Amor Fati: A Heathen Argument For Faith…

This post contains:

  • An ancient Greek idea that could potentially change your life,
  • the real reason it doesn’t matter if something is true or not, and
  • a whole slew of zen ninja demon-slaying monkeys.

Welcome, to my parlor.

Welcome, to my heathen argument for faith.

‘Amor Fati’

‘Amor Fati’ is a Latin phrase used in ancient Greece meaning (approximately) ‘love your fate’.  Essentially, it is the idea and belief that all things necessarily happen for the good, the nearest modern corollary being: ‘Everything happens for a reason.’

To some, this will already be a recognizable and firmly-entrenched belief.  To others, it may smell like a wicker basket chock-full of purple hippie crystal woo-woo.  But don’t dismiss it out of hand just yet.

Because beliefs, like many other things, are malleable.  They are not set in stone.  Our beliefs are subject to our conscious choice.  We can literally choose to ‘change our mind’ – a realization which is as terrifying as it is liberating.

And while we can never know for certain if something we believe is objectively true, we can tell whether it is of use in our day-to-day experience.  Does believing it make us happier?  Does it allow us to live better lives?

So if we are indeed truly free to choose our beliefs then wouldn’t it seem sensible to search out and select those that provide the greatest utility for us?

‘Amor Fati’ fulfuls this criteria in spades because, sincerely making the effort to ‘love one’s fate’ facilitates a far greater degree of acceptance in our lives.

When something unexpected, painful, or unwanted occurs, evaluating it thru the lens and filter of ‘Amor Fati’ allows us to fold the event into the tapestry of our life-experience with far greater grace, ease, and speed and with far less suffering than if we choose the path of repression or denial.

As with everything don’t take my word for it.  Try it on for size.  Practice first with the little things.  Practice early, and practice often so, when the hardier demons rise, spewing fire from the belly of the cracked black earth, they’ll find themselves facing the most fate-loving demon-slaying warrior monkey that you’re capable of being.

I do not claim that this choice will always be easy.  Choosing to adopt a belief of this kind requires effort.  It requires trust.  It requires a kind of… faith.

Personally, I do not identify as religious in any traditional or secular sense but, heathen tho I am, in this case at least…

…I also find myself to be a man of faith.

Farewell,

J


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47 Comments

  1. Yes interesting. Is a simply thing, so important to remind and so important to refresh sometimes.. Maybe a good way to connect with this beautiful geometry ( that is the scaffolding of phenomenal world) is the FAITH before going to sleep and the THANKFULNESS when we wake up.. Thank you for the article James

  2. Awesome and well thought out post. I like your ideas presented here. Raised in the Christian faith, i am now trying to expand my horizons and break out of the box so to speak. Your post gives me much to ponder on today. I like the idea of loving your fate. But i especially like from where you approach this, as someone who is not coming from a specific area of religious thought. It allows me to think more openly. Thank you for this amazing post.

    1. This means a lot to me, it really does.
      Thankyou very much, both for reading and for taking the time to send this lovely thought out to me.
      I am very glad you found something of value in the piece, and you made me smile.
      Have a great night,
      – J

  3. I’m late in responding because I have been busy and wanted to express my thoughts coherently. One of my favorite teachers used to say, All is a belief and you can change your belief. He was so right, and so are you. Faith has little to do with belief because belief has more to do with the mind and faith, the heart. My faith has stayed with me even as my beliefs have changed. Warm wishes,

    On Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 1:59 PM, JamesRadcliffe.com wrote:

    > James Radcliffe posted: “This post contains: An ancient Greek idea that > could potentially change your life, the real reason it doesn’t matter if > something is true or not, and a whole slew of zen ninja demon-slaying > monkeys. Welcome, to my parlor. Welcome, to my h” >

    1. Thankyou very much – Do not worry about being late, the blog is always here.
      Your kind comment made me smile, I agree with your teacher wholeheartedly.
      Have a great night, see you,
      – J

