Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Amor Fati

The impetus from minus to plus never ends. The urge from below to above never ceases: whatever premises all our philosophers and psychologists dream of--self-preservation, pleasure principle, equalization--all these are but vague representations, attempts to express the great upward drive.

Göethe, letter to Lavater

What drives us ? What motivates us as individuals to take certain life paths ?

Abraham Henschel wrote that it is " as if a divine cunning operated using our instincts as pretexts toward universally valid goals to harness man's lower forces in the service of higher ends " ??

Destiny refers to a predetermined course of events based on a belief that there is a fixed natural order to the cosmos and sometimes we do see actual evidence of this in the form of prophetic dreams or divination. There is no doubt certain life paths / choices repel or attract us - in some cases to the point of obsession - " Do our thoughts contain magnetic properties ? " More importantly what / who directs the undercurrents that most of mankind seem oblivious too ? Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and some viruses. The main role of DNA molecules is the long-term storage of information. DNA is often compared to a set of blueprints or a recipe, or a code, since it contains the instructions needed to construct other components of cells, such as proteins and RNA molecules. Research over the past few decades has forced most psychologists and scientists to acknowledge what many have long denied. Genes influence not just physical characteristics but our personalities, temperaments and behaviour patterns. But our minds rebel at the news that genes affect our thoughts to such a level they influence what we name our pets - what brand of cigarettes and beer we will prefer - what occupations we will choose.

Findings about the gene-behaviour dynamic, on the other hand, are overturning existing truths and demolishing assumptions upon which 100 years of psychological theory has been based. Totally different answers are emerging to questions many experts were confident had long been answered. It is this apostate cast to the behavioral findings that has caused turmoil in the academic community and provoked angry debate. The largest body of hard data to establish the genetic roots of behaviour has come from comparisons of fraternal with identical twins and comparison of adopted with biological siblings. For thirty years these investigations have been progressing quietly in scores of kinship studies in the United States and abroad and building a mountain of evidence of the gene-behaviour relationship.

THEY were the ultimate guinea pigs -- Twins - Triplets cruelly separated and secretly studied as part of a research project into whether human behaviour is the result of nature or nurture and part of a different study The Jim Twins.

Death speaks: There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, “Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.” The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?” “That was not a threatening gesture,” I said, “it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

W. Somerset Maugham from an Arab tale

I included the above extract because it parallels a tragic event that occurred during my childhood - an event that had a devastating impact on my family not only emotionally but financially as well. As extended family gathered to usher in the New Year on the Western seaboard of Australia , my family gathered with friends in the East. Not long after midnight my uncle advised family and friends he would be taking a different route home that night in a bid to avoid the many heavily intoxicated drivers he anticipated would be congregating in the city to celebrate New Years Eve. So instead of taking the main artillery road through town he chose a quiet country route instead - unfortunately for my Auntie and cousins that heavily intoxicated driver my uncle seemed intent on avoiding had the same idea and inevitably they all met their fate regardless. His decision to take that particular road on that particular night still perplexes family to this day.

For Nietzsche destiny keeps the form of Amor fati (Love of Fate) through the important element of Nietzsche's philosophy named "will to power" (der Wille zur Macht), basis of human behavior, influenced by the Will to Live of Schopenhauer .

Amor fati is a Latin phrase that loosely translates to "love of fate" or "love of one's fate". It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one's life, including suffering and loss, as good. That is, one feels that everything that happens is destiny's way of reaching its ultimate purpose, and so should be considered good. Moreover, it is characterized by an acceptance of the events that occur in one's life. It is almost identical to the Jewish concept of Gam Zu Letovah (this too is for the best).

The phrase is used repeatedly in Nietzsche's writings and is representative of the general outlook on life he articulates in section 276 of The Gay Science, which reads,

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 wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.

Quote from "Why I Am So Clever" in Ecce Homo, section 10[1]:

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 mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it.

A few weeks ago whilst visiting my sister I caught the tail end of a documentary on 9/11 - I got quite emotional as I listened to some of the inspirational stories of heroism, survival and the indomitable spirit of some very rare and beautiful human beings that survived the attack and felt some of the stories were very good examples of the ideas I am trying to convey in this blog .

On the 81st floor of Building 2 of the South Tower Brian Clarke attempts to lead his work colleagues out of harms way but is temporarily distracted when he hears someone calling for help. He locates the direction the voice is coming from and attempts to help the person trapped behind a huge wall of debris. It is at this point some of his work colleagues begin to argue amongst themselves - some believed it would make more sense to head back up the stairs towards the roof - when he does finally turn around again they are all gone. Brian succeeds in rescuing the other South Tower worker and both make it out before the towers collapse - but not one of Brian's co-workers made it out alive.

