Amor Fati and Will to Power in a Man's Toolbox
Since this is a blog I don’t want to get too caught up in academic style writing, even when talking about philosophy. There are great ideas in philosophy that need to be expressed in a way that is possibly more casual and relates to men, even if it’s difficult to distill ideas down to comprehensible blog conversation.
That being said, I’ve had this essay idea for a while. “Amor fati” and “the will to power” are two genius conceptions of Fredrick Nietzsche that I look at more as “tools” then absolute philosophical truths. Nietzsche actually had a strange relationship with the truth and our apprehension of it (or lack of it).
A little about Nietzsche, he was not a fan of the meek or powerless. This is demonstrated when he talks about “master morality vs slave morality”. Master morality was the morality of the powerful: the kings and knights who said that strength and virtue was noble, while what was bad was those who were weak and cowardly. Slave morality, in resentment of its masters, flipped this on its head and made being meek and quiet valuable, while things like greed and lust for power were ultimate evils. While the masters had a better live now, the slaves would be rewarded in the afterlife. Although Nietzsche didn’t like either of these, he thought slave morality was far worse because the slaves were only justifying being weak and delaying their lives to a time that may never come. It kept them powerless which they then justified more. After his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche talked about the “Ubermench” and creating our own moral values after the death of God when he believed human beings could evolve to create their own values. I believe he looked to ideas like amor fati and the will to power to, loosely, help us start doing this.
Amor fati translated from Latin means something like “loving fate”, Nietzsche used it as a way to express the old stoic idea of excepting fate, and not fighting it or trying to change things we can’t. Nietzsche says in Ecce Homo, “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.” This is powerful idea to a man because, as Rollo Tomassi says, our nature is idealistic. This is one of the reasons we are such a driving force in changing the world. But this can come at the expense of great pain trying to change the world to what we wish it could be rather than what it is. We reject our death, we resent our mistakes, we feel weary and fearful of our future, we face hardships and illness, and we end up hating our fate. This is a mistake. The world needs to be fully excepted in its fullness, the good and the bad as a complete entity, and you cannot take out the good from the hardship. The world is how it is, and it can never be another way, which is a settling idea. It means we can live our lives knowing that whatever is going to happen will happen independent of us, so we can relax a little bit. We don’t just except this truth according to Nietzsche, but we love it. We learn to love our fate and everyday becomes less burdensome and more magical. In many ways it is the “truth” of being. This idea is so prominent in stoicism because it helps us live our best, and most realistic lives possible.
Unfortunately, one can see how this idea could make one a little docile or disheartened as well. If our fate is fixed, what is the point of trying? What is the point of penetrating our masculine energy into the world? This is where stoicism becomes a little confusing. They are “soft determinists” so they believe in a deterministic world with room for free-will (my view as well). This seems a little contradictory, but the stoics weren’t really worried because they believed a true philosophy was one on how to live, rather than other philosophy which they believed could fall into merely “playing with words.” But they still didn’t really solve this problem with determinism. This is where Nietzsche offered the opposing side to amor fati, the will to power. He believed the world was a power struggle (something the post modernists possibly took too far) and everything survived with a will to power. He says about the will to power, “This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!” Everything in the world was coming into power and you better clue in or get left behind. This is what we harness to make things happen in the world. It is the source of our masculine energy. It gives us the power to drive through life accomplishing things and get out of bed. It flows through our world and is contained with everything.
This is where we can use these ideas as tools. If we are struggling with the heavy load we bare (that can come with self-improvement), or we are deeply frustrated with our progress, dealing with anxiety, the death of a loved one, illness, etc. then we use amor fati. We accept the world how it is. If we are having trouble motivating, dealing with problems that need masculine drive and fortitude, are pursuing a goal, these are all appropriate times to harness the will to power. When we look at these concepts as they apply to us we can see that, although they have seemingly contradictory messages (not really), we can move towards living our best lives, like the stoics wanted, with both drive and acceptance.