately, we also know what it feels like to give up when we are pummelled by bad experiences. #CognitiveBias is a deviation in judgment as a result of emotional experiences. How we interpret ambiguous #stimuli or situations depends upon whether we are #depressed or #anxious, or feeling on top of the world. #Pigs, #chickens, #sheep and #cows feel it too. Just treat cows, sheep or chickens roughly through exposure to loud noise or the presence of a #predator, or any other uncontrollable negative condition, and assess how they perform on a typical discrimination task differentiating between two stimuli to get a reward. Just like you, all that stress biases their brains and ability to do well.

In one study, sheep had to learn to discriminate between two buckets marked with different visual patterns (horizontal versus vertical stripes) and respond by walking over to either end of the room to the bucket associated with food. Sheep who experienced prior aversive events were compared with an unexposed group. When confronted with this simple task, the stressed-out sheep were more reluctant to approach the buckets and made more errors than their unexposed counterparts. After a tough life, they view the world through the opposite of rose-coloured glasses. Sound familiar?

If farmed animals are so #vulnerable to bad treatment, how can we maintain the #illusion that having one’s tails, ears and horns cut off makes no difference to them? The fact is that several scientific studies show sheep in #despair, with physiological signs of #stress and #depression when subject to unpredictable and uncontrollable conditions such as the sudden appearance of a new object while they are eating. They are experiencing the well-known psychological phenomenon of #LearnedHelplessness, in which learning that one cannot control one’s environment or life leads to depression and lack of motivation to even try. Learned #helplessness is seen in sheep, in other farmed animals, in many animals in zoos and marine parks, in lab animals, and, yes, in humans who experience continued hard knocks throughout life, especially as children.

One of the most insidious #misconceptions about farmed animals (indeed almost all animals aside from #human ones) is that they do not care about their young, who do not need a mother for normal development. This #mythology of emotional #detachment has become the lore for chickens, cows, turkeys and other farmed animals. But what is the evidence for this convenient fabrication? At first blush, it is #irrational to think that any #mammal or even #vertebrate would be indifferent to their offspring. If that were the case, none of us would be here now.

Instead, there is ample evidence that farmed animals care very much about being able to raise their offspring. Several studies show that #calves must be brought up by their #mothers to be socially well-adjusted. Young calves allowed to stay with their mothers grow up more socially confident with other cows. Conversely, cows prevented from being raised by their mothers show more fearful responses to novel situations and unfamiliar cows. #Dairy calves raised in more complex social groups in general tend to have increased coping abilities and higher capacities for dealing with change. The same effects are seen for #piglets and lambs.

For starters, mothers need to be able to send out their offspring into the world well-prepared, and that means weaning them on a #natural timescale. During weaning in sheep, lambs gradually become less dependent on mother’s milk and more involved in foraging for food on their own as mother stands watch. But no #factory-farmed animals are afforded this basic necessity. Sheep naturally wean at six months, but on factory farms mother and offspring are separated at between one and two months. Cows naturally wean between six and nine months, but dairy cows are separated within 24 hours. Pigs naturally wean at about three months, but mother and piglets are typically separated within 17-20 days on factory farms. And the situation for chickens is just as severe. If left on her own, a hen will look after her chicks for between six and eight weeks. Under factory-farming conditions, layer hens never get to see their offspring, and chicks raised for meat are killed at six weeks of age, still peeping the sound of a baby chick even though their bodies have been genetically manipulated to balloon to the size of an adult.

What are the #psychological consequences of these extreme practices? Just what you would expect – mother cows running after their abducted newborns, bellowing and restlessly searching when they are gone. When ewes (mother sheep) are separated from their lambs before weaning, they let out high-pitched vocalisations, pace, and even urinate. And studies suggest that early separation from the mother has negative psychological impacts on lambs throughout progressive phases of their #social development. Lambs artificially weaned at a very early age show less vocalising and movement, are generally more socially withdrawn, and exhibit abnormal, repetitive oral behaviours.

Maternal #bonding and concern are not restricted to mammals. When mother hens receive a mildly aversive puff of blown air, they do not respond particularly strongly. But when they see someone ‘air puff’ their chicks, they show signs of distress, including clucking, increased heart rate and alert posture.

