Amor Fati and “I did it My Way”
I write often about presence, about flow, about stretching out of our comfort zone.
I fully embrace that I am a romanticist, an idealist, I look for the best in people and situations, I see people deeply, their ability and opportunity to live their life to their full potential.
At the same time, I’m also very aware (and sometimes painfully so) that life is not all smiles, joy, success, pleasure, sometimes it also comes with pain, regret, suffering.
I talk often about having “enough structure to allow flow”, so today let me come back to a topic I also write often about, which is structure. We all need foundation, structure, solidity in our life, our thoughts, our emotions, and one area of study and practice for me around this is Stoicism
Taken from the great Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius, Nietzsche focussed on the term “Amor Fati”, or love of one’s fate.
“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
Recently I went to an amazing talk by Esther Perel hosted by Alain Botton, leader of “The School of Life” based in London. From their site, an article called “Nietzsche, Regret and Amor Fati” explains .where Nietzsche found his focus on Amor Fati :
“The person of Amor Fati doesn’t seek to erase anything of their past, but rather accepts what has occurred, the good and the bad, the mistaken and the wise, with strength and an all-embracing gratitude that borders on a kind of enthusiastic affection.”
“Amor Fati was the idea that he needed in order to regain sanity after hours of self-recrimination and criticism. It’s the idea we ourselves may need at 4 a.m. finally to quieten a mind that has started gnawing into itself shortly after midnight. It’s an idea with which a troubled spirit can greet the first signs of dawn. At the height of the mood of Amor Fati, we recognise that things really could not have been otherwise, because everything we are and have done is bound closely together in a web of consequences that began with our birth — and which we are powerless to alter at will. We see that what went right and what went horribly wrong are as one, and we commit ourselves to accepting both, to no longer destructively hoping that things could have been otherwise. We were headed to a degree of catastrophe from the start. We know why we are the desperately imperfect beings we are; and why we had to mess things up as badly as we did. We end up saying, with tears in which there mingle grief and a sort of ecstasy, a large yes to the whole of life, in its absolute horror and occasional moments of awesome beauty.”
Now Nietzsche is better known for his concept of “Will to Power”, which would appear contradictory to Amor Fati. The article also notes :
“However, it is one of the most beautiful aspects of Nietzsche’s thinking that he is aware that, in order to lead a good life, we need to keep in mind plenty of opposing ideas and marshall them as and when they become relevant. We don’t — in Nietzsche’s eyes — need to be consistent, we need to have the ideas to hand that can salve our wounds. Nietzsche isn’t, therefore, asking us to choose between glorious fatalism on the one hand or a vigorous willing on the other. He is allowing us to have recourse to either intellectual move depending on the occasion. He wishes our mental toolkit to have more than one set of ideas: to have, as it were, both a hammer and a saw.”
We can be romantic idealists and we can be pragmatic realists. We can embrace Will to Power and also Amor Fati.
Life is all about balance. It is arrogance to think we ever master life and can control it, instead let us embrace Amor Fati and love all that has happened, is happening, will happen.
As Frank Sinatra said:
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say — not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way
Originally published at Tom McCallum.