Amor Fati & Memento Mori — Embracing Both Life And Death

— Reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Amor fati and memento mori are two powerful Stoic concepts.

  • Amor Fati, a Latin phrase meaning “love of one’s fate,” teaches us how to accept what has been dealt to us without grumbling or getting angry.
  • Memento Mori, also Latin, tells us how to use our limited time on Earth to give our best and live without regrets. Together, these concepts can help us find control and acceptance in life.

The Stoics consider both concepts to be almost “holy.” They use them to take control of situations, make wise decisions, and find a deeper purpose to their existence.

The good news is that all of us today can embrace these to live more joyfully and uncomplainingly.

Amor Fati: Love of Fate

Amor fati may translate as “love of fate,” but it does not mean being passive, dispassionate, or fatalistic.

  • It’s not passive because it requires actively engaging with the present circumstances, rather than withdrawing from them, which ultimately gives us the power to influence its future course.
  • It’s not dispassionate because it involves a nonjudgmental acceptance, emotional investment, and mindful presence—and even appreciation—for our current reality.
  • And it’s not fatalistic because it doesn’t resign one to an immutable destiny, but rather empowers one to reshape their attitude and response to the events unfolding in their life.
Amor Fati & Memento Mori in Stoicism
Amor Fati and Memento Mori for living a more useful and mindful life.

Amor fati:

  • Lets us feel (not avoid) the emotions evoked by that terrible event
  • Reminds us not to dwell on it since we cannot go back in time and undo it
  • Assures us that taking action going forward is the best way to make the future different

Notice, the action can begin only when you decide to take charge of the situation. At that moment, you appreciate the failure or crisis because it has taught you what not to do.

“Amor fati” gives us the strength to bounce back from harsh times (a quality that positive psychologists call resilience).

Amor Fati, Friedrich Nietzsche, And Stoicism

The phrase “Amor fati” came from the German philosopher and cultural critic Friedrich Nietzsche, who used it repeatedly in the 1870s and 1880s.

But the concept was already woven into Stoicism. The Stoics proposed a loving and grateful acceptance of one’s fate. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius often mentioned it without using the exact phrase “amor fati.”

Stoics believed that while hardships are a necessary part of human existence, accepting them was the only way to grow. Acceptance allows us to move forward with a sense of tranquility in stressful times.

Nietzsche echoed this sentiment. He held struggles and suffering as a precondition for a good life. He said,

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! … I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation.”

And more famously:

“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—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.”

Amor Fati helps us see our lives as a series of events that must occur for us to make sense of life, grow, and thrive.

How To Practice Amor Fati

When life takes an unexpected turn:

Repeat mentally, “Amor fati, Amor fati, Amor fati.”

Say, “Thanks, Fate, for letting me handle this hardship.”

A few more ways:

  1. Focus on accepting, not resisting, when facing challenges.
  2. Be thankful for both your positive and negative experiences.
  3. Make a list of lessons you learned from mistakes and hardships.
  4. Affirm yourself that you will find ways and take action to grow out of this adversity.
  5. “This too shall pass” is a good reminder that the good times and bad times do not last forever.
Amor Fati & Memento Mori Pin

Memento Mori: Remembering Death

Ancient Philosophy and Memento Mori

Philosophers have always contemplated the purpose of life, the inevitability of death, and the rush to be good and do good.

The Latin phrase “Memento mori” is a humbling reminder that “everyone must die.”

The Stoics uttered “memento mori, memento mori, memento mori…” several times a day to remember that death could come at any time.

  • It grounded them in the reality of now and stopped them from wasting time on pointless things.
  • It inspired them to focus on what truly matters and to live virtuously while they have the opportunity.
8 Stoic Quotes On Death

Stoic Masters On Memento Mori

One of Epictetus‘s quotes on memento mori is:

“Keep death and exile before your eyes each day, along with everything that seems terrible—by doing so, you’ll never have a base thought nor will you have excessive desire.”

Seneca, a Roman philosopher, said we must treat each day as a gift and seize the moment before us. He wrote,

“Every day, therefore, should be regulated as if it were the one that brings up the rear, the one that rounds out and completes our lives.”

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and philosopher, often meditated on memento mori. He wrote,

“All that is in accord with you is in accord with me, O World! Nothing which occurs at the right time for you comes too soon or too late for me. All that your seasons produce, O Nature, is fruit for me. It is from you that all things come: all things are within you, and all things move toward you.”

— The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Pierre Hadot (1998).

How To Practice Memento Mori Without Thinking of Death

You can practice memento mori without thinking of death. Here are some ways:

  1. Every night, take a moment to reflect on whether you gave the day your best and took one step forward to fulfill your potential.
  2. Every morning, before you start your day, take a few minutes to decide what good and useful things you will do today, how will you nurture your relationships, and how will you make yourself happier.
  3. Ask yourself several times throughout the day, “Is it the best use of my time?” If not, then change the activity.
  4. Remind yourself occasionally that you are embracing changes in your life, and feel enough at the thought that you are trying your best to adapt to a constantly evolving life.

Word of caution: Thoughts of death can cause anxiety and even panic in some people. So, I will advise you to talk to your therapist or doctor before starting the practice of memento mori.

Amor fati and memento mori
Photo by Donn Lawler, Pixabay

Books To Read

Final Words

Amor fati and Memento mori can help us live a more meaningful life by accepting our fate and remembering our limited time.

They help us remold challenges as opportunities for growth, wisdom, and self-improvement.

  • Say “Amor fati” to accept your circumstances and live your life to the fullest.
  • Say “Memento mori” to remind yourself that death is constantly happening—it has already claimed the days that you and I have already lived.

• • •

Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy. His expertise is in mental well-being, positive psychology, narcissism, and Stoic philosophy.

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