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January 6, 2021

“Amor Fati”—Learning to Love the Good, the Bad & the Ugly in Life.

Is it Possible to Love One’s Fate? And Should We?

 

“Amor Fati.”

It’s Latin, meaning “To love one’s fate.” It was a concept that was first brought to the public eye by famed 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He said: 

“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 mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it.” 

Although the idea originated with Nietzsche, it is also often attributed to the Stoics. The definition of Stoicism today is someone who is unemotional or indifferent to pain and suffering.

But the original Stoics were named after the word “Stoa,” meaning “porch” in Greek—when a bunch of old men met on a porch in ancient Greece to discuss philosophy. It is a philosophy that the Stoics lived by—to make the best of whatever your situation is. 

It seems counterintuitive and even nearly impossible. 

Fate? The idea that things are inevitably predetermined or that whatever happens to us is our destiny?

How can we love something that we have no control over? But the definition of fate from Merriam-Webster is: 

“The will or principle or determining cause by which things, in general, are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do.” 

To me, that says that things are out of our control. But because of that, why would we put up a fight and waste our energy when we have no control over it? Why should we be mad or angry or upset when things are ultimately out of our hands? (Whether by destiny or just because that’s the randomness of the universe.)

It’s also the idea that everything that happens is necessary, as well as that everything is cyclical and comes again, over and over. (There are no new things under the sun, so you might as well suck it up, buttercup.)

It is not that you should just put up with it, but love it for what it is—a learning experience, a place to grow, and a reason to evolve. The good and the bad are intertwined.

You can’t have dark without light, and you can’t have hope without suffering. Life is going to unfold, and it will happen however it happens. You have free will, of course—you have choices along the way. But your choices lead to whatever outcome, and it does not matter if it’s something you want or not.

Of course, some things are out of your hands entirely (i.e., not to be morbid, but death). We can’t control everything. If we did, we’d be literal Gods! In fact, we can’t really control anything (not our emotions, not our thoughts). 

The only thing we can control is how we react to the things we experience.

Amor Fati comes from a place of genuine acceptance of the hands you’ve been dealt. What it isn’t is passively giving up or playing the victim, turning it into why me or resigning our lives to fate, which really isn’t a good way to live.

If you do that, you aren’t taking responsibility for, well, anything in your life. And that’s no way to live! It is more about accepting the good, the bad, and everything in between and finding the equanimity in the ups and downs of life.

It’s like self-love—becoming okay with ourselves, our whole selves (warts and flaws and all). And not just being simply okay with them, but really loving them, because they are what make us who we are—unique and beautiful beings!

As Leonard Cohen famously wrote:

“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” 

And Ernest Hemingway said in A Farewell to Arms: 

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”

To love your fate is really to do yourself a service. You aren’t pushing away the bad things that happen or clinging to the good, you’re accepting things as they are, and you’re loving your life, despite (and in spite of) its warts, flaws, cracks, and brokenness.

Because it is your life, and you should be okay with it because we only have the one (as far as we know). To throw in another quote, this time from Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem “The Summer Day”: 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?”

What do you think? Should we love everything that life throws at us?

As hard as it might be to do, I think we owe it to ourselves for the answer to be a resounding: yes!

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