"My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it – all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary – but love it."
We all think we could have done things differently than we did and likewise that we have a choice for what happens to us in the future. But is that really the case?
We believe this to be true because we think we have a certain understanding of time and causation. We also think that there is a central, fixed person within us (the person we think we are) who makes choices and thus influences the course of events. But again, is that correct?
Suppose I decide to take a sip of my coffee. What exactly happened? And could I not have done it? Let's see what science, especially neuroscience, has to say about this. See for example the detailed article 'Neuroscience of free will' in Wikipedia.
So nowadays they are able to see what happens in the living brain before, during and after a specific action of a test subject, such as making a fist or taking a sip of coffee, using fMRI. It then turns out that up to 7 seconds (!) before the action is actually performed, there is already unconscious activity in the brain, while the thought or feeling of wanting and doing the action arises only later, sometimes even after the act.
In other words, completely unconscious processes have already determined that I am going to take a sip of my coffee, even before I consciously make the decision to drink. So the actual 'decision' comes afterwards and is nothing more than a kind of (unnecessary) 'comment' ... That also means that once the action has happened, there can be no question that it could not have happened. ..
I also find that I have absolutely no idea in advance what I will think or do in a minute or so. Thoughts and actions just happen. The letters appear on the screen. I 'hear' the words I want to type in my head. I don't know how they got there. I have not 'decided' it ... And even if this were so, who decided that a decision must/will be made? That so-called decision also simply appears.
And when you think about it, it is also clear that every event is dependent and caused by a practically infinite number of factors (including genetics, education, culture, the actions of others, the weather, forces of nature, ad infinitum), which play here and now, but that have a history that goes back to the 'Big Bang' and perhaps even further in the past ...
My gulp of coffee now, is inseparably and causally linked to everything that is going on in the entire universe at this moment ...
In fact, no one is personally responsible for his or her behavior. Not me, not you, not anyone. We cannot be different from who we are. At the same time, however, remember that 'understanding something' is also something that happens and thus affects everything, including your own behavior:
"When understanding changes, behaviour changes, without anyone 'doing' anything."
So it could be that when you understand that everything happens when it happens, and that nothing could have happened differently – a relaxation takes place ... that will allow you to embrace whatever is happening, also known as your 'fate' or your 'life': amor fati.
© 2020 Ton Haarmans | Video: Midday Autumn Cloudlapse. By Sam Blight