How to live?: amor fati? No way!

Only six men last night — call outs screwed up again; five or six men unable to get out of their dorms to come. How’d the six who made it get out? Not sure, beyond resourcefulness.

This week’s chapter’s subtitle answer: Use little tricks. But the systems Montaigne was drawn to are not little at all: Epicureanism, Stoicism and Skepticism, and not all of them are compatible with each other either.  But what aroused the most passion in our meeting were Stoics’ fondness for “pitiless mental rehearsals of all thing they dreaded most.” and the amor fati embrace of their unfolding lives; repetition or eternal recurrence as their existentialist heirs would also go on to recommend. The most vocal detractors of the group took amor fati to be a kind of morose surrendering to the very things that are beyond our grasp. (The text doesn’t help when it reports Montaigne’s envy of lunatics’ extreme example Epicurean deflection.) But as far as I could tell even the strongest critics came around to the view  — correct, I believe — that the Stoics’ position about the thrown (as Heidegger might say) is quite the opposite, that is, it’s a way to liberate oneself from those circumstances that are beyond our control by owning them, and at the same time use our powers to reframe our responses to those realities.

Everyone was indeed intrigued by the power of reframing, of perspective changing, of being a realist but at the same time investing the agent to be with the capacity to look at the facts differently — or showing agents’ capacity to do so: what they mean, and how we feel about them. We can soar above the empirical world, and envision time circling around on itself, over eons. Or we can bore down on the “purple-edged robe …[to see] the hair of a sheep soaked in shell-fish blood!” (p. 112)

Conclusion by one man: “I’ll be taking his advice about turning down the beam of reason slightly [he quoted]. Sometimes seeing things less sharply lets you see them better.”

 

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