Meet uber-mother June. June came from a cockfighting operation in #NewYork City (hens themselves are not made to fight but are kept in confined conditions as breeders) where she spent all her time trying to protect her chicks and the chicks of other hens from the #abuses of the situation, literally taking them under her wings when humans were around. Fortunately for June, she was rescued and went to Farm Sanctuary where she need not fear humans. But she still kept her chicks close by – even when they were too big to hide under her wing – and fought off anyone who came near them. She never forgot the abuses she suffered, even after many years in the sanctuary.

The inner lives of farmed animals cannot be characterised entirely on a species level. Instead, they are #unique individuals with personality to spare. Those personalities map familiarly onto the same characteristics that comprise human personalities. The five dimensions of human personality structure are #extraversion, #agreeableness, #conscientiousness, #neuroticism and #openness to #experience. Most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum for each category. For instance, in the first category, each of us is either extremely extraverted, extremely introverted or somewhere in between.

Research shows that, like #humans, individual pigs fall along the dimensions of agreeableness, openness to new experiences, and extraversion. For instance, in a competitive feeding situation, the pig who is the most aggressive tends to keep that reputation throughout time. Cows similarly fall along a spectrum on dimensions of extraversion and also neuroticism. Sheep have personality traits characterised in the literature as ‘shyness/boldness’ and ‘gregariousness’, comparable to openness to experience and extraversion in humans. Finally, individual chickens (and turkeys) also vary along dimensions of personality, including boldness/shyness, activity/exploration (in humans, openness to experience), and vigilance (similar to neuroticism in us). Personality shapes maternal style in chickens and hens through the dimension of vigilance; the most extreme on one end tend to be the ‘helicopter moms’ of the barnyard.

As complex and familiar as these personality traits are, they have not been studied nearly as much as human personality, and are clearly only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding who farmed animals are. Up until today, the scientific community has been slow to acknowledge personalities in other animals, even our closest #feline and #canine #companions. The fact that, amid this juggernaut of denial and homogenisation on the factory farm, the personalities of cows, pigs and chickens still shine through is testament to the strength and resilience of their identities.

Not only are farmed animals individuals, they recognise the individuality of others. We humans are into faces. We like ones that are pleasant and convey positive #emotions. We love #smiles. As #primates, we are especially attuned to facial expression. And we use faces for the recognition of individuals (including our nonhuman companions). It might be difficult to recognise a friend from a #photo of a leg or a hand, or your dog from a photo of her tummy, but you would never fail to recognise their faces. We post pictures of the faces of celebrities and people in the news – not their elbows.

This focus on faces and the information they confer goes beyond the fact that faces contain mouths, and mouths vocalise. That’s because the facial expression and the identity of the person vocalising are often more important than what is actually being said, content-wise. Moreover, faces contain eyes, and the gaze direction tells me where you’re looking and, therefore, what you know or if you are paying attention to me. No child has escaped the question asked by #teachers and #parents: ‘Are you paying attention to me?’ So identity, emotion and attention are written all over our faces.

Faces are complex configurations of various components, and face recognition is, similarly, a complicated #mental task. For all of these reasons, we are not particularly surprised by evidence for facial recognition in #dogs or #chimpanzees. But what about farmed animals? Are they just faceless entities in a crowd or herd? The answer is no.

It turns out that many farmed animals are attuned to faces of members of their own species, as well as those of other species. Sheep are the ‘face experts’. Well-controlled studies requiring sheep to discriminate pairs of photos of other sheep show that they are capable of remembering the faces of 50 different individuals for more than two years. And, like us, they strongly prefer certain expressions over others. As highly social mammals, sheep are sensitive to emotional expressions and are able to distinguish between and prefer #photographs of sheep with a calm facial expression over sheep with a startled expression. And sheep are celebrity-watchers as well. Studies show that they can discriminate among photos of four different human celebrities even when the faces are presented to them in different spatial orientations. Altogether, sheep have extremely sophisticated face-recognition abilities on a par with humans and other primates.

Cows can recognise the faces of different cows, and even discriminate photos of cows of several different breeds from other non-cow species (dogs, sheep, horses and goats). Chickens, too, show notable abilities to recognise individuals in their own social group as well as keep track of the social dominance hierarchy (known as the pecking order). Hens can gain useful information about their own status in the dominance #hierarchy before actually taking on a challenger by observing how that hen interacts with another hen she is familiar with. If the challenger can be chased off by the familiar hens who are lower than her in the hierarchy, then she is more likely to engage in some sparring with her. They are, apparently, wise enough to challenge only those chickens they know they stand a good chance against. In science, this kind of logical reasoning is called transitive inference, the ability to derive a relation between items that have not been explicitly compared before. Whether or not chickens accomplish this feat in exactly the same way that we do, these findings show that they are not just mindlessly spending their days pecking away at tidbits but are actually processing social relationships in pretty complex terms.

