Amor Fati

{the phraseology quadrilogy — Vol. II: Amor Fati}

See Vol I: Memento mori

~ Love fate.

A resolute, enthusiastic acceptance of everything that happens in one’s life.”

This is the conception of the Latin phrase ‘amor fati.’

A refusal to regret. An embrace of life’s ambiguities. A love of imperfection. A solacing amongst adversity. A catching of the tides of our existence’s ever-changing circumstances with a sincere smile.

Friedrich Nietzsche said the above quotation. He also said “I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes things beautiful. Amor fati: Let that be my love henceforth!”

In other similar writings, the German philosopher tried to envisage life and its many wayward events in terms of an eternal recurrence. Such thinking means to imagine the components of one’s day-to-day experience as if it was all set upon in an infinite loop, primed to recur again and again without end. Given this existential trapping of repetition, one would wish, and desperately try, to appreciate the qualia of all experience, the good and the very bad, with a convicted posture of predeterministic candor.

Paraphrased: ‘Hey, given that this is how things go, and there’s nothing one can do to better the outcome, it’s best to just embrace it.’ Alternatively: ‘We’ll be doing this forever… so fuck it!’ Or — ‘Time is a flat circle.

To me, it brings to mind the conception of a personal ‘sphere of influence.’ Simply put: the domain of our lives that we can effectively exert influence over. As we implicitly understand, it’s useless to try to change things outside of it. We can only affect so many things in our lives, we can only touch or communicate with those people and those lives we know — family, friends, co-workers. If they trust us, we influence them and we can even maybe change their mind. Often, the nature of a close relationship may inhibit our influence. The mass communication afforded via the internet certainly allows us a wider reach, but as I see it: increasingly superficial and more likely to be negative than positive.

Eternal recurrence, and its necessary tenets of predeterminism, if true, squashes our little sphere we think we have instantly into nothingness; like a black hole, it becomes infinitely small and infinitely dense, with no room to influence anything or anyone. We can do the things and change the world only as far as … we were ever going to. Now I understand this kind of thinking becomes paradoxical, recursive, perhaps meaningless considering such knowledge of its proof will never come to us. But the important notion to be netted from the thought is this: With an eternally returning fate, and prescient knowledge of this reality, the only real thing in one’s personal sphere of influence is their attitude concerning such a fate. Nietzsche and other proponents of eternal recurrence, and amor fati, as philosophically viable underpinnings to proper living, might just be recommending one to go through life doing their best to have a better attitude about whatever happens within it.

At varying points in life, we will be thrust into circumstances in which we are primed to misery and to misfortune. In some places, we have the reigns of control; but in many others, they’ve loosened from our grasp. More likely, fate was never within our grasp in the first place, only small plots of its grander design. Amor fati calls on one to forget the reigns and to enjoy the ride with clear-eyed enthusiasm for the open road {even the oncoming cliff}. Amor fati tasks one with not just with transcending the trappings of our fate, but with loving it. Much like the vision of enlightenment within the meditative arts, if such a thing is possible, I think it may only be achieved with a lifetime of mental training and deep philosophical work. Even then, it may remain consistently out of reach.

“We were headed to a degree of catastrophe from the start.” ~ Nietzsche

Honestly, amor fati is difficult for me to fully understand and … embrace. We are hard-wired to give a damn when the scales of our lives tip away from pleasure and toward pain. Such a thing is of the utmost concern to us; we are more than just primed to the fine-tuning of this balance. To use another Latin phrase: it’s kinda our modus operandi. It’s baked into our DNA. We are here because of these internal mechanisms willing us so. Evolution didn’t painstakingly design us and ingrain within us such distresses for them to go consciously unacknowledged.

{Human optimality = (Seek +Pleasure) x (Avoid -Pain)}

{Devil’s Advocate Mode engaged} To bear a tragedy, or even a stubbed toe — with a loving grin of genuine acceptance — is counter to everything within our nature. It is a forceful perspective to take, wholly uncomfortable to the human spirit. We’d have to fight to stay our mood from a violent change at the stead of inadequacies, and of injustices. Which might be the whole point. Living via amor fati is existentially grating, requiring deep work within the soul, scores of wisdom and conviction gained likely only via experience. One could argue it also threatens to make one ineffective. In extremis, the love of ‘any possible fate’ gives in to tyranny without a fight, without even a word of dissension towards those that simply have the raw power to shape the fate of a community to their liking. The embrace of less than perfection, of less than self-actualization — while perhaps ultimately unachievable — threatens to open a gentler path to giving up.

Striving for change is our nature, and arguably what makes up the best parts of human existence. In spite of the likely setbacks along the way to its eventual fruition, spitting in the face of fate and doing everything in your power — and beyond, even widening that pesky sphere of influence — to move it and shatter it upon the shore of a better world for yourself, is among the most gratifying undertakings one can engage in this life. If amor fati means sacrificing the fight for this kind of hard won betterment, then how can one charitably partake in entertaining its philosophical tenets?

There is a balance within this thinking. Nietzsche, in other writings, also recommends “to celebrate our suffering because we can avoid it only if we avoid engagement — only if we insulate ourselves from the hardship that is part and parcel of even the most placid human existence.” Elsewhere, he says, “The self does not lie passively in wait for us to discover it. Selfhood is made in the active, ongoing process, in the German verb werden, ‘to become.”

I think this is where the special finesse of ‘loving fate’ comes into play: It ought to be the last line, the final card upon the table. Perhaps this is only my singular interpretation, but I think amor fati is the perspective one should take when at the end of their path. After the trials and tribulations through a heroic journey to change the self or the all, and the outcome has been hashed out to its finale — whether it be an absolute success or abject failure, {more likely somewhere in between} — then one must meditate upon the final resolution of this fate with amor fati firmly in hand.

This is the beautiful ‘necessary’s’ in things Nietzsche speaks of concerning the trials of life’s course. After doing your best, what becomes of that work is the necessity which must be borne with love. I don’t think he means for one to accept their life and it’s inequities out of hand. As in stoicism, this mindset is meant as a bastion against the worst kinds of fates, and not as an excuse to a surrender in the face of misfortune. Think Invictus and the story of the man that wrote it. There is no capitulation to fate there within that stoic resolution from Henley, only the sheerest kind of vigorous …pluck.

Amor fati fates one to fight to change your fate as best you can, even going to the very edges of your spheres. Beyond them, if you can manage it. But when it comes down to it, at the end of your day — and most importantly, for the sake of the days and journeys ahead — one must learn to embrace the ambiguity of the natural end to your efforts. Maybe at the end of your undertaking, it’s a victory but lesser; maybe it’s unfinished, but you took it as far as you could; maybe you learned just how limited you are, painfully reminded with a devastating loss at the eleventh hour. Whatever it may be, it must be set down once and for all, a loving embrace of that fate, signed, sealed and delivered. This must be done so that one can move on and pick up something new with the energy and conviction to continue the process of betterment, despite prior outcomes. This serves until even that new journey ends, and amor fati returns once more to deliver its finale. And so on and so forth.

In this sense, the purpose of amor fati is a framing of the mind to prevent being crushed by life’s inevitable setbacks. Amor fati shores one against brokenness; it does the work of preventing a dose of losses devolving into one’s utter downfall, so that an end doesn’t become the end. Amor fati builds resilience at resolution; it makes you anti-fragile. This is a valuation I can get behind. ~

“…We end up saying, with tears in which there mingle grief and a sort of ecstasy, a large yes to the whole of life, in its absolute horror and occasional moments of awesome beauty.”

~ Nietzsche