‘Amor fati’ and the article that was supposed to be a video


Joseph Gomez

A screenshot of one of the clips in the video, with some filters for dramatic effect. It would have made more sense in context.

Joseph Gomez, Segment Producer

This article was supposed to be a three-minute video posted to ScotCenter, but technical difficulties prevented me from finishing it when I was two-thirds of the way done.

But hey, given the subject of this brief babble, that kinda works out. The following is my rambling script on Stoicism and its philosophical leitmotifs on the things that you can’t control and what you can do about it.

And, yes, I realize given my extreme state of senioritis, what I’m about to say may appear extremely hypocritical. I have no counter to that. The wacky insertions of stock images would’ve distracted from that point, but I digress.

I’ve been reading and researching the Stoic philosophers for about a year and a half now. And, because I probably can’t do a video on furries (the articles haven’t worked out), I thought I would talk about this Hellenistic philosophy instead.

The thing about Stoicism is that it’s sort of a religion in its focus on self-discipline, morality, and religious thinking, but the question of a God is nearly irrelevant. Why?

You can’t control whether or not a god exists, you can only control yourself and how you react to things. Your fate and the fate of others is rarely in your control, but what is fully in your control is how you react to it. That is the main thing I want to emphasize. In this world of perpetual outrage and constant victimhood, you never get a chance to look at yourself, and what you can do as an individual to solve problems.

I’m not talking about your backhanded Tweets going into the ether of cyberspace or your half-charged protests against the man, no, that stuff is easy and barely ever results in anything useful. If you want to bring change, don’t wish for it to come at the mercy of other people, but act in meaningful ways to struggle for others and be the change.

You can’t control what happens to others, but you can control how you help them.

Some want to disband ICE for how they treat undocumented immigrants and refugees, claiming to want the best for incoming migrants. But screaming at people just doing their jobs probably isn’t helping those afflicted, it’s only helping you accumulate quick, effortless virtue.

If you want to help migrants, take initiative and help them. ICE takes donations and welcomes volunteers, but if you’re determined to not associate with them, stand at the border with food and water, like a less-sketchy Mother Teresa. Practice before you preach. Your words mean nothing if there are no actions to back them up.

You can’t control what people say about you, but you can control your level of offense taken, if any is taken at all. Stoicism is the exact opposite side of outrage culture. In fact, there’s a whole nine-point list in Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (Book 11, Mediation 18) that details why you shouldn’t be offended by anything. Here’s a brief summary of each of those points. Take them into consideration or not, I’m not your mom.

You can’t control the things that happen to you, especially when it comes to tragedy.

This school of philosophy has its foundations built on tragedy. Its founder, Zeno, lost everything in a shipwreck. Seneca, the Stoic tutor to Nero, was ordered to commit suicide by his unpleasant student. Epictetus was a slave, crippled by his abusive master. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor whose reign was plagued with persistent warfare, betrayal, and, well, literal plague.

So, what can you do in the face of a tragic fate which you cannot control? Hate it? Dread it? Hide from it? Depend on others to save you from it? Curse the circumstances of your birth and the various plentiful dispositions of yourself and others? Waste away your life as a bitter little weasel, as the eyes of the universe look at you with a gaze of nothing but indifference?

The solution is in a simple Latin phrase, “amor fati,” which translates to “love your fate.” As Friedrich Nietzsche described:   

“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.”

And cut.