Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows that most are unhappy with themselves and life. There are many who want to improve their appearance, whether it be physical, social or otherwise. Some want more tranquillity in life; others want more health. Some desire more power, prestige, or wealth. Some parents want children home for Christmas. Some children can wait to get out of their parent’s house. The reasons for dissatisfaction in life could go on and on.
Happiness is the Purpose
In the first part of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, he sought to identify, what he called, the “ultimate good.” The ultimate good is that which all human activities and products seeks to achieve—he defines it as eudaimonia (1096a). The word eudaimonia is usually translated from Greek as “happiness.” So, for Aristotle, the ends of all human activity has happiness as its goal.
From a Latter-day Saint perspective, we believe that God has revealed guidelines, or “commandments”, meant to lead us toward godliness. If we prove ourselves obedient enough, we will find joy with Heavenly Father forever; this is sometimes called: the Plan of Happiness (e.g.: Alma 42:8). Is this plan only for us to be happy after we have passed through mortality? I think not…
- Nephi, one of the first prophets to immigrate from Jerusalem to the American continent, wrote that his community “lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27).
- Another American prophet, Samuel, prophesied of the coming of Jesus Christ and called the people to repent. He proclaimed to them: Ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation…Ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head [God] (Helaman 13:38).
- The beloved prophet-king Benjamin taught his people before he died:
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (Mosiah 2:41)
Clearly, from the LDS perspective, the gospel is meant to bring happiness in mortality as well as in eternity. I believe that all peoples can agree that being happy during our life is best. The question is: How can we avoid dissatisfaction with this life?
Amor fati and the Plan of Happiness
The German philosopher, Freidrich Nietzsche, talks about amor fati; in Latin, that means ‘love of fate’ or ‘love of one’s fate.’ Nietzsche says “amor fati [is] that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity” (Ecce Homo, section 10). He writes:
I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes 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. (The Gay Science, section 276)
For me, amor fati means to see everything from an eternal perspective. In Church of Jesus Chruch of Latter-day Saints, sometimes you will hear people talk about seeing things from an eternal perspective. The phrase is meant to remind people that our time in this life is infinitesimally short compared to eternity and that our trials will seem small and insignificant. Additionally, we understand that, as eternal beings (D&C 93:33), there is a possibility to progress eternally—eternal progression.
In conjunction with the LDS concepts of eternal perspective, eternal progression, and the plan of happiness; I think, Nietzsche’s amor fati can be a source of contentment with who you are, your situation, all the events and decisions of your life (even your mistakes) because “all these things shall give thee experience” (D&C 122:7). If we are to believe that everything we learn and experience service us as knowledge (D&C 130:18-19) and make us stronger (Ether 12:27) in the long run, why should we not be happy with the person we are becoming?
Amor fati gives everyone permission to cast aside the guilt that society and cultures have placed on us for not being perfect or having the ideal life. Instead of looking around you or letting culture place burdens on you, look toward God and His grace, and/or forward to who you are meant to be—an excellent human being. Those who practice amor fati will embrace their past as a stepping block to fulfill their potential—”a rope over an abyss” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, section 4). They will take satisfaction in, and love, who they are. They accept the present as necessary and make the best of it. They shamelessly learn from their mistakes. Through introspection, they will see that if they were to take any event out of their life, they would not be who they are. They would not change a thing about their life because they love it. They would do it all again because they are happy with the results.
Amor fati is not easy, but it is essential for us to be happy in this life.