The Meaning of Nietzsche’s Amor Fati and Eternal Return

Amor Fati is a core concept of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy, which he coined in 1886. For many years it was thought to mean “love your fate.” However, more recently scholars have said this phrase might actually be about reincarnation and the eternal return.

The “nietzsche’s concept of amor fati and eternal recurrence illustrate his view that” is a term used by Friedrich Nietzsche. It is the idea that life has no meaning, but it does have a purpose, which is to live in order to die.

Kyle Eschenroeder contributed this post as a guest contributor. 

We’ve arrived at the time of year when many of us set goals to improve our lives in the months ahead.

The majority of these goals are related to very specific, practical aspects of life, such as reducing weight, exercising more, spending less time, and being more organized. All of the resolutions are worthwhile.

However, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once made a different type of resolve for himself, one that was both epically broad and yet had the ability to tangibly affect every aspect of his life:

“For the New Year…everyone takes the liberty of expressing his desire and favorite idea: well, I also plan to convey what I’ve hoped for myself today, and what thought first entered my mind this year,—a notion that ought to be the foundation, pledge, and sweetening of all my future life!” I want to see the essential characteristics in things as beautiful more and more:—I want to be one of those who beautifies things. Amor fati: Let it be my love from now on! I’m not interested in fighting the nasty. I don’t want to accuse, and I especially don’t want to accuse the accusers. Let that be my single denial, if you’ll excuse me! To summarize, I aim to be simply a believer in the future!”

Nietzsche made the decision to amor fati, or adore his destiny. He wanted to accept life.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy was founded on the principle of amor fati, which was not only a one-time new year’s resolve for him.

“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: the desire to have nothing different, not in the present, not in the past, not in the future, not in eternity.” Not only to tolerate the unavoidable, much less to hide it… but to enjoy it.”

While Nietzsche’s commitment to amor fati was vast and far-reaching, he did have one very particular weapon to aid him in his quest: the concept of everlasting return.

If saying yes to life is one of your New Year’s resolutions, this tool — this dramatically perspective-altering prism — will be beneficial to you as well.

Return to Eternity

“What if a demon followed you into your deepest loneliness one day or night and said to you, ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live it once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy, every thought and sigh, and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between you and The everlasting hourglass of life, and you, speck of dust, are spun upside down over and again!” –The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche

How would you live if you could live this life, just as it is now, for the rest of your life?

 

Nothing alters the situation. You wouldn’t be able to make alternative choices or adopt other mindsets. You would be completely unaware that you are reliving your life.

This is my life. It is how it is. Time and time again.

This is the concept of repetition or perpetual return.

It flips the concept of memento mori — reflecting on one’s death — on its head and offers a road to amor fati — enjoying one’s destiny.

It’s an old notion and a fascinating thought exercise; although Nietzsche and others have worked hard to establish that endless recurrence is actually true, all we need to think about now is: What if?

What if death isn’t the only way out? What if you’re given a life sentence rather than a death sentence? To this existence, specifically. You’re the only one you’ve ever met.

The more you think about it, the more powerful it gets.

We’d start to take greater responsibility for our lives and regard every action more seriously if everlasting return were real, since we’d be stuck with the repercussions for all eternity. “The question in every and everything, ‘Do you wish this once again and countless times more?’ would rest upon your acts as the heaviest weight,” Nietzsche remarks, if the notion of everlasting return were genuine.

The weight that comes with the thought of perpetual return, as Nietzsche points out, is really a double-edged sword:

“Would you not fall on your knees and gnash your teeth, cursing the fiend that said thus?” Or have you ever had a profound experience when you would have said to him, “You are a god, and I have never heard anything more divine?” If you let this concept take control of you, it will either alter you or demolish you.”

On the one hand, the prospect of perpetual reincarnation may be horrifying.

Putting our lives to the test in this way is quite unsettling. Death or Heaven/Hell imply that we move on, leaving all or many of our choices behind; we may be destined for an unending reward or punishment, but either way, there is a transition to something new. In the event of perpetual return, however, we are doomed to repeat all of our decisions – not only in recollection, but in actual life. Whatever errors you’ve committed in the past will keep repeating themselves in an unending, infinite circle. Knowing this, you could feel as though you’ve already spent too much of your life living in a manner that would be too painful to repeat. It’s possible that you’ll feel compelled to “throw yourself down and gnash your teeth.”

