There is no sanity [sanitas] in anyone who is displeased with your creation.
—Augustine, Confessions, 7.14.20
We make doors and windows for a room;
But it is these empty spaces that make the room livable.
—Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching, 11
Abstract: A commentary on Gay Science §276 in light of the cybernetic. The natural connection between the cybernetic and Nietzsche’s amor fati is evident in their intersection within the principle of interface as the site of steering or helmsmanship (cybernetes). Nietzsche names this love under the double sign of Januarius—at once the two-faced god of beginnings/doorways/gates and the saint whose annually liquefying blood signals the miracle of spiritual renewal—and installs it as a navigational protocol in the form of a new year’s resolution: “let that be my love from now on!” Amor fati, I will affirm, is the protocol for navigating interface itself, a pure cybernetic law that steers steering per se around the radically immanent negative interfacial pole of looking away: “Let looking away be my only negation!” Love of fate, the positive formulation of not worrying, is a prosthetic intrinsically necessary for manipulating the inoperability of interface, its being “a medium that does not mediate.”[i] Far from representing an immaterial or merely subjective affect, amor fati enjoys a terrifying invisible positive traction and inescapable occult influence upon all interfaces. Why? Because its own inoperativity, the workless work of “the thought [which] shall be the reason, warrant, and sweetness of the rest of my life,” is nothing less than the true will of the cybernetic sign, namely, that for which “the internal, coded level can only be fully experienced by way of the external, expressive level . . . [and] what goes on at the external level can be fully understood only in light of the internal.”[ii] Like a magic non-medium at play between the solid of being and the liquid of thought, love of fate realizes the cybernetic nature of life itself, its weird double intrinsicity or “unique dual materiality,”[iii] and is thus the singular way to “to ‘politicize’ the ‘natural sweetness’ of zoē” and realize the “politics . . . already contained in zoē as its most precious center.[iv] Neither inaction nor action, amor fati is the ground of the authenticity of both, preserving the good against the all perversions of justification. A supremely proper and scientific form of self-control, precisely because it requires no self at all, love of fate is an infinitely powerful protocol that one never need worry about, a perfectly implementable and unprogrammable rule whose fulfillment passes freely within and without the imprisoning walls of false power, above all the narrow circle of demands upon reality that maintains the world, individually and collectively, as not paradise. Amor fati’s cybernetic truth is inarguable and unassailable. All objection to it is direct demonstration of the sheer insanity and psychic sickness of doing otherwise: your inane insistence on being something that cannot not fret, worry, fear.
For the new year.—
The chronic newness of the calendar year is null and void without the affirmation of ontological newness. The year is not new unless there is something new for it and something new that it is for. This newness is pro-vided through the topology of the wish which, in fulfillment of the polysemy of the preposition [zum], traces the shape of the heart: interface of soul and body, thought and being—at once the place from which wishes spring and the place where one is oneself. “My heart,” expertly glossed by Augustine as “ubi ego sum quicumque sum [where I am whoever or whatever I am]” (Augustine, Confessions, 10.3.4), is exactly what holds the non-difference between with and to, being and doing. Here is the dynamic threshold and creative limit carrying the apocalyptic secret of newness—“Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Newness is wish before and after any object, affirmation without anything to affirm, the hopelessly helpless yes eternally in advance of all no, that is, the purest most perfect no of all, the one that says no first to itself. Whence the excellent negativity of newness, newness as wholly not what has been before, as expressed in Nietzsche’s later comment, in a letter to Franz Overbeck, on the verse which opens this book of The Gay Science: “ . . . I have crossed a tropic. Everything that lies before me is new, and it will not be long before I catch sight also of the terrifying face of my more distant task” (Selected Letters, 193). The new is produced in the occult wish of an open no. “Whoever seeks or aims at something,” writes Meister Eckhart, “is seeking and aiming at nothing, and he who prays for something will get nothing” (Sermon 68). And Meher Baba says, “I may give you more, much more, than you expect—or maybe nothing, and that nothing may prove to be everything” (The God-Man, 296).
I’m still alive; I still think: I must still be alive because I still have to think.
