On writing "Amor Fati" from issue 298.2

Amy Glynn

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”  - Friedrich Nietzsche

Things come back. Sometimes you want them to, sometimes you wish they wouldn’t, but things come back.

I have a terrible habit of playing with Big Concepts (Duende, Negative Capability, Schroedinger’s Box: I am talking to you!) without even the decency of hip ironic distance. This poem is definitely an indulgence of that impulse. Nietzche’s famous quotation from The Gay Science seems to combine the virtuous virtuosity of Marcus Aurelius (to whom the concept is linked) with the matter of fact resoluteness and tranquil solidity of Buddhist and Vedic literature and the ecstatic individuation of the Romantics. Love your fate. Be a Yes-Sayer! Yes to that! I want that. Who doesn’t? I’ve said it one million times: the Department of You Never Know What’s Coming At You Next does not take one single shift off, not one cigarette break. It. Never. Stops. What possible chance does anyone have of peace or happiness or – survival – if we wear ourselves out flailing our fists at the seven zillion things a day that we cannot control? Go for the big-thinking world, the expansive world, the opportunity in constraint world. Because, baby, that’s the world. I think Bjork said it pretty well: “The less you give me, the more space I’ve got.”

Gamma Ray Burst, Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

But the concept of amor fati has frankly bugged me for a really long time. (Hey, Krishna, could you come drive my Highlander, blue guy? See, I have this weird feeling that I am supposed to think twice about slaughtering the neighboring village, yet it seems to be my fate. Advise?) What about the things (and I have a lingering sneaky suspicion that there are some) that you are just plain not supposed to lie down for? “Accept” – is it the same as surrender? Is surrender the same as giving up? And in saying yes to saying yes, are we saying no to saying no? And is that not some sort of failure to say yes or does anti-matter get created or what?

I don’t write straight-laced, full-compliance Shakespearean sonnets all that often, but this one pretty much wrote itself as I was contemplating a Major Cosmic Bummer situation wherein something came back at a time when saying yes to it wasn’t okay. Somehow it seemed best to box this irremediably huge concept, this notion of grace’s attainment being in actually loving every crappy thing that happens to you, in a real tight container. The life you were supposed to have shows up at a time when saying yes to it will mean saying no to a lot of stuff you already said yes to, and – hi; anti-matter. Looking away shall be your only negation but guess what – you can’t look away. You can’t see anything else. Now what?

Love your fate? Some days it’s asking a lot to even tolerate it. Maybe you don’t even believe in fate, but pallie, it believes in you, and I can say that with certainty. Not even really “fate” in the sense of preordination so much as in the sense of rolling with it, whatever it is, and “it” might be totally random – the problem is always that you might be mistaking your dharma for your imagination, your fate for your fantasy, and how the heck do you know?

There is no always, no never – just vanishing horizons of probable and improbable. But things come back. Call it Eternal Return, Kalachackra, Orobouros. Things come back.

Be ready to love them for what they are.

Amy Glynn's collection A Modern Herbal was released by Measure Press in November 2013. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Amy's poem, "Amor Fati," appears in issue 298.2.

Artist Impression by ESO/L. Calçada