In his book The Laws of Human Nature
, author Robert Greene writes that although life inevitably involves pain and suffering, we have a choice in how we respond.
One response is avoidance. For example, we can try to muffle the effect of painful moments by distracting ourselves with drugs or engaging in addictive behavior. Or, Greene writes, we might restrict what we do: “if we don’t try too hard in our work, if we lower our ambitions, we won’t expose ourselves to failure and ridicule.”
Another, more productive response to pain and suffering is what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called “love of fate.”
In this view, we accept that there are many aspects of life we can’t control. We will experience illness and physical pain. We will go through separations with people. We will take risks and fail.
But when we love fate, we accept these moments and even embrace them – not for the pain, but for the opportunities to learn and strengthen ourselves. As Greene puts it: “In doing so, we affirm life itself, accepting all of its possibilities.”
In practice, this means we see events as fateful – everything happens for a reason, and our goal is to glean the lesson.
For example, when we get sick we see it as an opportunity to slow down, to reassess what we are doing, and to appreciate the more frequent periods of good health. Or when relationships fail, we try to understand why the dynamic was wrong, and what we want from the next relationship.
Greene acknowledges that simply adopting love of fate won’t instantly turn negative experiences into positive ones. Converting painful blows into useful lessons takes time and practice.
But love of fate can lighten our burdens and alter everything we experience.
“Why complain over this or that, when in fact we see such events as occurring for a reason and ultimately enlightening us? Why feel envy for what others have, when we possess something far greater – the ultimate approach to the harsh realities of life?”