James Hollis, in the winter 2016 edition of Parabola, challenges us to love our fate, amor fati. It seems to me that amor fati might have something to say about our deepest, most profound, and troubling fears. This may be easier if the verb were changed to face our fate, accept our fate, embrace our fate. Loving our destiny is probably a lifelong challenge. “Why me?” we often ask. “What did I do to deserve this?”
This is difficult. Are Syrian refugees able to love their fate, or even accept it? If they could, would it reduce the fear that seems reasonable in such a situation? Hollis explains love of fate by describing it as living the life we have been called to live.
He calls amor fati “a heroic submission to the gods— ‘not my will but Thine,’” which is how Jesus faced his great fear, his call to the cross. Hollis quotes Nikos Kazantzakis: “The triumph of Jesus is not over death, as his followers believe, but his capacity to accept his fate…” I don’t know that that ‘love of’ equates to ‘submission to’. Maybe it does, if submission comes from a heart of love and trust. “Perfect love casts out fear.”
Might, then, amor fati ameliorate the fears that haunt us and daunt us? Our fate is often wrapped up in the very things that we fear. We must confront these fears to embrace our calling. We are phobic of public speaking, and our destiny is to become an attorney. We are terrified of flying and find ourselves in a career that requires extensive travel. Fear of failure torments us. Can the understanding that this is our calling help us to do the hard work of overcoming our fear so that we may fulfill what is ours to do? If we can move from resistance, rejection, even hate, anger, and bitterness of the life we have been given to live, might we be better able to find relief from fears?
Hollis describes Camus’ insight into the Sisyphus myth, who suggests that Sisyphus chooses to push that stone back up the hill each and every time it rolls back down because, rather than fighting his fate, he accepts it. He achieves amor fati. “Sisyphus is truly free through his willing submission.” If willing submission to our fate sets us free, that must include freedom from fear. He no longer need fear the stone rolling down and crushing him or the nonstop torture of pushing the stone.
This sounds simple. That does not make it easy. To love, even simply to accept, one’s fate takes commitment—to truth, to love, to growth and individuation. It is a lifelong task. It is the task of fulfilling one’s destiny.
If we can approach amor fati, it may enable us to see the bigger picture of our lives from a new perspective, to trust that the gods who direct our destiny have our best interest in mind. We cooperate with the gods, or we wrestle against the gods. The Bible reminds us often to “fear not”. Cooperating with the gods includes accepting their instruction to “fear not”.