Originally published at rooneynotes.com on September 3, 2019.
Amor fati, like all things fancy and full of meaning, is a Latin phrase. It means “love of fate,” or “to love one’s fate.” In a world where instant gratification is the default, it is a sobering reminder of the truth- that we are but a minor player on a giant stage, frolicking through life subject to the whims of fate.
It is not merely a nihilistic reminder of what life is. It is a guide to a meaningful and happy life.
There are things in this world that we can control, and things we can’t. While the saying “focus on what you can control,” has likely been told to you many times since the moment you could talk, it’s likely that you, like the rest of the world, have not internalized its meaning.
To love one’s fate does not mean acceptance of everything that happens to us. To the contrary, it is a distinction between the things we have influence over, and those we do not.
Ryan Holiday said it best in The Obstacle is the way: “You’ll have far better luck toughening yourself up, than you ever will trying to take the teeth out of a world that is, at best, indifferent to your existence”
The world is indifferent to you. It doesn’t care. It isn’t working for you, and it isn’t working against you. It simply is. You are merely an actor on the stage.
Amor Fati: Submit to Reality
To love one’s fate means to accept your fate, or at least view it as necessary in the path that is your life.
When you start to see things as they are, rather than how you wish things would be, everything changes. Submit to reality and deal with it.
Don’t begrudgingly accept what happens to you and as the say, “toughen up.” Amor fati means an active love of fate. Don’t accept circumstances. Embrace circumstances by changing your attitude. This is simple, but not easy. Internalize the view that life is happening for you, not to you.
This way of living is strikingly similar to the meaning of the serenity prayer, practiced by Alcoholics Anonymous for the past 80 years: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
“Internalize the view that life is happening for you, not to you”
It is often said that happiness is reality minus expectations. This is the embodiment of amor fati. While the term happiness does not enter the picture, amor fati was described by Friedrich Nietzsche as the “formula for human greatness.” Release your expectations and love fate. It is well within our power to change our perception from “life is happening to me, I am helpless,” to “Life is happening for me.”
Happiness is reality minus expectations. Don’t wish for things to be different. Don’t create expectations. Don’t wish for anything but what you have or are. To do this is to live a false life.
Don’t Accept Reality
Of course, we can not simply accept everything that happens to us. This would be a passive attitude and mean we would go through life accomplishing nothing. Instead we must make the distinction between things we have control over, and things we don’t. The only things in life we have true control over are our perception, our attitude, and our actions. Take this with you and act on it. Love your fate, that which you do not control, and exercise influence over that which you do control, your attitude and actions.
“Don’t wish for anything but what you have or are. To do this is to live a false life.”
Don’t waste time or energy entertaining expectations. You’re only setting yourself up for a fall. Know that there are many things in this world we do not control. Live with a love of fate.
Do not wish for things to be better. Your wishing does not change anything.
Everything is good, or, at least necessary. The only variable is your perception and action.
When you come to the realization that the vast majority of life happens with or without you, it’s tempting to fall into a nihilistic view of the world. Why should I care when almost everything is beyond my control? When everything is mere fate?
This is an important observation, and a truthful one. However, remember that it is our perceptions that are painting this in a negative light. You can take these same facts, that much of life is beyond our control, and change how you perceive them. You can move from “nothing matters,” to “this is incredibly liberating.”
You can find meaning in your life, as well as the feeling of being freed from a pinned down, restrained existence, simply by acknowledging the existence of fate and perceiving it as freedom. Freedom to do what you want, what is meaningful to you, to express yourself, to live without inhibition. After all, there is fate, and there is that which we control.
There is no sense in purposely making that which we control a smaller part of our existence.
When you view life through the lens of amor fati, with the perception of liberation, you lose the nihilistic view of life. Yes, life is hard. Yes, some things suck. Yes, much is beyond our control. But, everything we do matters. The world is made up of 7.5 billion people, all individual actors on this stage we call the world.
Everything around us, the streets we walk on, the cars we drive in, the buildings we live in, even the plumbing system we use to brush our teeth every morning, was made by these individual actors, all subject to fate and small domain they control.
Your domain may be different than the CEO of a fortune 500 company, but you do have a domain you have control over, something that is the subject of your actions. This matters. Everything you do matters. We live in a complex world of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and nth order consequences. Your actions create the fate of other people, and the actions of others create your fate.
Whether you are sweeping dust from a hallway, flipping burgers in a fast-food restaurant, or making capital investment decisions that have a massive impact on the environment, your actions matter. You have choices and so does everyone else. They all matter and they all make up the world.
This is the difference between a community in mourning after a mass shooting, or a country in the throes of war and a company releasing the first self-driving car, or creating a world wide web to distribute the world’s knowledge to billions of people.
Make the right choices, and embrace the rest with amor fati.