On September 11, 2001, Jay Jonas was the Captain of Ladder Co. 6 and was one of the first responding units to the World Trade Center. Jonas and his unit were in the process of evacuating the North Tower when they ran into a woman called Josephine Harris. They found her standing in a doorway crying because she was finding it difficult to walk and even though they knew the risks associated with helping her - they did so regardless. Jay said after the event alot of people asked why he stopped to help the woman - pointing out he could of just kept going - that no one would of been any the wiser - his reply was - " But I would of known ".

The following is an extract from his own account of the event :

I’m seeing and hearing other acts of courage and heroism on the way down. I’m hearing Captain Paddy Brown from Ladder 3 saying that he has a lot of burned people on the 40th floor and he doesn’t want to leave them. I run into members of Ladder Company 5 from Greenwich Village. There’s a Lieutenant Mike Warchola, who I used to carpool with when I was a young fireman. He and his company are working on a man on one of the stairway landings who’s having chest pains, a civilian.

I said, “Mike, c’mon, let’s go. It’s time to go.”

And he sees we have this woman that we’re bringing down.

He says, “I know, Jay. It’s time to go. We’re working on this guy. You have your civilian, I have mine. We’ll be right behind you.”

I said, “All right. Don’t wait too long.”

We get to the fourth floor and Josephine Harris’ legs give way. She can’t stand anymore. Now I’m starting to get nervous again. We’ve got to move a lot faster. The spooky music in this whole scenario is that the clock is ticking. I can almost hear the clock ticking in the back of my head that we gotta get out of here. This is bad. This is really bad.

I break into the fourth floor to look for a sturdy chair that we can throw her on and we could pick her up and run with her. That would be the fastest, to negotiate the stairway and make our move that way. So I break into the fourth floor. It’s not an office floor. It’s a mechanical equipment room floor. It’s where they have the airhandling equipment for that zone.

I’m looking and I’m not finding anything. I find one metal desk with a stenographer’s chair, a swivel chair, and that wouldn’t do. I find one overstuffed couch. Naturally, that wouldn’t do. It’s a little scary to think about it now, but I was way on the other side of the building, just seconds before this building collapsed. And I don’t know what told me to do it but I’m thinking, this isn’t working out. I’ve gotta get back to the stairway and we’re just going to have to drag her.

I start running back to the stairway and I’m about four feet away, four or five feet away from the stairway door and that’s when the collapse starts. I feel almost like a compression effect with the wind. I try to open the door to the stairway and I couldn’t open it. A second pull opened the door. I don’t know whether it was assisted by the compression effect of the building coming down with the wind or with my first try, maybe the building was warping and twisting, and I couldn’t open it for that reason. But the second pull I was able to open the door and I dove for the stairway landing on the fourth floor.

Now, people have tried to get me to describe what it was like while the collapse was happening. It was a montage of different sounds and experiences. The sounds were a combination of sounds. This building collapsed in what’s called a pancake fashion. In other words, one floor would hit another floor and would collapse that floor and then collapse the next floor. And every time a floor would hit another floor, it created a loud boom and tremendous vibration.

The entire collapse of this 110-story building took 13 seconds. So it sounded like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, you know, like that. And every time that happened, it shook the entire building. It shook the whole floor. So every time a floor would hit another floor, we’d be literally bouncing off the floor. We were being thrown around the stairway.

Jay utilized all his instincts and ironically admitted the only reason his unit survived was because they did in fact stop to help Josephine.

In 2001 television producer Dennis Wooldridge was writing a novel about a massive terrorist attack on the United States. To research it he travelled to New York and checked into a hotel it was the 22 story luxury Marriott at the foot of the Twin Towers. He stated some of the stories that came out of the Marriott were some of the most intriguing of the entire event. There was one irony after another - one odd coincidence if you believe in coincidence after another - people whose lives were linked in very strange ways by this event. All their lives would change forever and all because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time but the story that stood out most for me was that of Irish born architect Ron Clifford.

Ron had emigrated to the States with his family in the eighties. He had a major interview at the Marriott Hotel. Early in the morning - on 9/11 - he spoke to his sister Ruth who gave him advice on what to wear for the interview. The conversation with Ruth was the last he would ever have with his sister because in a bizarre twist of fate she was also caught up in the events of 9/11. His sister and her daughter were in the second plane that hit the South Tower - they were on their way to Disneyland for a holiday. He risked his life to save burns victim Jenny Anne and although he admits there were moments he wanted to flee the scene he was determined he would not leave until he got Jenny Anne to safety - when he finally realised no help was coming he covered her with a tablecloth and together they ran from the heart wrenching scene of devastation until they reached emergency services - he then waited with her until an ambulance arrived - at peace in his own mind Ron then made his way home - it was his daughters birthday ( she was born 9/11/90 and had just turned 11 ) ?

