On Amor Fati, the Love of Fate

If you’re in the United States, happy holidays. We celebrate Thanksgiving as a day dedicated to gratitude and sharing thanks for what we have. In this spirit of gratitude, I want to share a concept called amor fati, a Latin phrase which means the love of fate.

The 19th-century philosopher Frederich Nietzsche wrote about amor fati:

My formula for greatness is amor fati, the fact that a man wishes nothing to be different, either in front of him or behind him, or for all eternity. All idealism is falsehood in the face of necessity, but it must also be loved.

I find this concept particularly helpful to think about this week, as we reflect not on what we don’t have, but all that we do have.

I truly believe everything happens for a reason. What else should we believe? What else can we believe?

The other option, believing that things happen to us and we’re withstanding meaningless misfortune, is enticing. It allows us to believe that the causes for what has happened to us are meaningless.

If what happens to us is meaningless and just cruel, then we can say fuck it, I was treated badly, so I can treat you badly. I can give up, because it doesn’t matter anyway.

We can use our difficulties as a means to escape responsibility — the burden we all bear — to see the world as good with a desire to make it better. But there is another way.

At the end of the book Eat Smarter by fitness and nutrition expert Shawn Stevenson (which I’m coincidentally writing about on the week of Thanksgiving), Stevenson delivers a message that changed my life.

It doesn’t specifically speak on amor fati — yet, the message epitomizes the ancient principle. When Stevenson was twenty years old, he suffered from an “incurable” spinal injury while running, the thing he loved to do — the thing which allowed him to escape.

But then his body gave up on him and crumbled while doing what he loved. Doctors told him he would never run again. He almost gave them the final word and became comfortable with being uncomfortable, gaining weight, and saying fuck it, that’s life.

We begin to ask ourselves the most disheartening questions when life doesn’t go our way. Our answers give us an excuse.

Why did this happen to me? Is there nothing I can do? Why won’t anyone help me? Can’t they see how badly I’m hurting?

But Stevenson got fed up feeding his mind this negativity. By no means am I saying life won’t strike us down unfairly from out of the blue. And we do deserve time to grieve and feel sorry for ourselves. But not if it’s dragging others down. At a certain point, we have to decide when enough is enough.

Stevenson took matters into his own hands and started investigating his incurable disease. He realized that the food he was eating was breaking down his body, and the only person that could help him was himself.

At the end of the book, he flips the switch on the questions that so many of us ask ourselves. His redefined answers made him into the man he is today.

Stevenson writes:

Why wont anyone help me?

Because you must learn to help yourself.

Why did this happen to me?

Because this was what you needed to be a better man. This is what you needed to unlock the dormant gifts and capacities that you didn’t even know you had. This is what you needed to wake up.

Why me?

Because you are strong enough. Because you have the heart and courage to help other people with your experience. Because this is bigger than you.

Not only did Stevenson learn to cherish the arduous journey that made him who he is, he used his pain to help others change their circumstances.

We all face adversity, and not only is it necessary, as Nietzche says, but we must learn to love it. Our challenges shape our character and make us strong.

They make us realize how good life can be. They make us grateful for what we have, because what we have is what somebody else can only dream of.

We must love what’s brought us here, the good, the bad, and everything in between. I am grateful for what’s made me strong, what’s made me feel weak, and the challenges that have caused love to pour from my heart. I know I wouldn’t be the same without them, nor would you.

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