HIS “AMOR FATI” OR “HIS AMOR FATI”
THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE.
THE MEDIUM IS THE MASS-AGE.
THE LIFE IS THE MESSAGE.
One of the strangest yet most intriguing aspects of Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas is his repeated enthusiasm for a concept that he called amor fati (translated from Latin as ‘a love of one’s fate’, or as we might put it, a resolute, enthusiastic acceptance of everything that has happened in one’s life). The person of amor fati doesn’t seek to erase anything of their past, but rather accepts what has occurred, the good and the bad, the mistaken and the wise, with strength and an all-embracing gratitude that borders on a kind of enthusiastic affection
This refusal to regret and retouch the past is heralded as a virtue in amor fati.
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! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse.Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer. My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.
In most areas of life, most of the time, we do the very opposite. We kick violently against negative events — and do not accept their role in our lives. We do not love and embrace the flow of events. We spend a huge amount of time taking stock of our errors, regretting and lamenting the unfortunate twists of fate — and wishing that things could have gone differently. We are typically mighty opponents of anything that smacks of resignation or fatalism. We want to alter and improve things — ourselves, politics, the economy, the course of history — and part of this means refusing to be passive about the errors, injustices and ugliness of our own and the collective past.
Nietzsche himself, in some moods, knows this defiance full well. There is much emphasis in his work on action, initiative and self-assertion. His concept of the Wille zur Macht, or Will to Power embodies just this attitude of vitality and conquest over obstacles.
However, it is one of the most beautiful aspects of Nietzsche’s thinking that he is aware that, in order to lead a good life, we need to keep in mind plenty of opposing ideas and marshall them as and when they become relevant. We don’t — in Nietzsche’s eyes — need to be consistent, we need to have the ideas to hand that can salve our wounds. Nietzsche isn’t therefore asking us to choose between glorious fatalism on the one hand or a vigorous willing on the other. He is allowing us to have recourse to either intellectual move depending on the occasion. He wishes our mental toolkit to have more than one set of ideas: to have, as it were, both a hammer and a saw.
Certain occasions particularly need the wisdom of a Will driven philosophy; others demand that we know how to accept, embrace and stop fighting the inevitable.
In Nietzsche’s own life, there was much that he had tried to change and overcome. He had fled his restrictive family in Germany and escaped to the Swiss Alps; he had tried to get away from the narrowness of academia and become a freelance writer; he had tried to find a wife who could be both a lover and an intellectual soulmate.
But a lot in this project of self-creation and self-overcoming had gone terribly wrong. He couldn’t get his parents, especially his mother and sister out of his head. What were, in his eyes, their maddening attitudes and prejudices (anti-semitism in particular) seemed to have spread across the whole of bourgeois Europe. His books sold dismally and he was forced more or less to beg from friends and family in order to keep going. Meanwhile his halting, gauche attempts to seduce women were met by ridicule and rejection. There must have been so many lamentations and regrets running through his mind in his walks across the Upper Engadine and his nights in his modest wooden chalet in Sils Maria: if only I had stuck with an academic career; if only I’d been more confident around certain women; if only I’d written in a more popular style; if only I’d been born in France…
It was because such thoughts — and every one of us has our own distinct variety of them — can ultimately be so destructive and soul-sapping that the idea of ‘amor fati’ grew compelling to Nietzsche. Amor fati was the idea that he needed in order to regain sanity after hours of self-recrimination and criticism. It’s the idea we ourselves may need at 4 a.m. finally to quieten a mind that has started gnawing into itself shortly after midnight. It’s an idea with which a troubled spirit can greet the first signs of dawn.
At the height of the mood of amor fati, we recognise that things really could not have been otherwise, because everything we are and have done is bound closely together in a web of consequences that began with our birth — and which we are powerless to alter at will. We see that what went right and what went horribly wrong are as one, and we commit ourselves to accepting both, to no longer destructively hoping that things could have been otherwise. We were headed to a degree of catastrophe from the start. We know why we are the desperately imperfect beings we are; and why we had to mess things up as badly as we did. 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.
