Amor fati

When I was young I did not understand the reconciliation of opposites. A decade after a beloved mentor gave me Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha as an answer to furious Youth, I find the full meaning of his gesture resonant in my middle life.

Siddhartha ends with the gift of a vision given to a monk called Govinda by an old man, his old friend, who had sought his own separate enlightenment–a vision of the endless arc of birth and death and becoming in between, life captured in the metaphors of cycle and flow, river and ring. It is a gift of realization, given in love and friendship, and perhaps the only thing one human being may impart to another.

I do not know what Buddhism, or other philosophies of the East or even others older than Nietzsche’s inspirations, have to say about the great ‘Yea’ and ‘Nay’ which guard the doors to all passages of life, but I do think that in that final vision in his novel Hesse reconciled the ancient truths of the places I come from with the solitary realizations Nietzche is revered for. I mean amor fati.

It is relevant to me now, so far from my youth, having taken one road and then another, again divided and impassioned and unable to set things right. I reach backwards as I struggle to purge my life of the cancer of the past, of ceaseless conflicts and useless griefs–the baggage of the spiritual migrant. I reach without and within and cannot yoke them together. And I know this will come again on an acre of grass when I am old.

This is, I know, the problem of what to do in the scheme of things with excess, with waste, the unnecessary, the disproportionate, the incommensurate, and tragedy. It is after all a problem of Justice–the difficulty of accepting what is as good, right, necessary, i.e. somehow just, sufficient. The difficulty of seeing what is in the first place, of seeing whole. When only completion and balance can console and redeem.

Nietzsche’s equivocal unequivocality is a translation of Hesse’s unambiguous closure.

For some of us knowledge, not love, is the path to freedom. I am not Govinda. I do not love necessity or freedom sufficiently to make them my arms; and therefore Siddhartha still rings true.

The seasons of human life must be left to obey their own pace. It does not matter if I can see the end and beyond, I must still allow time for the becoming, and in the process become, be, part of it again and hence redeemed. Does anything transcend time?

The little that I have gathered over the years reassures me. It is a little, perishable hoard, ‘another’s wealth.’ There is nothing beyond (Oh, you Fathers, it is not your ‘nihil ultra’!). Not beyond this world, and this world is recurrent Becoming. It is illusion if we take it as truth. Those who know themselves know that there are no contradictions. There is nothing that ‘should’ rather be, nothing is deficient. There is no goal that ‘should’ be attained. The river is a road, perpetually transitory, and there is no final, apportioned ‘fate’ at the end of it. There is no god outside it; god, in fact, is the loss of illusion. All the great religions say so. Everything is interconnected to everything else, and this connection determines the common fate. To accept all this is manumission, by necessity, of self and world.

If I wish to transcend my loss of worth/world, I must accept what is with joy. Ananda, the red music of the universe. I may only accept, there is naught else.

And if I accept…this…today I also accept that this inexorability of personally significant events is an illusion. I do not make my meaning, I only find it.

Some years after the Siddhartha incident, when we parted, he asked me if he should inscribe on his gift–another book–the words from Ralph to Isabel in Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady. I said no, I would find them myself. I found them all.


Light and space follow night and singularity without fail. The seasons affirm death and rebirth. It is I who fail to assent: amor fati.

There can be no forgiveness without acceptance. And after such knowledge as I have.