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Amor Fati – Love Your Fate

Alan Schmierer. Desert Sunset.

This is a very strange time we find ourselves in. Many mythologists are taking on the myths and meaning behind our sudden isolation and how it has driven us into our homes and away from the things of the world. I had just moved from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree and was struggling to adjust to my new environment when the pandemic took hold. I was already feeling isolated out here in the desert, its vast expanses so different from the crowded concrete world of the city. Strangely, the pandemic has made me feel far less isolated and more connected than ever. I am now able to attend events in LA through Zoom. I was elated at first by my new-found ability to reconnect with the life I had, until this week when I came face to face with my fate.  

I was participating in an event called Myth Salon, which I often attended monthly when I lived in Los Angeles. However, they’ve moved online due to our current circumstances, allowing me to attend from the comfort of my new home. This week, one of my myth colleagues was presenting on the mythology of our isolation. He and the panelists were brilliant, weaving story and emotion into the conversation. Yet, even with this brilliance before me, I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into despair. I wondered why this presentation on what I love — mythology — had me feeling so dark. I had discovered myth through Joseph Campbell’s conversation  with Bill Moyers in “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth” so long ago. While watching the PBS series on TV, I experienced that “aha!” moment; I found a spark of the divine that would carry me far, including years of studying Campbell’s works, and finally to a graduate program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. So what was different now? I had lost that spark, that bliss that had carried me so far. 

I turned inside, and I also turned to Campbell’s work to see if I could rediscover my bliss. Can we simply summon up that feeling of awe? I wasn’t feeling it at all. However, synchronously, at this moment my closest friend, who is isolating with family in Montana, happened to be watching the Power of Myth for the first time. She texted the word “nihilism” and that Campbell said we must embrace all of life, the good and the bad. I had just turned to page 88 in Myths of Light, where Campbell mentions “this glorious approach to life,” Nietzsche’s “amor fati.” Quoting Seneca, Campbell says,

“‘He who goes with fate the fates lead; he who resists fate the fates pull’ [...] In coming into this world at this time, you wanted it at this time. It’s a big, great thing you decided to do – don’t lose your nerve. Go through and play the game.” 

Amor fati. Love your fate. This concept has come up several times over the last two weeks: first in a blog I follow, then in a friend’s presentation to a group in India, and now here it was again. It appears as though fate is intervening in my life, reminding me to embrace my own fate, my circumstances. It is a Buddhist concept as well: to be happy even with your struggles, for you are strong and becoming stronger. In Myths of Light, Campbell describes Jiva, and viva, “the living force that keeps putting bodies on,” the being who reincarnates to experience and learn (45). He says, “if you will realize that this (life here and now) is nirvana, you will lose that will to get loose and you will be loose while alive.” 

Nirvana, bliss, awe, rapture, the sublime; Campbell has used all these words to describe the indescribable. Mythology helps us to connect with the mystery behind all of life, “to help us realize that that being which is transcendent of definition is our own being.” (71) For me, the experience of this is that “aha” moment when consciousness dissolves into the mystery. 

Last year at this time, I witnessed the defense of a dissertation by Devon Deimler, entitled "Ultraviolet Concrete: Dionysos and the Ecstatic Play of Aesthetic Experience." I highly recommend it.  It is about this ecstasy, this Dionysian experience of being beyond the conscious world. I FELT this throughout her defense. Talking about it IS my bliss. And while it may seem a frivolous endeavor during unstable times like these, I would encourage you to find that which moves you in that deep, indescribable way and bring it into the world, for it may be the most worthy endeavor of your life. Campbell states, “There is not a power in the world greater than a fulfilled, noble human being.” (19) Give that gift to the world and let that spread like a virus, so that we all may stand in awe of our existence on this planet, no matter what life brings.  


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