“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.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
The nature of being human is to be a thinking, feeling, animal. We continually assess what is going on in our world, both internally and externally. We receive information, derive a feeling, and decide what it means to us. The meaning that we connect to these experiences shapes the context of our lives. What we love, hate, feel good about, feel bad about, worry about and fear, are all determined by the meaning that we attach to the experiences we have. Ultimately, we all must realize that we do not have much control over most of these things. This realization usually happens in early adolescence and often results in years, if not a lifetime, of running from both real and imagined pain.
This isn’t anything new. Mankind has been experiencing it since Adam bit the apple. Religion and philosophy were developed by humans to resolve the existential angst of the human condition. All religions and philosophical traditions ultimately teach the practice of acceptance. Religions invariably encourage prayer, a turning over of this pain to a higher power, thus relieving the person of the pain of carrying it. Many philosophies encourage a detached acceptance in an “it is what it is” fashion. In both cases the pain remains, albeit to a lesser degree. The pain remains because it is something that we cannot ultimately embrace.
Acceptance is hard and, for most people, impossible. Letting go of control is one of the most frightening feelings a human can have. But what if you could find joy and fulfillment through letting go? Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century German philosopher put it this way:
“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it — all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity — , but to love it…” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Amor Fati! To love and embrace your fate. Not easily done, and Frederick Nietzsche hardly sounds like a fun guy. Nietzsche is best known as the, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” guy. Look a little deeper, and much of what he says makes sense. Nietzsche, and the Stoic philosophers before him, took acceptance to its deepest possible levels. The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, put it this way:
“Do not seek to have events happen as you want them but instead want them to happen and your life will go well.” – Epictetus
From modern philosopher Eckhart Tolle:
” The acceptance of the unacceptable is the greatest source of grace in this world.” – Eckhart Tolle
The nature of acceptance, and the concept of amor fati is to accept, receive, and ultimately embrace, all that life has to offer you, the good, bad, and ugly. It teaches us that contentment, fulfillment, and purpose can only come by embracing, and even welcoming, all that life has to offer us. This need not be a pessimistic outlook, rather it is designed to make us fully appreciate the beauty and joy available to us during our rather short lifetime.
Being fully open to everything that life has to teach us is clearly an acquired skill, not something we are born with as the avoidance of what is painful and uncomfortable is natural. It is also the reason for almost all human suffering. Ultimately, life is going to do what life does. Learning to let go and accept that we are not in control can be liberating. It can also give us more joy in more meaning with the things that are in our control. Can there be any other way to enjoy a fulfilling life?
“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.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Live life on life’s terms. There really is no other logical choice.
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