Saturday, January 7, 2012

AMOR FATI: LOVING ONE'S FATE



Amor Fati—"Love Your Fate," which is in fact your life.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me.  At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called 'the love of your fate.' Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, 'This is what I need.'  It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge.  If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength is there.  Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege!  This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have chance to flow.
Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now.  You'll see that this is really true.  Nothing can happen to you that is not positive.  Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not.  The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes. 
Joseph Campbell




In every life, some things can and should be changed, while other things cannot or should not be changed.  It's also true that, with every passing year, the second category grows larger, while the first grows smaller.  Increasingly, therefore, we must choose the way we respond to things that cannot or should not be changed—things that may be classified as our "fate."  Typically, we resist our fate, all to no good end, but Nietzsche and Campbell remind us that we always have a better alternative.  We can not only accept our fate, but actually come to love it—to embrace it without judgment, to regard it as foundational to the unfolding of our unique lives.  We can become "yes-sayers," as Nietzsche said, people who say yes to everything in life that cannot be changed for the better.  It's a great approach, I think, to what scientist and writer Jon Kabat-Zinn has called "full catastrophe living."


THE THING IS
Ellen Bass

                                         To love life, to love it even
                                         when you have no stomach for it
                                         and everything you've held dear
                                         crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
                                         your throat filled with the silt of it.
                                         When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
                                         thickening the air, heavy as water
                                         more fit for gills than lungs:
                                         when grief weights you like your own flesh
                                         only more of it, an obesity of grief, 
                                         you think, How can a body withstand this?
                                         Then you hold life like a face, 
                                         between your palms, a plain face,
                                         no charming smile, no violet eyes,
                                         and you say, yes, I will take you
                                         I will love you, again.


AMOR FATI
LOVE YOUR FATE

44 comments:

  1. This is a hard one to take to heart, George.

    It is easier now than it has been before, I grant you that, but there were times when I could not love life as it was, when I raved and ranted and fought the fate I was handed with all my might. Love had nothing to do with it.

    I came through and what I am now was forged then. Must I now love that time because of who I became? In retrospect the past gets easier to bear, but I would not wish to go through any of it again.

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  2. This is exactly what I've been thinking about the last two days. I decided to embrace all aspects of my life, to love all that I've been, every "mistake" I've made. It has all contributed to what you referred to as "the unfolding of our unique lives." I've always loved that term, "unfolding." It seems perfect in describing how we move through our life experiences. Life should be joyful and we should remain open to all it has to offer. It leads to our awakening.

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  3. Thanks, FRIKO. I'm just throwing an idea out there, but I respect the fact that others may have different points of view. I am not suggesting that anyone should accept anything that can and should be changed. I am speaking of those things which either cannot or should not be changed. At to these things, we can either resist them or accept them, and, personally, I find acceptance easier than resistance. It's a way of treating everything that has happened as part of my own personal growth.

    Like you, I would not want to go through certain phases of my life again. By the same token, I think that many of the good things that have come my way might not have happened if my life had not unfolded earlier as it did. Whatever the case, I certainly respect your own feeling about these personal issues.

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    1. George while seeking for the correct spelling of amor fati I stumbled on this old thread of yours. I wonder if you care to know that it is one of the articles of faith in Islam. As I grow older I also tend to self-acceptance in a spiritual way. I hope this meet you well.

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    2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Fargajali. No, I didn't know that this was an article of faith in Islam. I agree with you, however, that self-acceptance is critical to peace and spiritual growth.

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  4. Thanks, TERESA. I'm delighted this post resonates with you. From my standpoint, embracing the totality of one's experiences is critical to coming to terms with—and hopefully loving—one's life. I, too, like this notion of life unfolding, like pages of a fine book being turned, each page critical to the understanding of the next.

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  5. Thanks so much, BONNIE. With your professional background, a simple "yes" is a fine and interesting response.

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  6. Oh, George, you can't imagine how this speaks to me. Tomorrow it will be 2 year since my artery tear and heart attack. I have been mulling these very ideas this weekend. What I would not choose has forced me to grow in new ways. Thank you for providing this food for thought.

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  7. Thanks for your lovely and thoughtful comments, BARB. I'm delighted that this post spoke to you in a personal way.

    With all of those wonderful photos I've seen of your hiking and skiing, I am amazed to learn that you had an artery tear and a heart attack two years ago. I would be willing to bet that your wonderful attitude and your willingness to grow through suffering contributed a great deal to your recovery and success. Congratulations, Barb, and keep loving life in everything you do!