And several studies show that pigs are quite skillful at using head cues to discriminate between different attention states in humans. Like all of us, they prefer interaction with us when we are looking at them than when we are turned away. And it’s the same for other pigs. And pigs, like primates, dolphins and dogs, understand pointing as a reference to an object. They learn these social-cognitive skills at a young age.

In the past few years, scientific advances in our understanding of animal minds have led to major shifts in how we think about and treat other animals in zoos and aquariums, at least in the West. The general public is starting to realise that animals such as apes, elephants, dolphins and whales have complex inner and social lives, and that we need to treat them accordingly. For instance, there is a growing viewpoint that whales and dolphins should not be in concrete tanks performing for our entertainment and, accordingly, there are major efforts underway to call attention to and end this practice.

But despite this growing realisation for many animals held captive for our entertainment, traversing the path toward recognising the mental lives of farmed animals such as pigs, cows, chickens, sheep, goats and turkeys has been far more daunting. Although #vegan and #vegetarian food options are becoming more plentiful and more common, meat consumption, on a global scale, has increased in recent years, and it continues to be high on the list of coveted recreational and dining experiences for most people in the developed world.

In 2012, The Economist reported that, based on 2007 data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, meat consumption since 1961 has risen from about 48 to 88 pounds per person per year worldwide. The numbers of individual farmed animals slaughtered for meat annually around the world also showed a staggering increase from 1961 to 2014: we’ve gone from 6.6 billion to 62 billion chickens; from 376 million to 1.5 billion pigs; from 331 million to 545 million sheep; from 173 million to 300 million cows; from 142 million to 649 million turkeys; and from 103 million to 444 million goats. These #statistics do not take into account #eggs, #dairy and seafood.

The increase has occurred despite growing scientific #evidence for severe health hazards for humans who eat certain kinds of factory-farmed #meat on a regular basis. Regularly eating red meat is tied to increased risk of #diabetes, #cardiovascular disease and certain #cancers. At the same time, the evidence for better health and #wellbeing associated with eating less meat is well-established.

And, from the point of view of animal suffering, there is extensive information available on social media, in films and in writing about the poor quality of life and violent end endured by factory-farmed animals. But, again, the practice continues. One must ask: why, despite all of the information, the problem of meat-eating seems to be so intractable?

Perhaps the answer can be found in the inner lives of members of our own species. We are masters at erecting psychological defences and justifying behaviour that we know is not ethical but feels good, such as pleasuring the palate. The main form that these defences, these mental pushbacks, take is a cultural mythology that promotes a view of farmed animals as devoid of feeling, awareness, intelligence and concern about their own quality of life. In the face of unimpeachable evidence for their suffering and our health risks, the last bastion of defence for human carnivores is to convince oneself that farmed animals do not care whether they live or die or how they live. We tell ourselves that their suffering isn’t the same as ours and that they don’t really care about life the way we do, so why should we care?

The inner lives of farmed animals depend upon who the farmed animal is, but also overlap into familiar territory within our own minds. Each species has its own nature, and each individual his or her own life. But the scientific literature on everyone from pigs to chickens points to one conclusion: farmed animals are someone, not something. They share many of the same mental and emotional characteristics that we recognise in ourselves and acknowledge in the animals closest to us – dogs and cats. To continue our self-indulgence, we resist the evidence and reinforce the status of farmed animals as objects, as commodities, as food. Their inner lives have become ‘the forbidden territory’ we dare not enter lest we deprive our palate and shatter our sense of ourselves.

*Lori Marino is a neuroscientist and an expert in animal behaviour and intelligence. Formerly on the faculty at Emory University, she is the founder and executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy in Utah, and president of the Whale Sanctuary Project.

#Aeon #essay #Speciesism #empathy #love #idea
 
Gebt mir eine Rakete und ein Raketen- und Alienkostüm, ich opfere mich, schieße mich heimlich hoch, komme wieder runter und vereine alle Menschen des Planeten durch meine "Alien" Präsenz.
;)

Der #Klimaschutz, die Lobbyisten und die Idee der #Commons - #Essay - Perlentaucher

https://www.perlentaucher.de/essay/der-klimaschutz-die-lobbyisten-und-die-idee-der-commons.html
 

Ein bisschen Wahrheit


"(...) Das “ein bisschen” gehört zur Hinterlassenschaft der Merkel-Ära und dieser sprachlosen, wertfreien und abgeduckten Republik. Keiner hat hier noch irgendetwas von Bedeutung zu sagen, aber selbst davor baut sich ein Angstdamm auf."