  4. Hey James! I enjoyed reading your post and I have believed this concept for many years; I don’t know why people die, or planes crash, or people get cancer, but I do believe there are reasons. I actually heard something yesterday that adds to this idea. Sometimes when lots of shitty things are happening, we wonder why, but it’s not always about us. Things could be happening to us so we can benefit others, either people we know or people we will meet. This idea helped soften the blow of the pain and made me feel good that I may be helping others. Because I have a complete shit storm in my life right now: I had to move in with my parents, the day before I moved in my father found out his lung cancer returned which he had four years ago, my 16 year old is living here part time and struggling, we are in a new town and the house is in the woods, and I mean in the woods. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I have to have a special ultrasound which may lead to surgery, I had a different us that showed a benign growth, last week my dad came back from sloan kettering to find out our old neighbor and his best friend died in his sleep, we spent the next day down the city at the funeral and with the family, and Sunday I was in a pretty bad car accident. Now please note I am grateful to live in a nice home; I am grateful that I am financially better; I am grateful that I can meditate outside and hear silence; I am grateful for how much my parents are trying to make things nice here for myself and my daughter; I am grateful that sometimes I don’t have to cook.
    On the other hand, my mom has cognitive issues and my dad is going to choose a cancer treatment next week. I am scared of living here and watching them decline. I am hoping to be better off in a year or two to get back to my own place. I do believe God put me here for a reason. I got this book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. It is really good and funny. So I’m learning to not give a fuck about stuff that doesn’t matter and as the author says, save my fucks for stuff that is important. My mother should read it!!! She has a mental break if you leave a plate in the sink!
    Nice to know we are thinking alike…yea yea good minds I know;)
    Traci xo

    1. Beautiful Traci Halpin,
      I am so sorry to hear of your troubles. I really believe very strongly in the Amor Fati way of thinking – but sometimes, I think it is also OK to just say ‘This SUCKS!’
      I offer you a big hug, and all the love in the world. I hope things get better for you. It is always nice to read your messages.
      Keep your chin up, be strong, and this will change, I promise.
      Another hug, and have a good day,
      – J

      1. Thank you James for your love and hugs!! Yes it does suck! My dad is having his procedure on Thursday and hope he does well. I am 10 percent at fault for the accident but I’m covered. I get my new car today. Everything just seems to be happening so fast at one time; it is quite overwhelming. It seems like my life is in transition and it’s very restless and I keep trying to grab some ground, only to lose it to something else. You made me smile when I read Beautiful Traci Halpin:) Hope you are doing well. Thanks for your support all the way from Scotland; whenever I mention you or your posts I say my Scotland friend on my blog 😉
        Time to go pick up my new car!
        Hugs and have a good weekend!
        Traci xo

          1. Thank you my friend who lives in Scotland. Today I got my new car; I love it! If you go to my page you can see a picture of my car at the accident scene. I know they say change is constant and it seems like a chain reaction is happening in my life. I think it’s good, even though it is hard. It feels like I’m in a new phase, and so is my daughter turning 16.
            Thank you James..xo
            Your friend who lives in America.

  5. “Because beliefs, like many other things, are malleable. They are not set in stone. Our beliefs are subject to our conscious choice. We can literally choose to ‘change our mind’ – a realization which is as terrifying as it is liberating.” –> Scary. My beliefs are my truths because they are ‘true’. The thought that I can just ‘change my mind’ is terrifying. If my truths are no longer true, my belief system is no longer. And then what?
    Not saying you are wrong… but not sure I can wrap my head around it in my present state of mind. So for now –> sorry, yepp you are wrong 🙂

    1. Haha! I like the way you have expressed this.
      Let me ask you a question. Have you ever changed your mind about anything? Or thought something was true that you later learned was not? This is really just that.
      All I am saying here is, when something unpleasant occurs, if we take a little time, we can choose how we interpret it, and therefore how we feel about it, and how we react.
      No big deal, but it can help.
      Thanks for reading this, and for taking the time to comment, it means a lot to me.
      Have a great day,
      – J

      1. Yes I have changed my mind about things in the past…
        But when you write about faith and beliefs I go into a deep place… the place where I have God. I am a true believer. But one evening I was in bed and from one minute to the another I no longer believed God was real. Just like that. It was horrible!! After a few days I rationalized my thoughts and there it was… God, faith, my belief system. So I guess I KNOW you are right, one can change their minds, even about deep & powerful things. But since those few days where I ‘lost’ God were terrifying, I have neatly wrapped the experience in a small little package and bombed the hell out of it. It no longer exists. For now I prefer to say “you are wrong” 🙂

  6. Thanks James, your article really hit the spot. Love your Fate, because your fate always has your best interest in mind. We are spiritual beings first and thru human incarnations we grow as our fate directs us, thru magical and mystical daily happenings. Love your Fate helps with the acceptance of the wonderful unpredictable human Journey.