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  8. This one is, well, it leaves me searching for words. I think resonates might be the best. At least while I sit and try to digest this one. It really hits me where I am right now too, as some of the others have said. Esp. the lines from the poem. on holding your life like a face, between the palms of your hands. Beautiful and loving image. thanks.

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  9. Your post really resonates, George. I’ve been thinking along these lines, too. As you know, I recently read Loving What is, by Katie Byron. I guess that sort of continued what Rilke had begun in me last year, of embracing the darkness as well as the light (and all seemingly opposing forces, really) as part of life, as creating a whole. I love how she says, "It should have happened, because it did happen. That is beginning to sink in as deeply true.

    Apparently someone asked Thomas Edison how he felt about the 99 (or however many) “errors” (or mistakes, or failures, or however it was put) before finally succeeding in inventing the light bulb? He replied that he did not see them as failures at all! They successfully led him to another way of approaching the task at hand, and to an ultimate breakthrough.

    I have loved the Ellen Bass poem since first reading it a couple of years ago. And that “full catastrophe living” is brilliant. I want to live this life, whatever it brings. You may need to remind me of this one day.

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  10. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Karin. I'm happy this piece resonated with you. At the very least, I think it's thought-provoking, for we know from experience that resistance to immutable things causes nothing but pain, and yet we find it difficult to fully embrace the reality of our lives.

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  11. Thanks, RUTH! I think Jon Kabat-Zinn is right about this: If we cannot embrace "full catastrophe living," we may find it difficult to truly live at all. What I like about the idea of "amor fati" is the notion that one may not only learn to accept, but actually learn to love, the full tapestry of one's life. Just think about it—our divine individuality could not exist if we each of us had the same experiences. Personally, I might not like every thread in the warp and woof of my individual tapestry, but when I look at the whole, I feel very blessed with my life. Every thread of our experience supports every other thread, even though the connections are often difficult to perceive.

    I love the Byron Katie quote. By saying that "it should have happened because it did happen," she is tacitly recognizing the beauty of our unfolding, and she is placing her absolute trust in that process.

    Back to Kabat-Zinn, if you like the concept of "full catastrophe living," you might want to check out Kabat-Zinn's book of the same title.

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  12. Hello Again, George! I've linked the post I wrote today to your post about fate. Thank you once again for this stimulus to reflect on my own fate.

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  13. Thank you for this George - I need to keep reading it this week as I had to have another night in hospital - I am sure it is the right attitude. Happy New Year to you.

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  14. The transition from despair to hope In Bass's poem was dramatic. The bumming out was so intense,then the positivity just stepped in. I like the idea of a plain face. Honest. Truthlike. No smoke and mirrors. The whole post approached things in reasonable and comforting way for me.

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  15. HI GEORGE - great post and great quote. I love Ellen Bass - have her books and workbooks on 'trauma' and so forth as such speaks to some of my truth(s). Also, my latest post is about the same thing you write of - please go and see, ok?
    Love Gail
    peace......

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  16. Thanks so much, BARB, for the link and lovely comments about my site. I just read your recent post and will be going over there to comments very shortly. Again, I'm delighted that this posting on "amor fati" resonated with you.

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  17. Hi, PAT! I didn't know that you were back in the hospital. I hope all is well, relatively speaking, and that you will return to your top form and home very soon. Be well!

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  18. Great reflections on fate and courage and positive thinking. We would all do well to embrace what we cannot change and live our fate with love.

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  19. Thanks for your thoughtful and insightful comments, HERRINGBONE. I'm delighted that you found something of value in this posting. Like you, I found the Ellen Bass poem to be reassuring. Without mentioning "amor fati" specifically, she seems to have captured the essence of the idea, for she recognized that, through fortitude, acceptance, and grace, we can always love our fates and our lives.

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  20. Thanks for your supportive comments, GAIL. I just read your recent posting and posted my own comment. To your credit, you have clearly embraced the spirit of "amor fati" in your own life. Be well and be at peace. With fortitude, acceptance, and gratitude—aided perhaps by a measure of grace—we can love our fate. How liberating it is to get beyond resistance to what cannot be changed.

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  21. Hi, JANIE! Great to have you stop by for a visit, and thanks for your supportive comments. I hope you will make a return visit. Happy New Year, and may you continue to lovingly embrace your life.

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  22. I came over from Barb's blog and have found great encouragement through what you have said. Yes, as you just said, "How liberating it is to get beyond resistance to what cannot be changed." I find it a daily struggle, but I continue to struggle.

