Amor Fati is a Latin phrase that could be translated as either “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. A central tenet of the ancient and practial philosophy of Stoicism, it is often represented by the symbol of fire. As Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic Emperor of Rome, wrote a blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.
He also expressed his own version of Amor Fati when he said 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.
Though they likely never met, the lectures of Epictetus, which were made into Discourses by his student Arrian heavily influenced Marcus Aurelius. This relationship is beautiful in and of itself and is, to me, emblematic of Amor Fati. The words of Epictetus, a former slave, influenced Marcus Aurelius who would become the Emperor of Rome, perhaps the most poweful man in the world at that time. The words of Epictetus echoed throughout Marcus Aurelius’ own writings in Meditations.
On Amor Fati, Epiectetus said don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will — then your life will be serene.
The concept of Amor Fati continued into the 19th Century when Friedrich Nietzsche said 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.
Put simply, Amor Fati means to not only accept, but be grateful and love what has happened, what is happening and what will happen.
Amor Fati in action
What happens to us may not be positive. In fact, it may be horrible, if we let it be…
Wait, what do I mean? If we let it be.
I mean that the stimulus is the stimulus.
How we perceive the stimulus is our choice. No one else’s.
Nothing is more emblematic of this than the life of Viktor Frankl or James Stockdale.
They both illustrated that we can find meaning in life even amidst the most horrible situations.
Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, documented how he survived Nazi concentration camps and James Stockdale described how his Stoic approach allowed him to survive and thrive in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp
They both survived and ultimately thrived, because they maintained their beliefs in the meaning of their lives despite the atrocities they endured and witnessed.
Regardless of what was happening to them, they chose their reactions. Their thoughts. Viktor summarized this as you cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
Amor Fati today
This concept echoes in the writings of Stephen Covey. He wrote about this in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, noting that we have a circle of concern, things we care about but can’t control, and a circle of influence, things we care about and can impact.
He noted that by focusing on the circle of influence we will be happier + more productive.
This is also reflected in the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Jack Donovan has popularized a saying Stay Solar. Two quotes that influence my thinking on it are Men have idealized and modeled themselves after sky fathers and solar entities for thousands of years. The sun is a powerful symbol — in fact I can’t think of a symbol more figuratively or physically powerful. The sun is unifying and universal. We can all look upward to see and contemplate the same sun. We can look inward and cultivate our own solarity. There’s nothing arcane about the sun and nothing could be less “occult” — less hidden or secret…and… So, when you are surrounded by all of this confusion and anger, be like the sun. Remember who you are and who you want to be. You’re the man, so be the man. Be the order. Be the light. In the midst of chaos and darkness, stay solar.
The Code of the Samurai Brotherhood has as the 11th code Penetrate Life With Your Solar Energy: Be decisive, pro-active, take initiatives. Masculine energy can be likened to solar energy—at its best, it radiates like the Sun, penetrating the vastness of space with its heat and light, sparking projects, injecting life, fertilizing the ground, and generating productive energy and a chain of creative consequences. A man embodying his solar energy is ready to move beyond the fear of penetrating life while keeping his heart open at the same time.
I had a conversation with my sister recently and I talked to her about something I learned in the book Existential Kink, which helps you understand your Shadow, or subconscious. As Carl Jung said, until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.
For a majority of people, Carolyn Elliott points out that we are not afraid of failing. Instead, we are afraid of being successful. Of what we are truly capable of. We are afraid of letting our brightness shine through.
As per the Samurai Brotherhood code, I have always been decisive, pro-active, and taken initiatives. I have also not lived fully in my light. I have neither explored the fullness of my capabilities nor have I been willing to put myself fully into the world.
This is the conversation that I had with my Sister. How have each of us allowed our childhood, our lives, to shape our personality. To shape our willingness to stay in our own shadows. To not fully embrace our inner gold.
Something I am learning through covid, it is that life is too short, which we will discuss below via the Stoic concept Memento Mori, and there is no time like the present to live our life. To step into our fullness. To not be afraid of our potential success. To put ourselves out into the world.
I will continue to be decisive, pro-active and take initiatives and I will step fully into my light and my potential. I will stay solar.
Memento Mori is another Stoic concept. In Latin it means remember you must die. It is often represented visually by a skull, but other symbols could include: hour glasses, clocks, fruit or flowers.
As Marcus Aurelius said, you could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.
This was echoed by Seneca: Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.
Why would the Stoics practice Memento Mori?
They practiced it, because it is inevitable. We will all die. We are all impermanent.
The concept of Memento Mori is not isolated to Stoicism. It is also central to Buddhism.
One of the four thoughts that turn the mind to Buddhism is Impermanence. The recognition that everything in life is impermanent. In meditating on it, one notes that their parents, their siblings, their children, their possessions are impermanent. They will all be gone. This is a meditation that I do almost every day.
If we do not contemplate death and impermanence, or worse, if we are afraid of death and impermanence, then we will not live to our fullest.
It is not intended as a depressant nor should it be looked at that way. Instead, it should motivate you. It should create a desire to live to your fullest. To penetrate your life with Solar Energy.
This is something covid really brought up in me. We will be gone. We are impermanent. We do not know what could happen today. Tomorrow. To us. To our family. To our possessions.
With that in mind, we can make a choice. We can wilt and remain in the dark or we can live our life. I choose to live. To live fully. In the light.
What do you choose?