In a letter to a friend written in the summer of 1882, Nietzsche tried to sum up the new spirit of acceptance that he had learnt to lean on to protect him from his agony: ‘I am in a mood of fatalistic ‘surrender to God’ ⎯ I call it amor fati, so much so, that I would be willing to rush into a lion’s jaws’.
And that is where, after too much regret, we should learn sometimes to join him.
Celebrities and their retinue often just blow their lives so much that they forget that a common man also lives his own life with his or her own Amor fati.
Most of us have had moments when we’re feeling down — maybe we can’t stop thinking about our worst mistakes, or our most embarrassing memories — but for some, these poor mood states can be relentless and even debilitating.
Now, new research from UC San Francisco has identified a common pattern of brain activity that may be behind those feelings of low mood, particularly in people who have a tendency towards anxiety. The newly discovered network is a significant advance in research on the neurobiology of mood, and could serve as a biomarker to help scientists developing new therapies to help people with mood disorders such as depression.
Most human brain research on mood disorders has relied on studies in which participants lie in an fMRI scanner and look at upsetting images or listen to sad stories. These studies have helped scientists identify brain areas associated with emotion in healthy and depressed individuals, but they don’t reveal much about the natural mood fluctuations that people experience over the course of a day or provide insight into the actual mechanisms of brain activity underlying mood.
Newly published research has begun to fill these gaps in our understanding of the neuroscience of mood by continuously recording brain activity linking day-to-day mood swings to specific patterns of brain activity.
It is remarkable that we are able to see the actual neural substrates of human mood directly from the brain. The findings have scientific implications for our understanding of how specific brain regions contribute to mood disorders, but also practical implications for identifying biomarkers that could be used for new technology designed to treat these depression disorders.
Every brain exhibited a so-called intrinsic coherence networks (ICNs). ICNs are groups of brain regions whose activity patterns regularly fluctuate together at a common frequency . It revealed several “cliques” — groups of brain regions that repeatedly became synchronized at specific frequencies, and were therefore likely to represent functional brain networks.
Changes in the activity of this brain network were also highly correlated with day-to-day bouts of low or depressed mood. This mood-related network was characterized by so-called beta waves — synchronized oscillations between 13 and 30 cycles per second — in the hippocampus and amygdala, two deep brain regions which have long been linked, respectively, to memory and to negative emotion.
To maintain the Amor Fati state, the alpha brain waves are the best wich is 7.5 Hz.
Bouts of beta waves based depressed mood in such a large set of people is a powerfull informative biomarker .
Surprisingly, this powerful link between of mood-associated beta waves in the amygdala and hippocampus of patients under depression was entirely absent from other participants, all of whom had comparatively low preexisting anxiety, suggesting new questions about how the brains of people prone to anxiety may differ from others in how they process emotional situations.
An anxious brain cannot process the emotion of Amor Fati atall.
Based on what we know about these brain structures, this suggests that interactions between the amygdala and hippocampus are linked to recalling emotional memories, and that this pathway is particularly strong in people with high levels of anxiety, whose mood might then be heavily influenced by recalling emotion-laden memories.
The study also found that the beta waves does not differentiate the state of accomplishment in ones life.
Writing about stoicism is complex. The principles are so simple, but so difficult. It is always the doing that makes them more complicated than the learning.
In, The Obstacle is the Way, author Ryan Holiday proposes we develop the discipline of perception. He describes perception as “how we see and understand what occurs around us — and what we decide those events will mean.”
Through a process of multiple struggles and adverse situations, you can discipline yourself to see that you truly control my thoughts and actions.
This process took on the same three steps that Holiday outlines in The Obstacle is the Way:
These three steps provide us a roadmap for dealing with adversity. As with any important lesson, it is best to learn, practice, and rehearse before you absolutely need it. Before it counts.
When it counts is when you find out your infant son might have an illness that will debilitate him and ultimately kill him before he sees his twentieth birthday.
It is then when you have to look at your forearm, be reminded that you have a choice in how to perceive this event, and look in the mirror through tears and consider something: Maybe, just maybe, if he wasn’t sick I would have taken him for granted. Now I won’t. Now I’ll make every second count. I can choose to be grateful for twenty years fully-lived with my son versus sixty years mostly wasted.
Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, was a renowned psychologist focused on suicide prevention. In 1938, while living in Austria during the Nazi takeover, Frankl was prevented from treating “Aryan” patients due to his Jewish heritage. Four years later he, along with his wife and parents, was deported to a Nazi ghetto and later to Auschwitz and Dachau (two of the deadliest Nazi concentration camps).
Frankl was the only member of his family to survive the war (with the sole exception of his sister).
With his wife and parents dead at the hands of their Nazi oppressors, one might expect Frankl to be bitter or defeated. Yet this was not so.
Frankl urges us to understand, “You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
This was his secret to surviving the camps when so few others did: he took control over his perception.
So often we want “The Secret.”
Despite what the film of the same name may have told us, the “secret” is not mood boards, visualization, or the law of attraction.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Author Robert Greene tells us to “stop wishing for something else to happen, for a different fate. That is to live a false life.” Often the wishing halts the doing. Simply visualizing a better state distracts us from taking the necessary steps to addressing our current fate.
As Friedrich Nietzsche describes it:
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.”
Green continues, “Through Nietzsche, I discovered amor fati. I just fell in love with the concept because the power that you can have in life of accepting your fate is so immense that it’s almost hard to fathom. You feel that everything happens for a purpose, and that it is up to you to make this purpose something positive and active.”
We can choose Amor Fati, to love our fate by first taking control over our perceptions, and then by turning our new paradigm into action. Holiday writes, “Once you see the world as it is, for what it is, you must act.”
Actions indicate priorities. No matter what, we always have a choice in perception and action. We haven’t been raised this way, however. We’re told to listen to others, follow the path, stay in our seats and be quiet. It’s no wonder that we look to others for direction and hope when we find ourselves victims of a terrible fate.
When really, it is we who must make the choice to take action.
Easier said than done, you say.
Reading blogs and thinking these things doesn’t compare to actually doing it when it counts.
If that’s what you’re saying, you’re right.
You’re absolutely right.
“You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it.” — Cheryl Strayed
Will is the ability to choose our perception and take what action we can even when the odds seem insurmountable.
We’ve learned this will ourself through repeated meditations, which lead to repeated choice of perception and that lead to repeated action in the face of obstacles.
We’ve also learned it from the stories of those who came before uus.
Thomas Edison, at an age at which most of us would wish to retire, came home one late evening to eat dinner. A man burst into his home, interrupting him. He had dire news: there was a fire at his research facility.
At age sixty-seven, Edison arrived on the scene to see his campus ablaze.
One would imagine this is the point when Edison drops to his knees and screams out “Why me?” or some other exclamation.
However, Edison searched out his son and requested he go get his mother. Edison excitedly told his son, “They’ll never see a fire like this again.”
Naturally, Edison’s son thought he had lost his mind, and rightfully so. All of his experiments, things that could likely never be replicated, were burning to the ground.
“Don’t worry. It’s all right,” Edison said with calm, “We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”
In this, Edison revealed the true nature of amor fati — choosing to love your fate, no matter what.
Not only was he not broken-hearted, he was revitalized.
So revitalized, in fact, that despite losing over $23 million (in today’s dollars, $1 million at the time), he was able to persevere and make over $200 million ($10 million, then).
Maybe you lost your job and your obstacle may appear to be easier than those mentioned above.
Maybe your candidate lost an important election and your obstacle is far off and terrifying.
Maybe you live in Aleppo and your obstacle may be far more grave and serious.
No matter what your obstacle is, it is considerable, inescapable, and totally outside your control.
And yet you’re given the choice to greet it with a smile.
The goal of this article is not to teach you to be a cow standing in the rain, simply enduring and hoping to survive your fate. It is not to make you feel “okay” or even “good” when terrible things happen.
It’s to make you feel GREAT because, “If it happened, then it was meant to happen, and I am glad that it did when it did. I am meant to make the best of it.”
Suicide is not the choice to exercise your Amor fati.