Amor fati

This is a response to a comment of Joseph Walsh (here).

Try to tell a child who was burned alive by her parents in Carthage that the whole universe is not a mistake. Obviously from her point of view it is a mistake. Only theists try to solve the problem of Evil by claiming that the ways of god are mysterious. But for non-theists like us it should be obvious that the universe is imperfect. Even Spahn Ranch has said that the phrase ‘In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth’ has been recognised by some as a mistake.

But metaphysical dissertations lead to nothing.

I am not just arguing that Nietzsche became insane, partly, because of his philosophy of amor fati. It is a human defence mechanism to idealise reality when reality hits you hard. I’ll try to explain it with a couple of examples.

When Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was totally unprotected and left alone in a personal tragedy, she ‘jumped into madness’ so to speak: she asserted to herself that god protected and cared for her: a compensatory fantasy for her desolate situation. Decades ago an acquaintance of mine, a great reader of Nietzsche, went to work in London and only found work as a street sweeper. The poor devil, being close to the psychological breakdown, embraced a huge pile of garbage telling himself ‘What does not destroy me makes me stronger!’ His brother literally became a schizophrenic (both had a schizogenic mother).

Nietzsche wanted to protect himself from the tragedy of his loneliness through an utterly unhealthy way: denying that tragedy existed. That led to insanity because it’s what I call an ‘idiotic defence mechanism’ (cf. the three chapters on the idiotic defence mechanisms of my father in my second book). In the course of a tragedy, this is a very crazy way of trying to give cohesion to the inner self: washing one’s own brain with claims that tragedies simply do not exist, that the world is perfect. If the personal tragedy is acute, it is a form of what psychologists call ‘negation’ of reality, like those cancer patients who deny that they’re sick (again, cf. my second book). In the words of Zweig:

Nietzsche never tried to evade the demands of the monster whose grip he felt. The harder the blows, the more resonantly did the unflawed metal of his will respond. And upon this anvil, brought to red heat by passion, the hammer descended with increased vigour, forging the slogan which was ultimately to steel his mind to every attack. ‘The greatness of man; amor fati; never desiring to change what has happened in the past; what will happen in the future and throughout eternity; not merely to bear the inevitable, still less to mask it, but to love it’.

But as life continued to hit the poor philosopher, and hit him hard, his defence mechanism (that is to say, the artificial security operation for his inner self) led him to a downward spiral that ended in the psychotic breakdown from which he never recovered, from January 1889 to 1900 when he died. His mom had to take care of him at home.

Playing mind games with artificial defence mechanisms is dangerous business, whether the player is a pious Christian (Thérèse) or an anti-Christian (Nietzsche). Loving fate is a desperate, existential cry of someone who’s suffering, and suffering a lot: a hug to the trash heap like that friend whose bro became schizo; an insane biography like that of many saints that only Catholics idealise.