  7. Thank you for your thoughtful insights. Though you approach faith from a secular perspective, I found in your writing an embrace of a sort of mysticism of ordinary, daily experience. When we scratch the surface, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the matters of our daily life can take on greater meaning. I struggle deeply with faith and trust, and I am constantly wishing and praying that I possessed the simplicity of heart to be able to accept reality for what it is, without struggling so much and with such fear, resentment, and anger, which only intensifies my experiences of suffering and pain. What finally does allow me to find peace and acceptance, regardless of my circumstances, is my strong belief that God is constantly creating the universe and sustaining us in it, and that God is goodness and love itself. My faith tells me that in every moment and in all things there is an invitation for us to move into a deeper relationship with our creator, who loves us, and who is ceaselessly bestowing blessings on us. I have to remind myself that those blessings may not come in a form that fulfills my expectations, but they may be even better in the end. It is really easy to forget these things, but you have reminded me of them today, so for that, I thank you.

    1. This is a truly beautiful comment. Thankyou very much for writing to me, I really loved what you had to say on this topic.
      I know what you mean – it can be hard to remember these things everyday, and especially in the heat of battle (so to speak). If I reminded you, then you have reminded me right back 😉
      Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by, write me anytime,
      – J

      1. Thank you so much for your very kind words! I like the idea of people encouraging and reminding each other of what is mysterious, good, and meaningful in life, back and forth, in endless reverberations, and encouraging each other to move closer and closer to what is truest and best in this world. I think people were definitely made for this type of connection. I enjoy your writing and will definitely be back to read more. Take care! – Lulu

  8. “And while we can never know for certain if something we believe is objectively true, we can tell whether it is of use in our day-to-day experience. Does believing it make us happier? Does it allow us to live better lives?”
    ~ I am a woman of faith. During my young adult life, I accepted karma and reincarnation as a belief system because they made more sense to me (than my former Christian belief system) in the face of our human condition of continued oppression, injustices, and suffering.

  9. In the vast picture of Evolution, children dying of horrible diseases or invasive parasites or big animals eating little animals, it’s all the same thing. Every “thing” involved – the parasites, the big animals – are evolving because that’s how evolution works. We don’t ever seem to talk about un-evolution. To us, children dying, and little bunnies taken by predators, for instance seems to be the dreadful part of nature – of evolution, yet in the vast picture, it benefits some aspect of life.

    I am not a Dawkins fan, nor a Christian. but I really enjoyed this post. It seems to me, for a good working attitude to deal with the coal-face of life, you could really use it practically. Being in love with fate, doesn’t mean you do nothing when children are dying from invasive parasites, or, when the most savage creatures on earth are killing their brothers and sisters. It means that whatever you do – even the smallest action – will have a beneficial outcome, however tiny. And that things that happen TO you, will, in the end, produce something good – even the smallest good.

    Spiritually, the strangest thing happens when you use “faith”. Your faith is affirmed in subtle, personal ways that are meaningless to others – but confirmation to yourself – totally. Martin Luther maintained that you had to have faith FIRST and all else followed. Faith is a first step – the equivalent of leaping off a cliff.

    In this post, “love(ing) one’s fate’ facilitates a far greater degree of acceptance in our lives.” is a very gentle “leap” that most people could do.

    I really liked the idea!

    1. Thankyou very much for this. I really appreciate both your comment, and the fact you obviously read this post deeply in order to get to the meaning.
      Have a great night, and thanks for stopping by,
      -J

  10. Very interesting blog, with an eye on everything we can’t know. I would agree there is a world of things that men cannot know in this present life, however, a man of sincere and godly faith can know the things that have been revealed by God. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

    The key to knowing is to know the one that knows all things. When I ask people, “Do you know you have eternal life”, those without a sincere faith will always respond, “I don’t believe anyone can know.” However, that is not what the word of God says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)

    John in his first letter used the word know 33 times in just 5 short chapters. It may be annoying to hear there are things that believing sons of God can know that others cannot, but that is the testimony of God’s word. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.” (5:2) “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (5:19) “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (5:20)

    The verses that I just quoted are God’s word, and the one who trusts in His word with a God given faith trusts to the point of knowing that His word is true. We see what men cannot see apart from God.