The agony that the concept of everlasting return may cause in the past is counterbalanced by the acute inspiration it can provide in the present and future.

You’ll break through if you stick with your prior regret. You’ll discover that every time you spend in regret is a moment you’ll regret for the rest of your life. You’ll finally grasp the wisdom of Nietzsche’s insightful words: “Never surrender to guilt, but immediately remind yourself: remorse would only entail adding a second act of idiocy to the first.”

 

If you’ve spent 70% of your life in a manner you don’t want to repeat, the value of doing something new with the remaining 30% becomes clear. Would you want to spend an eternity wishing you could go back in time and change things?

The task of moulding the remainder of our lives into ones we’d like to live again and again turns your emphasis to the present and future with Eternal Return.

Eternal repetition necessitates that we tackle the enormous, difficult issue of how to live on a regular basis. But not in the scholarly sense. The problem becomes pressing, urgent, and quite practical. We discover that we must depend on ourselves in the present to make the decision, and the weight of everlasting repetition encourages us to be the best we can be at the time.  

We grow less tolerant with little disputes about topics that don’t truly important when the high expense of thought becomes apparent. If everlasting recurrence is real, the proper thing to do and the necessity to act on it become increasingly evident. As I think more about everlasting return, I find myself heartily agreeing with Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic emperor, who remarked, “Waste no more time fighting over what a decent man should be.” “Be one of them.”

Our altered present has a significant impact on our future. We’ll want to choose our goals carefully if we’re going to live this life not once, but an unlimited number of times. At the same time, we’ll be more driven to stick to them, and less prone to lose sight of what matters most when our ego tempts us. Eternal return does not impose a set of principles on us; rather, it keeps us closer to the ones we select.

When you look at life through the lens of everlasting return, each moment becomes an immortal brick in the foundation of your existence, rather than ephemeral, transient nothings. Every instant influences not just the future, but also the present for limitless future selves.

Eternal repetition pushes us closer to amor fati, or true love for our destiny. Wouldn’t you try harder to find a way to enjoy it if you had to do it again and over?

Position, Direction, and Goal

“How well inclined to yourself and to life would you have to become to want nothing more fiercely than this ultimate everlasting affirmation and seal?” –Nietzsche, Friedrich

Our posture and our path are two ways we shape our life. Our choices, goals, objectives, and, ultimately, actions shape our path. Our path determines where we go and what we do. Our posture is defined by our point of view, attitude, and amount of involvement. How we travel our route is determined by our posture. Altering our route is an exterior adjustment, but adjusting our posture is an inside adjustment.

Because there is no change of previous pathways or postures in an everlasting repetition scenario, we may have already set ourselves up for years of pain. This is a terrible situation. Not only will you have to deal with your bad luck in the past, but you’ll also have to deal with your bad attitudes! What effect does this have on you now? Is it making you want to throw your hands in the air and give up, as if nothing can be done? Or does it inspire you to do your utmost to mould the rest of your life into something you’d like to relive again and again?

 

The majority of us would surely chose the latter. Surprisingly, rather changing our course, we often need to change our stance. The adjustments in your route seem to be more obvious: stop spending time with those individuals, start working on an exit strategy for the job you don’t like, put together a health plan, and so on. However, it is hard to avoid all unpleasant events, and for some of us, life may seem to be exclusively made up of them. So the issue becomes: what would I have to do to enjoy my current situation?

We’re talking about depression, financial difficulties, and familial concerns, among other things. How do you come to terms with the situation? It might be that you’re pushing yourself to admire sad beauty. Maybe it’s gaining a better understanding of the individual who is driving us insane. It’s sometimes as simple as being more aware of and involved in our surroundings.

If this seems unattainable, try imagining your everlasting return in more detail. This is a moment that will be repeated indefinitely. Is there really no way to interact with the present in such a manner that it becomes bearable? Take it a step further: how might you connect to this situation in such a way that you’d want to revisit it?

