Amor Fati — Love your faith — Love your suffering
Amor Fati is the love of everything in our lives including and especially the things that make us suffer.
As Friedrich Nietzsche describes it:
“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.”
It might sound crazy but it is true nonetheless. Living our lives with too many preferences will only lead to more suffering.
The Noble Truth of Suffering . The First Noble Truth is that life contains inevitable, unavoidable suffering. (Some translators use the word, “stress,” to convey the broad meaning of the original word used by the Buddha in the Pali language: dukkha.)
This suffering encompasses the gross forms of pain, illness, and trauma we can all imagine, such as a broken leg, stomach flu, grappling with the devastation of a hurricane, or the violent death of a loved one — or getting the diagnosis of a terminal disease. It also includes milder but common forms of discomfort and distress, like long hours of work, feeling let down by partner, a headache, feeling frustrated, disappointed, hurt, inadequate, depressed, upset, etc.
And it includes the subtlest qualities of tension in the mind, restlessness, sense of contraction, preoccupation, unease, boredom, blah-ness, ennui, sense of being an isolated self, something missing in life, something just not fulfilling, etc.
Life is suffering apparently and the cause of suffering is cravings. When we live a life based on our desires. We are happy when we get what we want and we are unhappy when we don’t get what we want. It is as simple as that. The problem with this is the eternal cycle of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. We need to develop the quality of equanimity and detachment.
“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness — all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part, I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow-creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law — and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”
We need to live life expecting that we will “suffer”. The inevitable ups and downs are as I just wrote inevitable. There is no way around them except for equanimity and detachment. Our attitude is the most important component of Amor Fati.
Mr. Bickham was unjustly sentenced for a crime he did not commit. After 30 years he was released from prison here is what he had to say about his time in incarcerations:
‘I don’t have one minute’s regret. It was a glorious experience.”
Pete Best was the original drummer for the Beatles before they got famous. One day the rest of the group deserted him and pick up Ringo Star along the way. Pete Best to this day has no regrets and does not feel bitter. He said he was much better off than if he had being a Beatles longer.
Dan Gilbert in his famous ted talk calls this synthetic happiness. The happiness that you have manufactured from inside. He claimed that synthetic happiness is just as good as “normal” happiness.
I would go even further. I believe that synthetic happiness is much better because it does not depend so much on external circumstances therefore is much easier to be created and sustained over time. That resonates very well with the concept of Amor Fati.
Don’t seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and all will be well with you.
After his wife, his parents, and his brother had been murdered by the Nazis, after witnessing the deaths of countless people in the camps, and after experiencing immense pain and suffering of his own, Frankl came to a realization:
When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.
Loving your suffering might sound counterintuitive but I assure it’s not. The suffering in life is inevitable and therefore priceless.
In Buddhism, we call this growing pain. Fertilizer for the beautiful garden of our life. Once you can look at anything through the eyes of Amor Fati life will not only be happier and joyful it will also bring about the wisdom, the understanding, and the compassion to help yourself and others in their path to alleviate pain and suffering.
Amor Fati is not only for the big things that are hard to bear. Even the small things, even the small nuisances and the small irritations should be “amor fatied”
When you are stuck in traffic “Amor Fati”. When you are in a queue “Amor Fati” when you the neighbors are too noisy “Amor Fati” etc, etc…
Of course, you should have preferences and goals and walk/work towards those aims but ups and downs are inevitable so Amor Fati is your best friend in all circumstances. Practice it little by little, it will only get better and stronger.