Link zum Essay von Wolf Reiser:
https://neue-debatte.com/2019/05/16/ein-bisschen-im-zwergenland-des-bisschens/
#Gesellschaft #Verhalten #Soziologie #Essay
Ein bisschen im Zwergenland des Bisschens
 

Ein bisschen Wahrheit


"(...) Das “ein bisschen” gehört zur Hinterlassenschaft der Merkel-Ära und dieser sprachlosen, wertfreien und abgeduckten Republik. Keiner hat hier noch irgendetwas von Bedeutung zu sagen, aber selbst davor baut sich ein Angstdamm auf."

Link zum Essay von Wolf Reiser:
https://neue-debatte.com/2019/05/16/ein-bisschen-im-zwergenland-des-bisschens/
#Gesellschaft #Verhalten #Soziologie #Essay
Ein bisschen im Zwergenland des Bisschens
 

Fukushima 8 years on – photo essay


HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19927056
Posted by D_Alex (karma: 1393)
Post stats: Points: 101 - Comments: 73 - 2019-05-16T08:06:06Z

\#HackerNews #essay #fukushima #photo #years
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 91 - Loop: 183 - Rank min: 80 - Author rank: 30
FUKUSHIMA 8 YEARS ON
 
#kunst #film #kino #filmkunst #j-l-godard #essay #arte #mediatheke
Es müsste eine Revolution geben.... - Kryptischer Essayfilm des Altmeisters

Jean-Luc Godard: Bildbuch


Filmessay (2018) über die Gräuel dieser Welt: "Le livre d’image", das neue Kinoexperiment der inzwischen 88-jährigen Filmlegende Jean-Luc Godard, lief vergangenes Jahr im Wettbewerb des Filmfestivals in Cannes. Im Mittelpunkt steht in diesem assoziativ montierten Bilderreigen nicht die Filmgeschichte, sondern die Lage der Menschheit und die drohenden Krisenherde unserer Zeit.

85min, ARTE-Mediathek, Verfügbar bis 22/06/2019


Godards „Bildbuch“ wurde 2018 beim Filmfestival in Cannes uraufgeführt und mit dem Spezialpreis ausgezeichnet. Sein aktuellstes Werk ist eine vielgestaltige Filmcollage und ein Kommentar zu unserer heutigen Zeit, der mit der narrativen Erzählweise des konventionellen Kinos bricht. Godard montiert Filmmausschnitte aus alten Hollywoodmusicals, Stummfilmszenen mit Buster Keaton, Ausschnitte aus Klassikern wie Dreyers „Johanna von Orléans“, Hitchcocks „Vertigo“ oder Max Ophüls „Pläsier“ lose aneinander. Daneben finden sich YouTube-Clips, Handyaufnahmen und Hinrichtungsvideos des IS aus dem Internet. Mit unzähligen Referenzen und Querverweisen geht es durch verschiedene Filmgenres, Sprachen, Kulturen und Religionen. Der Film berührt große Themen der Menschheitsgeschichte: Es geht um die Umwelt und ihre fortschreitende Zerstörung, um Liebe und Freiheit, die Stellung der Frau, um Unrecht, Krieg sowie um unsere Sicht auf die arabische Welt. In fünf Kapiteln reflektiert Godard die gesellschaftlichen wie politischen Hauptthemen der letzten Jahre, etwa die Folgen des Arabischen Frühlings und die Macht der digitalen Technik. Formal spielt der Film mit übersättigten Farben und Schwarz-Weiß-Aufnahmen, digitaler Verfremdung von altem Filmmaterial, wechselnden Bildformaten und Zeitlupen-Tempi. Unterlegt sind die Bilder bisweilen mit Godards eigener Stimme – auch in der deutschen Fassung – und einem aufwühlenden Klangteppich aus verschiedensten, teils verfremdeten Tonsequenzen. Ein aufgebrachter, inzwischen 88-Jähriger, dessen raue und zuweilen atemlose Stimme äußerste Dringlichkeit vermittelt. Vor 20 Jahren veröffentlichte Godard den letzten Teil seiner Reihe „Histoire(s) du cinéma“, in der er Filmzitate zusammenschnitt und so zu einem kontemplativen Streifzug durch die Filmgeschichte einlud. „Bildbuch“ ist formal ähnlich konzipiert, zeigt aber diesmal, „wie ein Jahrhundert im nächsten endet“. Godard konfrontiert den Zuschauer auf vieldeutige Weise mit den Schrecken unserer Zeit und befasst sich mit der Rolle der Bilderflut in einer Gesellschaft, die immer wieder von Umbrüchen und Kriegen erschüttert wird. Diese atemberaubende Assemblage von Texten, Bildern und Tönen ist das Ergebnis eines freien und aufmerksamen Auslotens aller Möglichkeiten einer Kunst, die die Welt widerspiegelt und sich selbst dabei immer wieder neu erfindet.
 