The perfectly operative unworkability of the interface, a unilateral duality of thought and life, exposes the terribly unending and inescapable suddenness of being trapped alive in consciousness, of finding oneself (to be) something like an always improper sum of thought and being. Thought proves life and life proves nothing, nothing but itself, which is present to but not found in thought. This is the inverse of Descartes’s dubious ergo: there is thinking, therefore there is not a thinker, therefore the thinker is not. The thing that seems to be thinking, that thinking supposedly presupposes, is impossible to face, being a kind of divinely stupid supra-cogitational immediate intelligence, wholly coincident with the inevitable impossibility or substantial negativity that one is. It is the immanent thing always already specularly on both sides of the thought-being dyad, independent of any communication between them whatsoever, and thus no thing at all.
Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum.
Nietzsche’s new year starts with returning to the scene of modern philosophical decision in order to reopen the wound it hastily bound, to let it, like the blood of St. Januarius, heal in bleeding anew. Curing by cutting the Cartesian suture of thought and being means melting reason’s freezing of their relation, returning it to the sanifying upsurge of living intelligence or ana-logos, as figured in the beginning verses: “You who with the flaming spear split the ice of my soul and make it thunder down now to the sea of its highest hope . . .” The doubling of Descartes’s equation across the consequential preposition exposes the interface that philosophy claims to operate and occupy as a site of steering. The anti-philosophical lesson of this non-mediated mutualizing of thinking and being is that in truth the correlation has no helmsman, because there is no correlation properly speaking, because being’s belonging to thought and thought’s belonging to being are not relative. Rather, thought and being are found here and now to have neither no relation (equivocity) nor total relation (univocity) but the intelligible obscurity of some relation (analogy). Note that the concept of analogy has an important temporal dimension, the prefix meaning ‘up, anew, upon’—think time as tree, a movement of upward supplanting (cf. Paradiso 27.118-20)—so that the concept of analogy itself explicates the triangularity of amor fati as a form Nietzsche constellates from the points of thought, being, and time. The generative leap of analogy traces without tracing how a being is new thought and a thought new being. Like a non-anatomizable nerve in the brain of Janus Bifrons, like the whatever-works mix of supplication and insult that makes the martyr’s dry blood liquefy, thought and being are involved with each other, just not in a way that could ever be sorted out within time, not in a way that can be reduced to process. Thought and being are interfacial. Neither steers, or can be steered by, the other. And it is the fatal delusion of assuming so that amor fati essentially refuses, the sheer ignorance of trying to steer life in positions of identification with thought and/or being. Such is the delusion of mistaking interface for steering wheel, of remaining the one who, thrown by birth into the alien space ship of oneself, never stops saying, amidst constant accidents and crashes, ‘hey, I can drive this thing!’ What navigation of interface requires, what interface itself, as manifestation of the cybernetic sign, is desperately wishing for, is to steer steering. This is the paradox which weakness, wanting to be in power rather than power itself, wanting to have freedom rather than be freedom itself, paradoxically wants not to be true. Interface cannot be steered, yet it is all-the-more intimately and precisely steered, not by simply not steering it, but by a not-steering that steers steering itself.
