Amor Fati Never Means A Surrender To Your Fate. But Why?

— Reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Amor fati (pronounced aa-more faa-tee) is a Latin phrase that translates as “love of fate.”

  • Amor = love
  • Fati = fate

Nietzsche introduced amor fati as a “fatalistic surrender to God,” supported by Stoic sage Epictetus’ suggestion that we should voluntarily adapt our desires to the reality we are living.

So, does Amor Fati mean having a fatalist mindset? Does this “love of fate” ask us to resign ourselves to adverse situations?

Of course, we can’t always prevent what happens to us. And trying to swim upstream always doesn’t get us where we want to be. So, should we accept what life deals us with and lay down whimpering helplessly?

What does amor fati mean, if it is not resignation at the feet of fate?

“Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.”

— Miyamoto Musashi
Amor Fati Meaning

Amor Fati Meaning

More than “love of fate,” amor fati means “loving acceptance of one’s fate.” It is the belief that we can find peace when we accept the circumstances and people just as they are, without wishing they were different. It is also the idea that acceptance of the situation allows us to progress from the point of desperation.

The concept of amor fati started with ancient classical philosophers, mainly Stoicism. Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Objective judgment, now at this very moment. Unselfish action now at this very moment. Willing acceptance–now at this very moment–of all external events.”

The 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said:

“My formula for what is great in mankind is amor fati: not to wish for anything other than that which is; whether behind, ahead, or for all eternity. Not just to put up with the inevitable – much less to hide it from oneself, for all idealism is lying to oneself in the face of the necessary – but to love it.” — Nietzsche

What Nietzsche proposed was that amor fati is the formula for a happy life. To practice amor fati is not to wish for reality to be any different from what it already is, but rather to love the thing that happened.

Adverse circumstances affect all of us. When we resist, deny, or express our anger with them, we are circling the same field, fighting battles we will never win.

However, when we choose to accept what happened, good or bad, it opens up avenues for a new course of action. This acceptance is amor fati—loving and accepting all that happens.

The truth is, we cannot expect others to change, but can only change ourselves.

That’s what the Stoics have been teaching us for two millennia.

The Stoic Idea of Amor Fati

Nearly 2000 years ago, the slave-turned-philosopher named Epictetus said something quite similar:

“Seek not for events to happen as you wish but rather wish for events to happen as they do and your life will go smoothly.” — Epictetus

This was the Stoic principle of the “art of acquiescence” – the acceptance of, rather than resistance to, everything that life deals us with.

Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher king, who once visited Athens and perhaps sat in a class of Epictetus, said:

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” — Marcus Aurelius

He again mentions it as follows:

“Objective judgement, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now, at this very moment—of all external events. That’s all you need.” — Marcus Aurelius

Seneca, the philosopher, and advisor to Emperor Nero, beautifully said:

“A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”—Seneca

Seneca understood that “true happiness is to enjoy the present without anxious dependence upon the future.”

So, he warned that when we imagine an alternate reality, we make our minds go through the pain. Rather, we should focus on the reality itself, which could be much less painful.

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”—Seneca The Younger

Does Amor Fati Mean Surrendering To Fate?

The true meaning of amor fati is accepting fate without submitting to it. The emphasis is on acceptance, not passive compliance.

It is accepting is welcoming what happens without giving in to fatalism.

Fatalism, or permanently surrendering to the inevitability of fate, is learned helplessness.

Acceptance is agreeing to engage and act. Because even if you cannot control what events occur in your life, the outcomes of those events depend greatly on your actions. It is your acts today that determine your destiny tomorrow.

Accepting does not ask you to surrender to your fate and drop at her feet. Acceptance does not mean blaming and condemning someone for what happened.

Acceptance just means that you say, “Yes, it has happened. And it has happened the way it had to happen. How can I move on?”

Reminding yourself to accept a fateful event allows you to unbind yourself from the bad event. It lets you let go of the associated bitterness and frustration.

When you “amor fati” the bad event, you can detach from the situation and forgive the people in it. Forgiving means evicting them from your mind so that they no longer bother you.

When you accept the reality of the present situation, you look at the event for what it taught you. Then you can plan with fresh motivation.

Accepting fate without judgment

The gracefulness of loving everything that happens without wishing for anything to be apart from what is, includes a sense of non-judgment.

Acceptance of our fate without judgment of ourselves is true amor fati.

  • First, it is the acceptance of people around us, their behavior, and comments when we fail.
  • Second, it is accepting all worldly events, the good, and the bad, while taking both as they are.
  • Third, it is acceptance of ourselves, believing we gave it our best and will proceed in the same way.

Two Dogs And Their Only Happy Option

The Stoic mentors were fond of telling the story of two dogs tied to two carts.

The wise man is like a dog leashed to a moving cart who runs along joyfully and keeps pace with it smoothly. But the foolish man is like the dog that fights against the leash and whines out loud but is nevertheless dragged with the cart.

The moving cart represents our life and its events. The dog represents us.

Either we enjoy the trip and make the most of our lives, or we fight everything that happens and get forcibly pulled along nonetheless.

We can struggle all we want, but the cart will still go where it needs to go, pulling our whiny selves through the ups and downs, and muck and water on the road.

Both dogs are in a similar situation. One dog accepts what it is given and is content to go where it is led, but the other dog refuses what it is given and is pulled along.

9 Stoic Rules For A Better Life (From Marcus Aurelius)
9 Stoic Rules For A Better Life (From Marcus Aurelius)

Final Words

Expect little, accept all, judge none.

Our sufferings exist in the space between our expectations and reality.

Most events happen without us having a say in their occurrence. We can either welcome them in joy and love what fate dealt us, or we shall be dragged along the cart.

So, instead of battling reality, which can only cause us pain, embrace it completely and live joyfully.

Go ahead and amor fati—love whatever happens because you can’t change them anyway.

• • •

√ Also Read: How To Be A Modern Stoic In These Chaotic Times?

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