    I totally respect you and your right to express your own viewpoints, however, what I know to be true as a result of the saving grace of God in Christ is something I consider to be of inexpressible value.

    So do all things happen for good? For the Christian they do with one very large caveat. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:28, 29) All things work together for good for those who love God, and the good that they work together to accomplish is conformity to Jesus Christ.

    If you want to distinguish between the true Christian and the false just observe if you can see a conformity to the self-sacrificing spirit for God that Christ possessed in him or her. Lord bless.

  11. Hi James,

    On this we fundamentally disagree.

    It seems clear to me that Darwin, Dawkins et al have demonstrated how all this complexity we observe can emerge by the simple expedient of differential survival of variants. If that is true (which seems to me beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt), then it really is counter to the notion of “that all things necessarily happen for the good”.

    It seems be far more like – stuff happens- much of it completely random, some of it with some intention and design of some person behind it.

    For me, the idea that everything happens for a purpose, just destroys any possibility of free will.

    It seems to me that I have free will, at least to the degree that I do.

    So no – I do not accept that children dying horrible deaths from invasive parasites is for a purpose. That’s just genes doing their thing. Patterns on patterns on patterns, …. That particular sort of pattern we would do well to eliminate, permanently.

    For me, faith is the antithesis of responsibility.
    If you really believe that all the nasty things that happen are to some great purpose, it is a convenient let off from any moral responsibility to make the effort now to change it.

    It seems clear to me that we can bring purpose into existence with our choices (to the degree that we do choose), and in the absence of active choice, habits, patterns at many different levels just do their stuff.

    1. I agree. It is everyone’s responsibility to make a difference, to do what they can to make the world a better place. Some cultures and beliefs are free will oriented and some are fate (faith) oriented. It seem to me faith is antithetical to a better future world.

        1. I think I get how you are using faith as an idea.
          I get you believe that things will work out for the better in the end.
          The bit that you don’t seem so clear on, is that such a faith actually has an aspect to it that absolves individuals from making the hard choices, as making such choices doesn’t really matter, because it will all work out in the end anyway – why bother putting skin in the game (at some level).

          And I get it isn’t always that way for all people of faith, I see some people of faith in my community with a lot of skin in the game at some levels, and at the higher levels, most of them seem to somewhat less than passionate about life and liberty, with the necessary implication from liberty of exploration of unknowns, and seem to be much more attached to conformity to patterns from the past.

          So for me, there remains this meta level danger of “faith” in any context.

          For me, the exploration of systems and logic indicates that we have sufficient resources to sustain cooperation at the highest levels for a long time, provided we manage our numbers within the limits of the systems available.
          It doesn’t take much training in mathematics to see that continued exponential expansion must eventually run into real limits, forcing us from cooperative to competitive strategies.

          And there is sufficient energy available to give us time to make that awareness a universal part of the concept of responsibility.
          And there is enough to give every person the right to be a part of one child, and we could have some sort of lottery system to allow some people to have more than one child. And some sort of policy like that will be required on this planet fairly soon.

          Unconstrained expansion of population must necessarily lead to conflict at some point.
          We are not at that point yet, our technology is still allowing us to do more with less faster than our population is growing, and there are hard limits to that strategy – energy limits imposed by the metabolic needs of human bodies and the technology to support them. If we assume that humans have 20% of the energy falling on the earth, and have conversion efficiencies at 20%, and a human being needs about 70Kw continuous power (including the energy to manufacture and run artificially lighted hydroponic gardens) that gives a limit of about 10 times our current population.

          And it isn’t a stable answer to say, we can take from someone else, because it doesn’t take long for your group to run into the problem, even if they are the only group left on the planet. So we might as well find a stable solution to the problem soon, before WWIII.

  12. Amor Fati – a fine wee concept. Wondering if you’ve encountered Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” full of fascinating ideas on living a creative life. I recommend it Highly. Good to meet you in blogland. Inspiring me to continue my blogging on meditation here.

  13. That was easy! When I read posts like this, I like to recommend a book I thought was profound: JOURNEY OF SOULS by Michael Newton, Ph.D. Thanks for this, Mr. Radcliffe.

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