Today everyone allows himself to express his dearest wish and thoughts:
The allowing of wish-expression both underscores and overcomes the principle of wish-secrecy, establishing its truth in the neither diachronic nor synchronic space of the present’s dilation beyond past and future. The time of wish corresponds with the time of fulfillment—“today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43)—wherein future stretches into present. Thus wish-expression is a kind of anagogical exercise or test, a suspension of the hiddenness which holds and ensures a wish’s futurity, so that the wish can indeed come true, even if what is wished-for does not happen—the inverse of the common fear of wishing uncarefully. For the authentic or do-it-yourself truth of a wish is never something that can simply occur or arrive circumstantially, being a movement deeper than the wisher as such, bigger than the self-image of the wish. A wish is not satisfied, but fulfilled, precisely because it is founded on a non-relating relation, an interfacial non-mediating mediation—wishing ‘upon a star’, throwing a coin into a fountain, putting a wish ‘out there’. A real wish manifests the weird will of its interface, attempts to realize the non-arbitariness of what one is facing in the moment of wish. Correlatively, the new year’s wish, a sacrificial breaking of the taboo against speaking one’s wish, occupies the strange planned spontaneity of a convergence of licitness and self-permission. Speaking a wish on this day works like a ritual destruction of wish that preserves it simultaneously against the perversity of the selfishly occult wish and the superficiality of merely wishing. Voicing wish, passing it through the threshold of the mouth, enacts at once the sympathetic foretaste of its fulfillment, a word-binding of its truth, and the renunciation of the wish as wish, a letting-go of the wish so that it may be, mysteriously at the moment of destruction, already true. For every wish must be ruined, not simply in the logical sense that a fulfilled wish would no longer be wished, which is wrong anyway given that will persists in infinite excess of want—“as love grows . . . the search for the one already found become[s] more intense” (Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms, 5.186), but in the deeper sense that the true wish can never properly be wished, cannot be a literal wishing, because wish itself is an improper translation of will into want. Whence the link between wish and resolution. As will is never reducible to personal want, to the parameters of desire within life, so the fulfillment of a true wish, as the dying wish inversely exposes, necessarily brings the wisher to the threshold of life: “now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace” (Luke 2:2). The anagogic game of the wish, wherein will is constrained to playing the role of want, is won by the one who, sensing the consequent impossibility of wishing, nevertheless wishes all the more intensely in a manner that spontaneously manifests will’s negative essence as the ground of paradise, of all that one could ever desire being even now positively true. Knowing that a true wish cannot be spoken, such a one paradoxically becomes in the speaking of wish a perfect wisher, one who, not being above falling for having something to wish for, still ascends, by wishing beyond wishing, into the perfection of wishing nothing by wishing a wish that is its own fulfillment.
so I, too, want to say what I wish from myself today and what thought first crossed my heart—
Amor fati is found in open consciousness of heartfelt firstness—a simple and not so simple matter, this clear knowing and seeing of what comes first, without the screen of any fear that would interrupt, avert, or ignore its arising. Everyone is terrified of doing this, petrified to the point of not being able to do it at all. Proof: if there were freely offered, right now, a delicious and absolutely trustworthy candy that would immediately and forever cure you of all worry, how many of us would, without hesitation, swallow it whole? No, Nietzsche has your number: “I find those people unpleasant in whom every natural inclination immediately becomes a sickness, something disfiguring or even contemptible . . . There are enough people who could well entrust themselves to their inclinations with grace and without care, but who do not for fear of the imagined ‘evil essence’ of nature! That is why there is so little nobility among human beings; its distinguishing feature has always been to have no fear of oneself, to expect nothing contemptible from oneself, to fly without misgivings wherever we’re inclined—we free-born birds!” (Gay Science §294).
what thought shall be the reason, warrant, and sweetness of the rest of my life!
The first thought is now rigorously decided and distinguished, via the decision itself, from fleeting impulse. Yet even the decision is not, being already decided, of a piece with the simple wish to speak the wish, which carries its will in advance of expression into its expression’s future, like the way a vow is made before it is said, the way crossing a threshold requires, before crossing, that it be already crossed. What will be already is—where insanity sees this fact as foreclosure, sanity seizes it as the very source of openness, the ground of passing beyond what is, or better, living on the yonder side of end (in both senses). “In the Original Unity of the First Thing,” says Edgar Allen Poe, “lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of their Inevitable Annihilation” (Eureka). The anticipatory terms of the wish (‘reason, warrant, and sweetness’) here confirm its identity both with its own event—the love of fate as a form of first thought—and its expression: affirmation of wish as an instance of loving fate. Furthermore, these terms restore wishing itself to its original auto-teleological unity, as shadowed in the etymology of the word (Wunsch), cognate of venerate and win, whose root signifies both desire and satisfaction, to strive for and to gain. Amor fati is a winning wish, the wish of wish itself that needs no other. Binding oneself to this wish, making it the law of one’s life, fulfills the point of identity between law and sweetness lost in the splitting of life into bios and zoē. Love of fate directly fulfills the sweet bare promise of law itself, as what binds one to truth-beauty-goodness, without binding life to a ground or reason. Over and against the “natural sweetness [γλυκύτητος φυσικῆς]” according which “men cling to life even at the cost of enduring great misfortune” (Aristotle, Politics, III.6), amor fati finds the higher sense of an willful not-clinging that releases a new sweetness sweeter still, an always-fresh taste for things that makes everything possible by virtue of the non-difference between love—“Love and do what you will [Dilige et fac quod vis]” (Augustine, Tractates on the First Epistle of John, 7.8)—and detachment: “Do everything, but don’t worry. Worrying binds” (Meher Baba).
