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Reply To: Missteps as a Redemptive Path to Destiny,” with futurist Kristina Dryža”



I love the image of “chaos being done with me” – a state of grace I have yet to obtain. On the other hand, I don’t find chaos as personally disruptive as I once did.

As for regretting past missteps and worse, that’s not so much a factor anymore, either. Of course there are occasional moments of chagrin when I wake in the middle of the night and find myself thinking of the embarrassing thing I said to that pretty girl at a party thirty years ago – but I’m much more comfortable with my gran mal failures than I once was, an attitude I attribute to Joseph Campbell.

Now Nietzsche is the one and he’s my boy, if you want to know; he says if you fail to affirm everything in your life that has come to you with amor fati (‘the love of your fate’), you have unraveled the whole life. Any significant moment in your life, if it had been the least bit different, the whole life is different from there on.⁠ If you say no to any detail of your life, you’ve said no to the whole web because everything is so interlocked. And if you want to get in the way of affirmation, just say no to the failure . . .”

This observation surfaced as I was compiling and editing a book drawn from Campbell’s many interviews and question-and-answer sessions (slated for publication next year). He had just been asked a question about whether he regretted giving up his track career:

I was on the point of making a decision to start into scholarship when I lost one race, and it was the one I really wanted to win. And I’d never lost a race before. I’ve rerun that race five times a week, you know. If I had won that race I would not have given up running, and I would have stayed there as a jock for two or three or four years.

The 1928 Olympics were the next year, but I broke off. In 1928 I was in Paris when all my friends were in Amsterdam. After the games they came down and we had a party, but I wasn’t there at the Olympics⁠. And it was the failure at that point that, from the standpoint of a career—I mean, I know the chap who won the half mile at the Olympics that year. I had run against him many times. And you think, ‘Oh jeez,’ you know? So I didn’t get the Olympics. Thank God I didn’t is what I’m saying now. I have to see that . . .

I would not have had the life I’ve had if I had won that race. I know it.”

Someone asked Campbell if his experience, “affirming what comes to us with amor fati,” requires a leap of faith that in the end it will be better. Joe’s response?

No, no. Not that it would have been better. That it’s good. You affirm it. It may be a mess, but you’re affirming the mess too.”

Now that messed with my New Age sensibilities, that sense of life will be better if we follow our bliss. Joe’s sense of amor fati includes “saying yea to it all” even when life is a disaster and doesn’t get better.

That was a difficult pill to swallow – but saying “yea” to everything that happens, without the expectation that will make life better, actually proves liberating. It doesn’t always lead to a change in external circumstances, but does foster a change in perception that makes one’s reality easier to bear – there is less reacting, and more a sense of self-acceptance, and fully participating, in life, which does feel a damn sight better than the default victim mode so many experience today.