“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”
- Marcus Aurelius
I love writing about Stoicism, the ideas are simple on the surface but the value can be profound. With the territory of a brand like Orion, I feel as though I have a responsibility to dissect these ideas as much as possible to add as much value as possible, and provide you with easy to use, practical philosophy.
The Stoics have left us with a handful of simple, effective ideas for living more fulfilled lives.
One of these Stoic concepts is Amor Fati, which roughly translates as “love of fate”, or “love of one’s fate”.
Amor Fati is the practice of accepting and embracing everything that has happened, is happening, and is yet to happen. It is understanding that the nature of the universe is change, and that without change we would not exist, we would not experience any of this.
Whether change is good, bad, enjoyment, suffering, or loss, it is necessary. Billions of years of constant change has brought us to where we are right now. In that way, we can learn to love fate.
“Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart? Can you take a hot bath and leave the firewood as it was? Eat food without transforming it? Can any vital process take place without something being changed? Can’t you see? It’s just the same with you-and just as vital to nature.”
- Marcus Aurelius
How Can we Use Amor Fati?:
Viktor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor, had a very simple philosophy that he credited for helping him survive the hardship and adversity of the Nazi concentration camps:
“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.”
That is how we use concepts of philosophy. Not to exert more control over the world, but to take responsibility for how we view it and respond to it. Making a conscious decision to change our perceptions for the better.
With Amor Fati, this means changing how we perceive what has happened to us, or is happening to us.
Have we struggled? Good. What opportunity did that provide us to grow?
Have we experienced loss? How did that teach us to appreciate what we have and not take things for granted?
Did we lose our job? What doors did that open that may have remained closed?
This may seem overly optimistic, but when these events have already happened we get no benefit from walking around with negativity. Negativity won’t change the past, however optimism can improve how we live right now.
The Concept of Amor Fati:
Amor fati is often credited to the Stoics. The slave philosopher Epictetus talked about similar concepts. The Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote about fate in his journal Meditations.
Later philosophers such as Nietzsche explicitly use the term Amor Fati in their writings. Nietzsche writes:
“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-all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary-but love it.”
Here Nietzsche is saying that we should not hide from fate, we should not conceal it, nor should we wish it to be different. It is what it will be, not what we wish it will be. We should accept it. However, more than just acceptance, we should love our fate and embrace it.
“For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event-and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.”
Here Nietszche is saying that when we are happy, the entire world and all of history was necessary to lead up to that moment of happiness. Without that history, you would not be here, and you would not have felt that happiness.
So if you resist, hate, or complain about fate, you are resisting the conditions that have given you life, and experience. Like a set of dominoes knocking one another over. The first domino is needed for the last to fall. In the same way, all of the conditions of the past were needed for you to be here right now.
The author Robert Greene writes:
“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.”
While I don’t believe that everything happens for a “reason”, I do think Greene has a good point. We need to accept fate, harness it, and use it to make something positive. Resistance to things that have already happened is simply a source of unnecessary suffering.
Complaining Is the Enemy of Doing:
These days more modern authors write about fate in a similar way. For example Robert Greene has written:
“stop wishing for something else to happen, for a different fate. That is to live a false life.”
Whenever we find ourselves wishing for something else it prevents us from accepting the world for what it is, finding a way forward, and acting upon it.
Be careful about complaining, winging, and wishing for things to be different. They anchor us to negativity and prevent us from doing.
To end I’ll leave you with a quote from the french philosopher Albert Camus:
“a will to live without rejecting anything of life, which is the virtue I honour most in this world.”
Don’t reject anything. Next time you find yourself standing in the rain. Don’t get annoyed that you’re wet, focus on how it feels and enjoy it. We don’t get too many years of experience, so we might as well love what we can.
Originally published at https://www.orionphilosophy.com on October 9, 2019.