So the question is - Do we have freewill ?

I believe the answer is YES - because regardless of the fated threads ( lots ) cast on us by the Moirae - the collective archetypes are also incorporated within the yarn and mankind has become aware of these absolute truths in every culture throughout history in symbols depicted in myths - drawings - sculpture - music - theatre or dance. They are part of man’s consciousness and their truths surface despite of us, as they are an intrinsic part of our nature. For the most part mankind are sleepwalkers - totally oblivious to the inner workings of their lower / higher self. It is only by becoming " AWARE " of those deeper undercurrents we can ever hope to safely and confidently navigate the cyclic ebb and flow of life. God help me then ;)


  1. Lovely blog again D! I had a thought, perhaps we 'choose' from a different place, or that we are not consciously aware of, thus what seems like fate, is in fact 'free will'?

    Just a thought.

  2. Thanks String and I agree with you - I do think we choose on a different level :) I mentioned some of my thoughts and findings to my mother the other day YIKES that was a mistake :-o lol it was during this time - while she was arguing vehemently in defense of FREEWILL I wondered if - too much emphasis had been placed on the genetic connections throughout that particular research project ? Did they ever consider telepathy in their findings ?

    With regards to that last link I added - Do we have freewill ? I got an image of the Strength card in the tarots - taming the beast and self control - ironically I feel for the first time in my life I have a much deeper understanding of that card now and it's importance - strength is something that has been sorely missing in my life - although the few times I have called on this aspect of my inner self - it has turned my life around in the most profound way - heres hoping I can maintain that change this time :)

  3. I have had such an interesting read daily with these tarot odd, been looking at it from a very detached point of view, but the amazing way they seem to pick up my actions and moments previously are odd. Been testing them now for over a month. For example, I just came to the realisation that I am going through a seclusion/hermitage sort of time, getting still, slowing down to zero point, so to speak -put it on my FB last night...and voila, this am draw a card I never have - Sword Four - " Respite, hermetic seclusion; meditation; self-exhile or retreat; convalescence; rest; replinishment of spirit; solitude; it is time to reassess one's powers and limitations in quiet seclusion".

    Okay off to read Collider now! x

  4. Hullo Destiny,

    I'm not too sure about this one. Fate - gee whiz, maybe, maybe not, who can tell? And Nietzsche? You'll have to include me out - I can't stand the guy. I expect he's got a point somewhere in there amongst it all but what with him being the philosopher of choice of fascists, I tend to skip him.

    Otherwise in terms of embracing fate on account of the stories of the people who survived 911 or any big disaster, it's a bit one-sided I'm thinking. It's a bit like how after a tornado you only ever hear people thanking God that they were spared. Frankly I'd rather hear how the dead view the matter but they never seem to get on the telly and tell us what they think.

    And then there's 9/11! Think of the lucky fate of Larry Silverstein, the fellow who purchased the twin towers just a couple of months before they both defied the laws of physics and magically pulverised themselves. Both of the buildings were chock full of asbestos and to remove it would have cost a billion dollars. Subsequently he picked the buildings up for a song, insured them against terrorist attacks, and then, who'd have thunk it, terrorists attack his buildings on the same day he and his daughter sleep in and miss their daily breakfast at the restaurant at the top of the building! Talk about lucky! Not only does he not have to pay to knock the buildings down, it's actually done for him and he cops a billion dollars for his troubles! Whack the diddle oh!

    Is fate the right word for that? Or perhaps fate is just for little people? (smiley winky thing!)

  5. Hello NB

    To be honest I am only familiar with Nietzsche on a superficial level and there is no doubt there are aspects to his philosophy I do not agree with. His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has resulted in alot of debate over the years which consequently led to a vast array of interpretations but then I do believe this occurs with most historical spiritual and philosophical texts. I find it quite ironic that fascists have adopted his philosophy because in many respects I believe he abhorred fascist type ideologies ? He was anti-state / anti-nationalist and anti - anti-semetic - in 1886 Nietzsche broke with his editor, Ernst Schmeitzner, disgusted by his anti-Semitic opinions. Nietzsche saw his own writings as "completely buried and unexhumeable in this anti-Semitic dump" of Schmeitzner — associating the editor with a movement that should be "utterly rejected with cold contempt by every sensible mind"

    No-one avoids their fate not even Larry Silverstein ( smiley winky thing ! )

  6. Odd things happened to many people involved in the WT Center that day that helped some of them not be part of the convenient situation for LS. I noticed this also happened in a few haz mat incidents I was part of mitigating. More than coincidence I would say.

    As far as what the dead have to say, maybe LS will get a nice dose of that sometime. As far as fascists go I am sure they have enough new reading material these days to not even bother with Nietzsche.