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  23. Hi, RETIRED ENGLISH TEACHER, and welcome to my blog. Glad you stopped by, and I hope you will make a return visit. More importantly, I'm delighted that this posting resonated with you at some level. Do no feel bad about it being a daily struggle to accept what cannot be changed; that's a struggle that each of us faces daily. My philosophy is quite simple: Celebrate your victories, treat your failures as learning experiences, and move on with the the confidence that comes from knowing more today that you did yesterday.

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  24. I feel as if I've stumbled into a bed of literary jewels -- visiting here from Barb's blog.

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  25. Thanks for your comments, ELIZABETH, and it's nice to have you dropping by. I hope you will return. I'm delighted that you found literary jewels in this piece that resonate with you.

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  26. George — I've been away, far from the blogosphere, so have only just caught up with your last few posts. And what a delight they are! The idea of happiness being a wet dog really cannot be improved upon.

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  27. Welcome back, ROBERT! Hope you had a great trip, wherever you were. It's going to be a great year for all of us. I can feel it in my bones. Hopefully, I will be able to follow the inspirational lead of my wet dog!

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  28. It takes great strength of character to approach life like that. I'm not sure whether I do it or not really, I always think when things are bad 'hang in there and it will get better eventually' but I'm not sure that's the same thing as loving your fate:)

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  29. Thanks, ROWAN. I understand exactly what you mean. Perhaps the difference between "hanging in there" and "loving one's fate" is that emotional resistance to reality may be present in the first but not the second. For me, it's not only about fortitude; it's also about embracing the totality of one's experiences and recognizing that even pain, frustration, and disappointment play a constructive role in the unfolding of our individual lives. That said, I know all too well how difficult it is to take and maintain this attitude.

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  30. Wow - such a beautiful, moving post! Thank you.

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  31. Thanks so much for your lovely comment, LADYFI. I'm delighted that you found something of value here, and I hope you will make a return visit and participate in the ongoing conversation.

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  32. For me, this is heavy and light at the same time. I don't want to take the harder path, but I KNOW it is a must many a time. Difficulty does shape us in ways we never dreamed. I see it in history, in others around me. I often don't feel "challenged" enough (and I'm not asking for it :) but then others will say ... SIX children! or you HOMESCHOOLED?!! or etc, etc. And yes, I guess I did do these things with some sort of sacrifice but I wouldn't change a bit of it. Of course, these are minor "trials and tribulations", if at all.

    Beautiful post! Really enjoyed it.

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  33. Thanks, MARGARET! So glad that you enjoyed this post. Yes, it is heavy and light at the same time, but that, I think we can agree, is the nature of life itself.

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  34. my my, this is profoundly wonderful: love your fate.
    thank you for sharing this George. I come way of Barb, she mentions you in her recent post. why not, love our fate, might as well bring a lovely inquisitive stance and heart to all the occurs. so simply and profoundly put. lovely 2012 to you!

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  35. Thanks, TAMMIE LEE. Glad you dropped by, and I'm delighted you liked this posting. I also agree entirely with your suggestion that we "might as well bring a lovely inquisitive stance and heart to all that occurs."

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  36. my dear friend tammie lee sent this wonderful post to me, and she know's how my life has been impacted in the deepest ways i thought could be humanly possible. at that point when i was hit the hardest, in that moment, this scripture came to mind... "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes" (romans 8:28) daily i am looking for the beauty out of the ashes and receiving new light and understanding, strength and peace. blessings be upon you george, and thank you for sharing such truths.
    abigail

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  37. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, RUSTED WINGS. Glad that you dropped by and hope you will make a return visit. I'm also delighted that you have found some inspiration for your own challenges, and that you will continue to find beauty, light, understanding, strength, and peace.

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  38. This is the way it has to be and should be, if we are to survive... we can never give up or give in.

    ...we must flow like a river.

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  39. Well said, GWEN. Keep flowing like a river; there's no other way.

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  40. George, thank you for your beautiful blog. I am deeply inspired by your posts and the thinkers, artists and writers whose work you feature. I've always been a seeker...and I think one of the gifts of midlife, if we're awake, is that our awareness and appreciation deepen and we become more authentically ourselves. Like you I love reading, writing, ideas and the pursuit of spiritual growth...you're a kindred spirit. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

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  41. Thanks for your kind and generous comments, CAREN! If you are a seeker, you are definitely a kindred spirit of mine. I hope you will make a return visit to this site and participate in the conversation.

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