Nietzsche on: Amor Fati
One of the strangest yet most intriguing aspects of Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas
his repeated enthusiasm for a concept that he called amor fati
(translated from Latin as ‘a love of one’s fate’,
or as we might put it, a resolute, enthusiastic acceptance of everything
that has happened in one’s life).
The person of amor fati doesn’t seek to erase anything
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.
This refusal to regret and retouch the past
is heralded as a virtue at many points in Nietzsche’s work.
In his book, The Gay Science,
written during a period of great personal hardship for the philosopher,
Nietzsche writes: 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.
And, a few years later, in Ecce Homo, Nietzsche writes:
My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati:
that one wants nothing to be different,
一个人无论在过去 将来 还是永远
not forward, not backward, not in all eternity.
Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…
still less conceal it…
but love it.
In most areas of life, most of the time,
we do the very opposite.
We spend a huge amount of time taking stock of our errors,
regretting and lamenting the unfortunate twists of fate
and wishing that things could have gone differently.
We are typically mighty opponents of anything
that smacks of resignation or fatalism.
We want to alter and improve things
– ourselves, politics, the economy, the course of history
包括我们自己 政治 经济 还有历史课本
– and part of this means refusing to be passive about
the errors, injustices and ugliness
of our own and the collective past.
Nietzsche himself, in some moods, knows this defiance full well.
There is much emphasis in his work on action, initiative and self-assertion.
His concept of the Wille zur Macht, or Will to Power
embodies just this attitude of vitality and conquest over obstacles.
However, he is aware that, in order to lead a good life,
不过 他十分明白 想要快乐地生活
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.
Certain occasions particularly need the wisdom of a Will driven philosophy;
others demand that we know how to accept,
embrace and stop fighting the inevitable.
In Nietzsche’s own life, there was much that he had tried to change and overcome.
He had fled his restrictive family in Germany
and escaped to the Swiss Alps;
he had tried to get away from the narrowness of academia
and become a freelance writer;
he had tried to find a wife
who could be both a lover and an intellectual soulmate.
But a lot in this project of self-creation and self-overcoming
had gone terribly wrong.
He couldn’t get his parents, especially his mother and sister out of his head.
Nietzche’s books sold dismally
and he was forced more or less to beg
from friends and family in order to keep going.
Meanwhile his halting, gauche attempts to
seduce women were met by ridicule and rejection.
There must have been so many lamentations and regrets
running through his mind in his walks across the Upper Engadine
and his nights in his modest wooden chalet in Sils Maria:
if only I had stuck with an academic career;
if only I’d been more confident around certain women;
if only I’d written in a more popular style;
if only I’d been born in France…
It was because such thoughts –
and every one of us has our own distinct variety of them
– can ultimately be so destructive and soul-sapping
that the idea of ‘amor fati’ grew compelling to Nietzsche.
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 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.
In a letter to a friend written in the summer of 1882,
Nietzsche tried to sum up the new spirit of acceptance
that he had learnt to lean on to protect him from his agony:
‘I am in a mood of fatalistic ‘surrender to God’ ⎯
I call it amor fati,
so much so, that I would be willing to rush into a lion’s jaws’.
And that is where, after too much regret,
we should learn sometimes to join him.
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Nietzsche on: Amor Fati