This isn’t the time for phony grins and false silver linings. It’s an invitation to go deeper into the present than we usually do, and to utilize this newfound knowledge to better connect to your life.

When confronted with a recurrence of depression, your initial emotion is likely to be despair. However, if you allow yourself to anticipate returning to this moment again and over again, you may be able to discover some beauty in it. Sure, it’s dark, unpleasant, and maybe weak — but it’s also deep and moving. Perhaps you’ll be able to put it to good use, identifying development chances that don’t exist in your ordinary life. There may be a chance to think differently about something, to produce wonderful work that inspires others, or to check an ego that is causing more damage than good. You’ll dig deeper if you’re going to have to do this for the rest of your life.

At the very least, everlasting repetition gives the present more significance. The additional weight carries with it a greater importance. When you envision yourself experiencing a moment many times over, it takes on a new significance. It’s a type of monument to the everlasting present, not a transient moment of boredom or a priceless moment of memento mori. Something having power, gravitas, and sincerity.

You may suddenly awaken to the task — the battle — you’ve been avoiding where boredom previously existed. Alternatively, maybe your experience is imbued with enough vitality that an overarching, though undefinable, meaning emerges. When we react to the unknown in the proper manner, we don’t need anything to disclose itself.

Practice

“Imagine if after you died, you were born into this life you’re experiencing now, and that you’d repeat it forever,” I said to my trekking companion, Stephanie. This and every other moment would happen again, just as they have and will, and you would react in the same way. How does it make you feel? “How would you go about doing things differently?”

 

“I’d definitely spend less time worrying about employment or deciding whether or not to vacation.”

“I’d definitely spend more time walking off the route and investigating the things we’ve been fascinated about, like the rock formations and flora,” she says after a little pause. I’d probably like to concentrate more on this moment with you, given how valuable time is.”

I encouraged her to continue.

“It’s simple to think about when we’re out on a beautiful stroll, but what about while I’m doing errands or something?”

“It’s a lot more difficult, but what’s the difference?”

“I imagine I’d spend more time smiling at people and less time being hurried.” “Aim to brighten someone’s day a bit.” (Another individual I interviewed said she’d want to move through the shop quicker to spend less time doing things she didn’t want to do.) Each lever may be used: posture and route.)

That was one of the topics discussed during a 5-minute talk. During that time, both of our stances shifted considerably. Our trek became more significant only by emphasizing everlasting repetition. You can go to some intriguing sites in a short amount of time. Unless you’ve just skimmed this page, you’ve undoubtedly already noticed a change in your posture. The very thought of perpetual return is likely to elicit a surge of emotion inside you.

I’ll suggest three aspects of the endless recurrence practice:

1. Repeated Reminders

Eternal return logo.

Download this free phone wallpaper picture to remind yourself of everlasting return throughout the day.

The key is to maintain this concept in your head as often as possible. It’s simple to let this sort of thought to enter your mind when taking a quiet, meditative stroll. But what if you’re in the midst of a tense conversation? Or are you dreading a tedious task? Or, on the phone with a government body, my biggest dread and Achilles’ heel when it comes to maintaining cool (or, God forbid, an airline).

It could be beneficial to have something external trigger the reminder. Similarly, attaching everlasting recurrence to some activities you engage on a daily basis might be beneficial. Morning commutes, waiting for someone to pick up the phone, toilet trips, and other natural interruptions might be used to practice living the attitude of perpetual return.

The more you question yourself, “How would I handle having to relive this event for the rest of my life?” the more regular the thought will become. By the way, it’s a fast question. You may only need to make one adjustment: the new stance you assume when you ask the inquiry.

2. Give it as a present

As we’ve seen, merely talking about these concepts with someone else may be energizing. It seems more genuine and concrete when an idea exists amongst individuals. “Imagine if after you died, you were born into this life you’re experiencing now, and that you’d be able to repeat it indefinitely.” This and every other moment would happen again, just as they have and will, and you would react in the same way. How does it make you feel? “How would you go about doing things differently?”

