Nietzsche, as those who have read Nietzsche, or about Nietzsche, or who have friends who have read Nietzsche, or who have friends who have read about Nietzsche, because people who read Nietzsche quite like to talk about Nietzsche, knows —
Nietzsche, I mean, is known to on occasion have entertained the idea of the Eternal Recurrence.
The Eternal Recurrence, for those who have not read much Nietzche, and who haven’t either friends or friends of friends who have read much Nietzsche, is:
The idea that life recurs eternally. And that means, to here paraphrase N himself:
If in the middle of the night you were woken up by a demon, and if this demon told you that you would have to live your life again, precisely as you had so far lived it, and precisely as you were yet to live it, and you would not only have to re-live it once, but eternally — over and over and over again, you would live this life, this exact life –
— and if a demon were to wake you up in the middle of the night, and were he to say that to you, then would you not feel that, golly, mate, really? I’d rather not?
Or would you,
feel that Yes! I love it!?
If the former response lies closest to your heart, then you probably ought to think about how you live your life, and why you do, and you should probably ask yourself why your life is not characterized to a larger degree by
Amor fati – a love for your life, safe in the knowledge that your destiny is crafted by yourself, and that your life and your experiences, good as well as bad, are and have been the consequence of a life that you chose.
Whether life really does, or doesn’t, recur eternally is not that important. If it does, then at least you’re not aware of it. And if it does, and you are aware of it, then please tell more people that you know this because we really want to know a lot more about it.
Your response to the demon is what’s important. Amor fati or Odiis fati? (Sorry, I don’t really know latin, so if the latter is incorrect, then – again – sorry and please forgive me.)
Now, to get to the bloody point:
If my life were to recur eternally, then how would I really feel about it?
I’m asking myself this question, because I’m wondering how that particular take on life could possibly lead to making either very good or very irrational decisions.
Surely, it is amor fati that makes me want to enjoy my life, and which has made me want to study literature and languages and to live in several different countries and also to drink and smoke too much. All of that, surely, is amor fati. And so far, I have enjoyed my life. I mean, I currently work as a Clerk and I don’t feel like that is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, but at the moment doing this job sort of works out for me. (Though perhaps I’m not as worried as I ought to be about doing… very little, to nothing, day after day in a too damn bright office.)
The problem, certainly, is that there’s really no way of knowing whether you or I or anyone is living life, as it were, to the fullest.
I mean, to me it looks as if Keith Richards has led a pretty fun life, but I don’t know if I’d advise anyone, let alone everybody, to try to live like Keith Richards. Because, well… the sheer fact that Keith Richards is still alive is pretty amazing. His life clearly seems to have worked out really well for him, though, and that’s great. Keith Richards, however, is an old dude and it’s easier to look back on things if you’re alive rather than dead.
Eternal recurrence is an interesting concept, but I struggle to see its uses. Like the Felicity Calculus, by Jeremy Bentham. It’s all very nice and all that, but who really cares?
At 25, I’m content with my life. Would I live it again? Yes, I certainly would. I would, upon reliving my life, embrace almost every moment. But can I know that the way I’ve lived my life, and that the decisions I’ve made so far, are good for me in the long run? It’s impossible to say. For each and every thing that I do, my life trajectory changes just so much. There may be no consequences; and yet, there may be consequences,
and they may be terrifying.