What did you want to become when you were a child? What was your answer then? Did you want to become a soccer player, pilot, or astronaut? Or did you wish to become an artist, scientist, or explorer? Children innocently and yet boldly express their dreams based on their naive experiences.
As we age, our answers tend to be more realistic as we know ourselves more in one way or another, realizing that countless jobs support our cultures and societies. Every profession has its value and contribution to our civilizations.
In the pre-modern days, the situation was more straightforward, if not traditional. People didn’t indulge themselves in finding out what job should be theirs. If you were born in a farmer’s family, you were a farmer. If in a carpenter’s family, you were a carpenter. With rigid social strata, people rarely thought of the choice of their jobs and ways of life. They had accepted their predetermined fates. How they were born was how they should live their lives.
Using Nietzsche’s words, consciously or unconsciously, they had accepted the state of amor fati. They had to love their fates as they are without any choice. The choice of the profession should be the modern and postmodern values derived from urban life in the advanced postindustrial and information age. Even the concept of human rights was premature. Many people were far from the ideal situation of:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Therefore, if we tend to be reminiscent of the pre-modern good old days and traditions, we should remind ourselves of the caution: Never forget the cruelties in those days like torturing, slavery, and genocide. Strictly speaking, however, even now, we are never without these cruelties. The magnitude of genocide is far worse from the twenty century onwards. We should never forget this fact.
Nevertheless, there is still room to appreciate the value of this pre-modern attitude without, of course, cruelties. That is to say, they had loved their fates. So what can we learn from this attitude?
In our postmodern, postindustrial, and information societies and cultures, despite the freedom of the occupation among countless choices, we are neurotic in the situation. We suffer from various work and life-related stresses. We are either happy or unhappy with our careers and relationships. Various chronic diseases like headache, abdominal pain, and nausea we suffer from are more and more from our work and life-related mental stresses.
To mitigate the painful situation, we mistakenly seek the remedies in the consumeristic self-indulgence. We are either happy or unhappy with ourselves. With them, we are glad. Without them, we suffer. The more we seek them, the more we need them. It’s like an addiction.
- We believe we are free to choose our lives and jobs.
- We are either happy or unhappy with the things we believe we chose.
- We pay for the remedies to mitigate unhappy stresses to keep us happy.
- We get addicted.
In our postmodern, postindustrial, information age, we thought we had achieved precious human rights. And we believed that we were free from our unreasonable fates. The reality, however, is that we are under so-called mild slavery. Who is our master of this slavery? That is our desire for happiness and fear of unhappiness.
Once we thought we freed ourselves from our fates, another master has come into our lives. That is our obsession with the pursuit of happiness. This value is precious in itself. However, too much of it makes us neurotic. We are too free to balance our lives anymore. So we have to relearn how to love our fates, at least its positive side.
Let’s reflect on the attitude of amor fati. What does it mean to say that we love our fates? In seeking the mission of our lives. we often heard two types of the following advice:
- Do what you love.
- Love what you do.
The former sounds good to us. It’s one of the well-known suggestions in the self-help market. Everyone is unique and special. Each of us has a hidden personal legend. We need to find this treasure to find out the sacred mission in our lives. How do we find it? The best advice is:
- Find and do what you love.
The advice is genuine. But it has a risk for misleading.
What do you mean when you say you do what you love? Can we encourage our children to pursue their dreams even if these are from their fantasy-like naivete? For example, when a child says that he or she wants to be a superhero like one from the entertainment movies, what would be your advice? Or, if one keeps on pursuing one prestigious profession ignoring one’s physical or intellectual competence and potentiality, what would be your advice? Moreover, if we are in this situation, how do we encourage and talk to ourselves?
Yes, anything is possible in this world and universe. God knows it. Because of this, however, we have to be mindful and humble enough to reflect on the implication of “Find and do what we love.”
Otherwise, we can never escape from the mild slavery where we endlessly search for so-called what we love, getting addicted the self-help drugs. In his book Escape From Freedom, Erich Fromm pointed out our inherent inability to find genuine freedom. Becoming free, we tend to be vulnerable to escape from it and seek out something else. From autocracy to cultism to consumerism, often something harmful tends to fill our vulnerable voids to make ourselves superficially, falsely, and yet passionately happy.
Let’s gently step back from our obsession and desperation. Instead, observe mindfully who we are and what we do here and now. The freedom we believe we possess could be illusory. We are already enough as we are and as part of the universe.
Yes, everything is possible. We are all special and unique. That is, however, not the way to seek what we love, but the way to be able to love who we are and what we do. So when and how can we find the legend and its hidden treasure? And where is it?
The truth is nothing hidden. You can be ready for this realization only when you love who you are and what you do. We have never been without the universe. We have been part of it. We are it. Thus, we have been part of Him. We are Him.
Let’s gently step back from our obsession and desperation. Observe mindfully who we are and what we do here and now. “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10) Thus, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1)
We are ready for amor fati.
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