To every man his own good cheer…. Take me and cast me where you will. There I shall still have my deity within, serene, content so long as it can act after the ordering of its own constitution. Meditations, Book VIII
Marcus Aurelius was the last of the great Stoic philosophers who believed that all that befalls is good, no matter what. Amor fati, or love of one’s fate, similar to Karma, was an acceptance of one’s lot, and ultimately a trust and belief that the universe knows best what is one’s highest interest. Lucius Seneca, in particular, had proposed that it is not enough to bear one’s fate without complaint, rather, it was necessary to live with inner joy and good cheer regardless of one’s circumstances!
The Stoics saw it as a testament to their inner strength that they could remain immune to everyday happenings and be above the drama of life. Centered in their own inner self, they refused to be swayed by the moods of others or the bends and curves in the chain of events. This inner calm was a result of their pan-theistic belief that their inner essence was immortal and would transmute and join with the greater universal forces after their death. Similar to a drop of water joining an ocean of consciousness, they were sure of the place they occupied in the chain of life.
Amor fati, was the calm acceptance of what comes from without. It was refusing to fight with life. It was total surrender to the divine will. It was refusing to fall apart when the going gets tough. Amor fati was a respect for grit and surviving the trenches of life with grace and calm, rather than screaming and shaking our fists at the sky. I have often found that events that initially seemed very unwanted, opened doors to better places. The death of the present (with all of its dying pangs) is necessary in order to usher in better circumstances and to give birth to a new you.
Thinking of amor fati, and the concept of maintaining good cheer under all circumstances, I am always reminded of the movie Life is Beautiful ( La Vita e Bella). What a title for a movie based on the Nazi concentration camps! An Italian Jewish father is pretending to his little son that the deportation is all part of a big game they are playing! He saves his son until the war is almost over. But at the end our protagonist is caught. Still continuing the game, he cracks jokes and winks at his son, as he himself is being led away to be executed. Such vastness of spirit was larger than life, and it was the Stoic ideal: Above pain or pleasure, God-like.