Way of Life : Nietzsche; Eternal Recurrence and Stoicism

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Attributed to late 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, the quote is extracted from the idea put down by Nietzsche on 55th chapter of one of the greatest work of philosophy and literature, Thus Spoke Zarathustra which delineated his belief that “the object of mankind should lie in its highest individuals. His convictions are thought-provoking along with his style being of considerable importance.” Often misjudged as a nihilist he in-fact rejected all conventional morality and called for a “re-evaluation of all values”. Recognizing the threat from nihilism, his philosophy tends to pave the way to escape no objectivity of life that is presumably meaningless. We have an innate will to strive and overcome who we are. We want to affirm life not hide away from it. So How do we do that? Should a specific way of life be considered while we may exist or Should we just invest ourselves otherwise deviated from the meaninglessness of human existence? Is there a perfect way of life or action to be precisely obtained? well, it doesn’t matter. The Latin Phrase “Amor Fati: love of fate” used by Nietzsche meant the attitude towards the life we live, by embracing all events of life including loss and sufferings consequently comes to us as essential for our strength and nourishment.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Eternal recurrence is another thoughtful idea by the German genius. Nietzsche’s “The Gay Science” proposes a thought experiment:

    # A demon crept up to you one night, when you’re all alone, feeling lonely.
    # The demon said that the life you’ve lived, and continue to live, will be the same life you’ll live again and again, for infinity.
    # This life will be exactly the same: no additions, no omissions, every pain, joy, small and great event.
    # If this were the case, would you cry out in despair over such a prospect?
    # Or, would you think it’s the most wonderful outlook ever?
    # If indeed you experienced despair, then, it logically follows that you’re not happy with the way you live your life.

He prompts to ask us how we see ourselves and the way of life we want to choose for the rest of our lives, are things we have been doing in our lives worthy of being done over and over again? In short, the essence of this experiment is to teach us the gravity of ‘now’. Identical alarming message from Jack Kornfield’s Buddha’s Little Instruction Book (1994), is a lovely interpretation of Buddhist teachings that states: The trouble is, you think you have time.

Civilization seems to have escalated so quickly that we are often late to rise above the circumstances and embrace anything life throws us at. Man has the habit of evading the reality in order to find comfort, he isn’t interested in mending anything unless he poses some sort of threat against the idea neglected. We claim to have chosen our way of life under the society that limits our prospects, ironic that even choosing our chain occurs to quench our 1/4th of thirst of notion about the freedom we know. The discourse of purpose of life and heated debate on its meaning on the face of eternity has caught the attention of great thinkers of all times. Is it the length or depth of life that matters? We can never have a total grip of how long we live but surely we are in charge of its sagacity. Why should it matter how we live if we have to die anyway?

There are two sides of the equation but we always happen to turn a blind eye into something that actually matters. First equation: We are all going to die, Second: We are all going to live as well. So why not give a little importance to improve the second equation. We were helpless to be able to control our birth, to a large extent we can barely do something about our death but We have this pick when it comes to the way we live. One should only focus on things he can get hold of, suffering is inevitable but we are free to pick our poison and what to suffer for. The philosophy of stoicism gives us detailed insight on living in agreement with nature that can help us tackle anxiety, fury and loss of perspective and realize that very little is needed to make a happy life. Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Zeno of Citium and Epictetus are the most prominent figures associated with stoicism founded in early 3rd century BC. It flourished for 480 years in Ancient Greece and Rome. Zeno of Citium Studied with a disciple of Diogenes of Sinope, the cynic, and shared his non-sense approach to life he had little patience with metaphysical speculation and came to believe that the cosmos was governed by natural laws that were ordained by the supreme lawgiver. Man, this is completely powerless to change the reality, the man accepts and enjoys the benefits of life but disregards and tries to flee from the injustice and cruelty that life can throw at him.

Picture by Sophie Patry

Picture by Sophie Patry

The eternal recurrence from Nietzsche’s philosophical ideas of eternal recurrence is not cosmological, but therapeutic — for individuals and for all of mankind. With correct tools, Nietzsche believed we could all free ourselves of suffering too much, not only through pain but also regret, guilt and shame. Coming to the stoic principles the key isn’t to focus on the idea that life is going to turn out bad, but that when bad things happen you would already have seen it coming and be ready to fight it again and get through it because the inner freedom, ethics, virtue and intelligence that you bear won’t stumble since you already procrastinated it. Stoic philosophy is a great companion when we panic, want to give up, despair rather than facing the hardships and rage against the existential dread we face. Stoics believed getting angry isn’t something natural or having any inherent temper but it is the consequence of having misunderstood the ideas of the way of life. Hope when misplaced can cause us harsh reality. Acceptance is the best way to deal with our life, not only one should expect the beauty of life but should be ready for betrayal, sadism, lust, greed, humiliation, spite, infamy and many more. A person who understands and accepts the possible misery of existence will stop being angry. Deriving from Stoicism, is it not better to be able to get the disappointment gently before life throws it to us fiercely?

Seneca, one of the most influential stoic made a very remarkable comment just when he was grabbed by Nero’s guard and was shortly shoved into a bathroom where he was supposed to kill himself with a sharp knife, his wife and two children were agitated and weeping. He turned to them with a weary smile and said:
What Need is There to Weep Over Parts of Life?
The Whole of it Calls for Tears..

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