Filmmaker Michel Gondry Brings Classic Album Covers to Life in a Visually-Packed Commercial: Purple Rain, Beggars Banquet, Nevermind & More

File this under “why didn’t I see this earlier?”

Here’s a too short but visually packed Michel Gondry-directed commercial for the Pandora app. Here, he indulges in all the things that make Gondry so beloved: large sets, in-camera effects, huge props, and a visual wit.

For the “Sounds Like You” campaign, Gondry has a short-haired young woman running through various rooms and landscapes, all of which reveal themselves to be album covers from the famous (Metallica’s Master of Puppets) to the more recent (Big Sean’s Moves). We even get a Bowie shout-out and it’s not what you’d expect. We’d say more, but hey it’s so short, why spoil the surprise. It does however feel like Gondry has been hired to do something he’s already done--somewhere before he got the call you can hear an ad exec saying “hey, who’s available, who can do a Gondry-like thing with this campaign?”

Indeed, it is very reminiscent of his reality-bending video for the Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be” (including the running woman):

And choreographing a series of tableaux is also similar to Gondry's “Lucas with the Lid Off” from 1994:

So, yes, in a world where a third of all music videos are biting from Gondry’s career, it’s good to see the best imitator of Gondry is the man himself.

(But if bringing album covers to life is your jam, have you watched "Dave" yet?)

Album covers referenced in the video include:

0:08 The Doors - Morrison Hotel (1970)

0:12 Prince - Purple Rain (1984)

0:17 The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet (1968)

0:20 Metallica - Master of Puppets (1986)

0:26 The Weeknd - Starboy (2016)

0:28 Devo - Freedom of Choice (1980)

0:31 Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)

0:38 Drake - Nothing Was the Same (2013)

0:39 The Cure ‎– A Forest (1980)

0:46 Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

0:49 David Bowie ‎– ★ (Blackstar) (2016)

0:55 Big Sean - I Decided. (2017)

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Coursera and Google Launch an Online Certificate Program to Help Students Become IT Professionals & Get Attractive Jobs

If you've so much as set foot in the realm of massive online open courses (MOOCs) — a list of which we offer right here on Open Culture — you've no doubt heard of Coursera, which, since it started up in 2012, has become one of the biggest MOOC providers around. Like most growing Silicon Valley companies, Coursera has branched out in several different directions, bringing in courses from universities from all over the world as well as offering certificate and Master's programs. Now, in partnership with Google, it has launched a program to train information-technology professionals for jobs in the industry.

Techcrunch's Ingrid Lunden describes Coursera's Google IT Support Professional Certificate program as "a course written by Googlers for the Coursera platform to teach and then test across six fundamental areas of customer support: troubleshooting and customer service, networking, operating systems, system administration, automation, and security. No prior IT experience is necessary." The global, English-language program "has 64 hours of coursework in all, and students are expected to complete it in eight to 12 months, at a cost of $49/month." This means "the typical cost of the course for full-paying students will be between $392 and $588 depending on how long it takes," which Lunden calls "a pretty good deal" compared to other IT training programs.

Amid talk of vanishing jobs across so many sectors of the economy, Coursera and Google are marketing the IT Support Professional Certificate as a promising path to gainful employment: "There’s no better example of a dynamic, fast-growing field than IT support," writes Google Product Lead Natalie Van Kleef Conley, citing statistics showing 150,000 IT support jobs currently open in the United states and an average starting salary of $52,000. Coursera notes that "upon completion of the certificate, you can share your information with top employers, like Bank of America, Walmart, Sprint, GE Digital, PNC Bank, Infosys, TEKSystems, UPMC, and, of course, Google."

If you suspect that you might share professional aspirations with young Edgar Barragan of Queens, whose testimonial video shows how he became a Google IT support specialist after participating in the program that evolved into the IT Support Professional Certificate, visit the official page on Coursera. There you can read up on the details of the six courses that make up the program and read answers to the questions frequently asked about it. Do you think you'd excel in a career amid the nuts and bolts of computers? With Google and Coursera's program officially opening next Wednesday, January 24th, now's a good time indeed to figure out whether it could get you where you want to be. Get more information and/or enroll here.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Cousera courses, it helps support Open Culture.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Western Music Moves in Three and Even Four (!) Dimensional Spaces: How the Pioneering Research of Princeton Theorist Dmitri Tymoczko Helps Us Visualize Music in Radical, New Ways

Every musician has some basic sense of how math and music relate conceptually through geometry, in the circular and triadic shapes formed by clusters of notes when grouped together in chords and scales. The connections date back to the work of Pythagoras, and composers who explore and exploit those connections happen upon profound, sometimes mystical, insights. For example, the two-dimensional geometry of music finds near-religious expression in the compositional strategies of John Coltrane, who left behind diagrams of his chromatic modulation that theorists still puzzle over and find inspiring. It will be interesting to see what imaginative composers do with a theory that extends the geometry of music into three—and even four (!)—dimensions.