I want to learn more and more how to see what is necessary in things as what is beautiful in them—thus I will be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love from now on! I do not want to wage war against ugliness. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse the accusers. Let looking away be my only negation!
Like the visual interior of turning the other cheek, looking away is forgiveness without false humility and immediate fulfillment of will-to-power—the only way to evade Narcissus’s fate and not die in one’s sleep, or in the terms of Marshall McLuhan media-theory reading of the myth, in the middle of being a numb servomechanism of the image. Turn away, the world is strangling you in the loop of your own feedback—the seeing of this is turning away. No one really wants to hear it, above all the only part of you worth listening to. The specular spell is broken as interface is unveiled to be mirror, a reflecting pool of a weird ungraspable kind that cannot itself be wielded or turned as such, a multidimensional mirror in which the image is also always looking out. Continuous with the mirror’s inversely representational operation, the minimum spontaneous negation of looking away is in fact a maximum exercise of intelligent strength, of being-in-control. Conversely, whoever fears, worries, frets, over ANYTHING, is in fact an imaginary steerless nothing, an evil inexistent imp who merely wants to rule, likes the idea of it, but will not. Power is rather where one does not look, as Nietzsche explains: “I have found strength where one does not look for it: in simple, mild, pleasant people, without the least desire to rule . . . The powerful natures dominate, it is a necessity, they need not lift one finger.” By virtue of this same principle, it is futile to request any justifying, legitimizing, or calculative account for loving fate, any reason for it that would delimit or define its telos. I leave that misfortunate task to progressivism and so-called positive thinking. However, one may understand the invisible radical power of amor fati, the far-sightedness of its headless helmsman, in a manner that acknowledges the substantiality of its force without attempting to mediate its intrinsic worth [and in this setting I suppose we must]. This prosthetic understanding, which preserves one against what McLuhan identifies as the autoamputative seductions of the interface, must be sought with respect to both the active and passive principles of amor fati. Toward the first, there is William Blake’s vision of the reproductivity of perception: “If Perceptive Organs vary: Objects of Perception seem to vary: / If the Perceptive Organs close: their Objects seem to close also: / Consider this O mortal Man! O worm of sixty winters said Los / Consider Sexual Organization & hide thee in the dust . . . Then those in Great Eternity who contemplate on Death / Said thus. What seems to Be: Is: To those to whom / It seems to Be, & is productive of the most dreadful / Consequences to those to whom it seems to Be: even of / Torments, Despair, Eternal Death” (Jerusalem 2.34-6). Toward the second, there is Meister Eckhart’s symmetrically specular articulation of the negative agency of spiritual withdrawal, which immediately permits the operation of an infinite immanent intelligence: “[God] need not turn from one thing to another, as we do. Suppose in this life we always had a mirror before us, in which we saw all things at a glance and recognized them in a single image, then neither action nor knowledge would be any hindrance to us. But we have to turn from one thing to another, and so we can only attend to one thing at the expense of another . . . [But] when a man is quite unpreoccupied, and the active intellect within him is silent, then God must take up the work . . . The active intellect cannot give what is has not got: and it cannot entertain two images together; it has first one and then the other . . . But when God acts in place of the active intellect, He engenders many images together in one point” (Sermons 2-3). In other words, whenever Narcissus recognizes that his gaze is a cybernetic sign, at once the world and himself are something they never were, nor could ever have been, before.
And, all in all and on the whole: some day I want only to be a Yes-sayer!
[i] Andrew Galloway, The Interface Effect (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012), 52.
[ii] Espen J. Aarseth, Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 40.
[iii] Aarseth, Cybertext, 40.
[iv] Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 11.