Amor Fati

YOLO (“You Only Live Once”) is such bullshit. Unless you pull an Austin Powers and arrange to be thawed in a few decades, yes, you do only live once. YOLO is based on the premise that one should do whatever one desires because, hey, you only live once.

Partially agreed, because I too think that at the end of one’s life, one’s greatest regrets are the things one did not do, not the things one did do (I read that somewhere). But YOLO is a coin, and on the other side, it is premised on mayhem – LET LOOSE. The premise of “no regrets,” on steroids, unleashes one’s innermost desires and pleasures, often in uncontrollable, irresponsible manners. “YOLO” so “Just Do It.”

In disguise, YOLO appears to be inwardly soothing. I have a desire for something, for some act. I only live once. I carry out that desire, that act. I achieve what I want. I have no regrets. Therefore, I am pleased. I am happy. Right? RIGHT? YOLO! In fact, the fruition of desire rarely brings lasting satisfaction. Instead, it fuels more desire, a thirst only quenchable by increasingly daring thoughts and actions. You are not “living in the moment.” Actually, you are living “for” a moment, and when that moment lapses, so does your satisfaction. And repeat.

Every moment counts. The second that just passed by while you read that last three-word sentence will never return, lost in eternity. So valuing the moment and following your passion is critical in living a satisfying, happy life. However, contentment need not always be accompanied by accomplishing things. Not everyone is a twenty-something George Washington University grad with no debt and cash to spare, thanks to daddy’s checks. Yes, there are desires, there are passions, there are dreams – but for some (perhaps most), circumstances do not allow them to come into fruition. Shouting YOLO, dropping everything, and darting to achieve that desirable act may not be an option.

A better slogan is “Amor Fati,” a Latin phrase meaning “love of one’s fate.” This is about total inner contentment, focused on “being,” rather than “doing.” At first, such proposition sounds feeble and helpless, bound to a predestined life. As my middle school clarinet tutor would say, “Life is a whore, whatever you do, you’ll always get screwed.” Traumatic at the time. But this is not what amor fati is about. Amor fati is about self-respect.

True content is only attainable when you practice the deep art of loving yourself. To do this, one must recognize and accept the current condition one is in, or one’s “fate.” However, I do not use the word “fate” here in an eternal sense. Rather, I like to think of it more as a short-term experiment, bound to change one way or another by miscellaneous factors beyond one’s control, in directions one cannot foresee. Love your fate also means love your situation. Regardless of where you are, regardless of your circumstances, regardless of what you have, regardless of what you don’t have – love yourself. Thrive in your cubic meter.

Stifling? Maybe. But not when you think about amor fati with its sister Latin phrase, “memento mori.” It means remember death. We all die, some sooner, some later. Death escapes no one, and therefore, every moment should be preciously lived out as if it is our last. The best way to do this is to prescribe value to the “now,” in its purest form, no bullshit, as is. The standard for contentment lies within. It is absolutely subjective, bound by no comparison, chained to no material or immaterial possessions. While YOLO is forward-looking (Just Do It), amor fati stops now, at this instance. And I am content.

The root of unhappiness is “but I don’t.” But I don’t have have money, but I don’t have time, but I don’t have the looks, but I don’t have the skills – but he does. This poisonous act of comparison, placing the standard of contentment outside of who we are, is like an inoperable cancer in society, claiming more lives than we bother to consider. (Read my piece on the suicide epidemic in Korea, here.) Millionaires cannot buy contentment. But that Zorba in Kazantzakis’ famous novel, dancing gleefully under the moonlight with santuri in hand – perhaps he holds the key to happiness.

We demand respect from others, but fail to respect ourselves. Happiness begins with self-respect. Happiness is achieved through loving me in the now.

Memento mori, so amor fati.

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