#kunst #film #kino #filmkunst #j-l-godard #essay #arte #mediatheke
Es müsste eine Revolution geben.... - Kryptischer Essayfilm des Altmeisters

Jean-Luc Godard: Bildbuch


Filmessay (2018) über die Gräuel dieser Welt: "Le livre d’image", das neue Kinoexperiment der inzwischen 88-jährigen Filmlegende Jean-Luc Godard, lief vergangenes Jahr im Wettbewerb des Filmfestivals in Cannes. Im Mittelpunkt steht in diesem assoziativ montierten Bilderreigen nicht die Filmgeschichte, sondern die Lage der Menschheit und die drohenden Krisenherde unserer Zeit.

85min, ARTE-Mediathek, Verfügbar bis 22/06/2019


Godards „Bildbuch“ wurde 2018 beim Filmfestival in Cannes uraufgeführt und mit dem Spezialpreis ausgezeichnet. Sein aktuellstes Werk ist eine vielgestaltige Filmcollage und ein Kommentar zu unserer heutigen Zeit, der mit der narrativen Erzählweise des konventionellen Kinos bricht. Godard montiert Filmmausschnitte aus alten Hollywoodmusicals, Stummfilmszenen mit Buster Keaton, Ausschnitte aus Klassikern wie Dreyers „Johanna von Orléans“, Hitchcocks „Vertigo“ oder Max Ophüls „Pläsier“ lose aneinander. Daneben finden sich YouTube-Clips, Handyaufnahmen und Hinrichtungsvideos des IS aus dem Internet. Mit unzähligen Referenzen und Querverweisen geht es durch verschiedene Filmgenres, Sprachen, Kulturen und Religionen. Der Film berührt große Themen der Menschheitsgeschichte: Es geht um die Umwelt und ihre fortschreitende Zerstörung, um Liebe und Freiheit, die Stellung der Frau, um Unrecht, Krieg sowie um unsere Sicht auf die arabische Welt. In fünf Kapiteln reflektiert Godard die gesellschaftlichen wie politischen Hauptthemen der letzten Jahre, etwa die Folgen des Arabischen Frühlings und die Macht der digitalen Technik. Formal spielt der Film mit übersättigten Farben und Schwarz-Weiß-Aufnahmen, digitaler Verfremdung von altem Filmmaterial, wechselnden Bildformaten und Zeitlupen-Tempi. Unterlegt sind die Bilder bisweilen mit Godards eigener Stimme – auch in der deutschen Fassung – und einem aufwühlenden Klangteppich aus verschiedensten, teils verfremdeten Tonsequenzen. Ein aufgebrachter, inzwischen 88-Jähriger, dessen raue und zuweilen atemlose Stimme äußerste Dringlichkeit vermittelt. Vor 20 Jahren veröffentlichte Godard den letzten Teil seiner Reihe „Histoire(s) du cinéma“, in der er Filmzitate zusammenschnitt und so zu einem kontemplativen Streifzug durch die Filmgeschichte einlud. „Bildbuch“ ist formal ähnlich konzipiert, zeigt aber diesmal, „wie ein Jahrhundert im nächsten endet“. Godard konfrontiert den Zuschauer auf vieldeutige Weise mit den Schrecken unserer Zeit und befasst sich mit der Rolle der Bilderflut in einer Gesellschaft, die immer wieder von Umbrüchen und Kriegen erschüttert wird. Diese atemberaubende Assemblage von Texten, Bildern und Tönen ist das Ergebnis eines freien und aufmerksamen Auslotens aller Möglichkeiten einer Kunst, die die Welt widerspiegelt und sich selbst dabei immer wieder neu erfindet.
 
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