Forge And Fight For Your Fate, But Love Your ‘Fate’ Too

Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy.

— Epictetus
(Enchiridion [Handbook])

As the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in Ecce Homo (How One Becomes What One Is), as translated by Walter Kaufmann, ‘My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati [which is Latin for “love of fate”]: 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.’

Somewhat counterintuitively, what Nietzsche meant is not to be fatalistic in a pessimistic and passive way. What implied is that to live the most significant (i.e. best) life, we should do our best in each moment, so much so, that come what may, having done our best, we should simply accept the outcome fully. But what if the outcome is not satisfactory? We should simply continue doing our best, to better it if we can.

Having done our best, there will thus be absolutely no regrets when looking back. Even when looking forward, as the best is already done in each ‘here and now’, there is no need to yearn for some other result, than what will come to be. If we take care of each moment, beginning from this very moment, we will be taking care of all time, forever. To know if we are already doing our best, even if we imagine this moment repeating endlessly, we should not see the need to change anything about it. (For more on this concept called Eternal Recurrence, see the first Related Article.)

Paradoxically, it is with radical acceptance, which is to fully accept situations as they are; not ignoring, fretting or wishing otherwise, that there is greater will and more possibilities of bettering them. There should be no sense of tolerating or hiding the ‘negative’, but to embrace them as they are, while continuing to do one’s best. After all, if we do not accept the First Noble Truth of suffering being prevalent in life, how can we be liberated from suffering?

‘On bearing what is necessary’, paradoxically again, obstacles do not really end the path. They are simply part of the way, to where we want to get. It is when we are shortsighted, that we see a roadblock as end of the road, when it is simply a sign to take a detour. Paradoxically yet again, such obstacles do not have to lessen our progress; they can challenge us to progress with more determination and vigour instead.

Seeing all experiences positive and negative equally as food for growth, to derive spiritual nutrition and moral lessons from, this is reminiscent of Nietzsche’s famous maxim (from Twilight of the Idols) — ‘What does not kill me makes me stronger.’ With Buddhist understanding and faith in the natural law of karma’s impartial operation from life to life and in this life, there is no need to lament endlessly, which is not only useless, but self-defeating too.

In ‘The Gay (i.e. Joyous) Science’, as translated by Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche wrote, ‘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.’

Nietzsche was not resigning to ‘fate’, or proposing to give up righting wrongs. The idea was to simply forge forth on the right path constructively, not being destructively resentful at all. After taking reality checks when facing obstacles, we should simply recalibrate for how to sensibly respond, and strive on accordingly. A master of ‘loving one’s fate’ in this sense is actually one who forges and fights for one’s destiny too. This is one who best makes do – only to do better. Our karma is dynamic and subject to change, with the pivoting point always ‘here and now’.

One of the most remarkable and memorable examples of amor fati in ‘practice’ is the case of the famous inventor Thomas Edison. At the not too young age of 67, upon receiving news that his research and production campus was ablaze, after witnessing the high and colourful chemical-fuelled flames, he calmly instructed his son to get his mother and all her friends, as they will not see a fire like this again!

Despite years of precious data and prototypes going up in smoke, and with the campus being barely insured, Edison neither wept nor raged. Returning to work quickly, he exclaimed that he has been through many such obstacles, which only prevent boredom! He was instead reenergised, more motivated, even managing to earn close to ten million dollars in the same year. Again, recall Nietzsche’s maxim.

For the resilient, when a disaster happens, there is simply no time to despair, although most of us do ‘need’ (or tend) to take some (hopefully) reasonable time to grieve and regain our bearings. Coincidentally along the line of fire too, as Marcus Aurelius put it, ‘A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.’ The ‘fires’ of life should not obliterate our sense of purpose, but reinvigorate it instead. Everything can and should be fuel for this.

All that is in accord with you is in accord with me, O World! Nothing which occurs at the right time for you comes too soon or too late for me. All that your seasons produce, O Nature, is fruit for me.

— Marcus Aurelius

Related Articles:

From Eternal Recurrence To Timeless Liberation

A Buddhist Retells The Myth Of Sisyphus

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