 

This is a quick method to start a terrific discussion, as well as a means to solidify your beliefs in eternal return.

3. Repetition Levels

Aside from frequent reminders, you may meditate on everlasting return at several scales: this instant, this week, this year, and finally your whole life. Various aspects of your life may emerge when you do so: family, career, religion, creativity, hobbies, dreams, health, exercise, nutrition, and so on. Consider the modifications you’d make in each of these areas if you could live them all over again. Consider the posture you’d adopt as you make these adjustments. Consider how you’d approach the distance between where you are and where you want to go.

Different areas of life and time periods will be more accessible than others. For the time being, stick with them. Perhaps a new time range or element will emerge spontaneously tomorrow.

You can accomplish this in under a minute by zooming in and out of various timeframes and seeing which aspects of life appear. Experimenting with the amount of time spent reflecting is also fun. This kind of lengthy meditation on everlasting return is well worth five, 10, or even thirty minutes.

Alternatively, you might make it a journaling activity. Every morning, I attempt to perform some stream-of-consciousness writing, and every now and then, I’ll write about different degrees of probable recurrence. This requires a little more commitment (you can’t do it while walking), and the mind is a little more limited (due to the pace with which you write and your ability to put thoughts into words), but it can be really effective.

It’s wise to start modest with any activity like this. Start right now for a minute, then come back to it tomorrow or later today for another five minutes. Slowly building may help us maintain consistency, which is critical in this situation.

Some portions of your body may feel unpleasant while you do these exercises. Go deeper into them. I have yet to come across an area where there isn’t room for improvement. There’s nothing to do sometimes, at least not right now. Instead, I discover fresh options in my approach to certain circumstances. The mythologist Joseph Campbell writes about the kinds of discoveries we could make as a result of these mental shifts:

“And where we thought we’d discover an abomination, we’ll find a deity; where we thought we’d slaughter another, we’ll slay ourselves; where we thought we’d journey outside, we’ll arrive to the heart of our own existence; and where we thought we’d be alone, we’ll be with all the world.”

Campbell wasn’t specifically discussing everlasting recurrence, but he might have been. Looking at our own life through the prism of everlasting return, the changes he recounts ring true. Waiting in line provides a time to appreciate beauty in the mundane, to show generosity, to work through an issue, or to make preparations to avoid such waits in the future. We have the ability to transform what was once a curse into a gift. We have the ability to provide light where there was previously just darkness. We may discover a new way by straightening our spine. Alternatively, we may realize that the obnoxious view we formerly had had nothing to do with the route we were on, but rather with our insistence on staring at our feet while we traveled it.

 

The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution: Eternal Return

If we are to embrace our destiny — that is, our lives — rather than just accept them, we must accept the concept of everlasting return. Do you have any parts or situations in your life that you would alter if you knew you’d have to repeat them indefinitely? If that’s the case, why do you think you’re still doing it? If we were offered the option of being reborn into the same life, we must be ready to enthusiastically respond, “Yes!”

Yes to both the happy and the sad. Yes, to both the beautiful and the abysmal. Yes, to both the highs and lows.

Yes, not just to our brightest, happiest, and most treasured moments, but also to failure met with fortitude, betrayal met with forgiveness, and challenge met with eagerness.

Here’s to amor fati, or enjoying our destiny, whatever it may bring.

Here’s to being a full-fledged yea-sayer!

What affirmation or resolve could be more vital or thrilling? If last year was a year you’d rather forget, how will you make this one one you’ll remember for the rest of your life?

Listen to Nietzsche’s life and work on our podcast: 

 

Listen to Nietzsche’s life and work on our podcast:

Kyle Eschenroeder is an entrepreneur and a writer. He collaborated on The Pocket Guide to Action: 116 Meditations on the Art of Doing with Art of Manliness. He sends out a letter once a week with five key ideas; if you’d like to be included, go here. 

 

 

The “amor fati symbol” is a concept that was first introduced by Friedrich Nietzsche. It is the idea that one should embrace their fate and realize that it is what makes them who they are.

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