‘Amor Fati’

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13th December, 2022

It was a cold winter evening of December 1914. News came of a massive explosion in West Orange, New Jersey. More than half of the legendary inventor Thomas Edison’s manufacturing plant was in flames. Firefighters rushed to the scene, but the fire was too powerful to put out quickly.

According to a 1961 Reader’s Digest article by Edison’s son Charles, Edison calmly walked over to him as he watched the fire destroy his dad’s work. In a childlike voice, Edison told his 24-year-old son, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” When Charles objected, Edison said, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”

Later, at the scene of the blaze, Edison was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” He told the reporter that he was exhausted from remaining at the scene until the chaos was under control, but he stuck to his word and immediately began rebuilding the next morning without firing any of his employees.

Was there any other viable response?

In the new book, “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph,” author Ryan Holiday says there wasn’t.

Sure, Edison could have wept, yelled in anger, or locked himself in his house in a state of depression. But instead, he put on a smile and told his son to enjoy the spectacle.

“To do great things, we need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks, We’ve got to love what we do and all that it entails, good and bad. We have to learn to find joy in every single thing that happens.”

After thoroughly surveying the damage, Edison determined that he’d lost $919,788 (about $23 million in today’s dollars).

The flames had consumed years of priceless records and prototypes, and his plant’s insurance covered only about a third of the total damage.

But after just three weeks, with a sizable loan from his friend Henry Ford, Edison got part of the plant up and running again. His employees worked double shifts and set to work producing more than ever. Edison and his team went on to make almost $10 million in revenue the following year.

Edison’s story is a powerful example of the Stoic philosophy of ‘Amor Fati,’ which means ‘love of fate.’

It describes an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including loss and suffering, as good or, at the very least, necessary.

It is associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, who said, “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…but love it.”

Stoics were not emotionless men devoid of feelings, but rather men who practiced total control over their emotions in a way that acknowledged forces beyond their control.

Philosopher and writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb  describes a Stoic as someone who “transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.”

Life is unpredictable. We do not always get what we want. A lot of things can happen that will transform who we are and have an impact on our life.

Given this, we need to cultivate the ability to accept whatever comes and embrace it. Life will bring many challenges, such as job loss, ill-health, or death of someone we love, and it is not easy to accept them when we are suffering and wishing those things would have never happened. But if we start cultivating acceptance in our lives, we will likely cope with future crises in a different way and view them from a different perspective.

Acceptance does not mean that you are resigned to a life of just putting up with things. It is not resignation, or failure, or agreement. It is simply accepting the truth and allowing things to be as they are.

Sometimes you cannot change reality, even if you try. So instead of staring at the closed door in front of you or getting tired and bruised while you try to break it down, turn around and see how many other windows you have open.

 Adopt the philosophy of ‘Amor Fati’ and stay blessed forever.