Pioneering Princeton University music theorist and composer Dmitri Tymoczko has made discoveries that allow us to visualize music in entirely new ways. He began with the insight that two-note chords on the piano could form a Möbius strip, as Princeton Alumni Weekly reported in 2011, a two-dimensional surface extended into three-dimensional space. (See one such Möbius strip diagram above.) “Music is not just something that can be heard, he realized. It has a shape.”

He soon saw that he could transform more complex chords the same way. Three-note chords occupy a twisted three-dimensional space, and four-note chords live in a corresponding but impossible-to-visualize four-dimensional space. In fact, it worked for any number of notes — each chord inhabited a multidimensional space that twisted back on itself in unusual ways — a non-Euclidean space that does not adhere to the classical rules of geometry. 

Tymoczko discovered that musical geometry (as Coltrane—and Einstein—had earlier intuited) has a close relationship to physics, when a physicist friend told him the multidimensional spaces he was exploring were called “orbifolds,” which had found some application “in arcane areas of string theory.” These discoveries have “physicalized” music, providing a way to “convert melodies and harmonies into movements in higher dimensional spaces.”

This work has caused “quite a buzz in Anglo-American music-theory circles,” says Princeton music historian Scott Burnham. As Tymoczko puts it in his short report "The Geometry of Musical Chords," the “orbifold” theory seems to answer a question that occupied music theorists for centuries: “how is it that Western music can satisfy harmonic and contrapuntal constraints at once?” On his website, he outlines his theory of “macroharmonic consistency,” the compositional constraints that make music sound “good.” He also introduces a software application, ChordGeometries 1.1, that creates complex visualizations of musical “orbifolds” like that you see above of Chopin supposedly moving through four-dimensions.

The theorist first published his work in a 2006 issue of Science, then followed up two years later with a paper co-written with Clifton Callendar and Ian Quinn called “Generalized Voice-Leading Spaces” (read a three-page summary here). Finally, he turned his work into a book, A Geometry of Music: Harmony and Counterpoint in the Extended Common Practice, which explores the geometric connections between classical and modernist composition, jazz, and rock. Those connections have never been solely conceptual for Tymoczko. A longtime fan of Coltrane, as well as Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and Stravinsky, he has put his theory into practice in a number of strangely moving compositions of his own, such as The Agony of Modern Music (hear movement one above) and Strawberry Field Theory (movement one below). His compositional work is as novel-sounding as his theoretical work is brilliant: his two Science publications were the first on music theory in the magazine’s 129-year history. It’s well worth paying close attention to where his work, and that of those inspired by it, goes next.

via Princeton Alumni Weekly/@dark_shark

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch David Byrne Lead a Massive Choir in Singing David Bowie’s “Heroes”

Throughout the years, we've featured performances of Choir!Choir!Choir!--a large amateur choir from Toronto that meets weekly and sings their hearts out. You've seen them sing Prince's "When Doves Cry," Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" (to honor Chris Cornell) and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

If you dig through their Youtube archive, you can also revisit performances of two Talking Heads classics--"Psycho Killer" and "Burning Down the House." (Both below.) Which brings us to the videos above. According to Consequence of Sound, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has long been a big fan of Choir!Choir!Choir!. He writes on his web site:

I’ve sat mesmerized watching online videos of the Canadian group Choir! Choir! Choir! They somehow manage to get hundreds of strangers to sing beautifully together—in tune and full-voiced—with rich harmonies and detailed arrangements. With almost no rehearsal—how do they do it??

They manage to achieve lift off—that feeling of surrender when groups sing together—when we all become part of something larger than ourselves.

And last Saturday, Byrne got to experience some of that lift off firsthand. Hear him sing a moving version of David Bowie's "Heroes" with Choir!Choir!Choir!, and a snippet of Madonna's "Borderline." Enjoy.

Psycho Killer

Burning Down the House

via Consequence of Sound

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Watch the Bayeux Tapestry Come to Life in a Short Animated Film

With the news this morning that the Bayeux Tapestry will make its first visit to England, we're bringing back a wonderful little animation of the medieval embroidery that offers a pictorial interpretation of the Norman Conquest of England (1066) and the events leading up to it. Forever housed in France, the tapestry measures 20 inches by 230 feet, and you can now see an animated version of the story it narrates. The clip above starts roughly halfway through the historical narrative, with the appearance of Halley's Comet, and it concludes with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The video created by David Newton began as a student project at Goldsmiths College.

You can find courses on Medieval History in the History section of our big collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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The Psychological & Neurological Disorders Experienced by Characters in Alice in Wonderland: A Neuroscience Reading of Lewis Carroll’s Classic Tale

Most reputable doctors tend to refrain from diagnosing people they’ve never met or examined. Unfortunately, this circumspection doesn't obtain as often among lay folk. When we lob uninformed diagnoses at other people, we may do those with genuine mental health issues a serious disservice. But what about fictional characters? Can we ascribe mental illnesses to the surreal menagerie, say, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? It’s almost impossible not to, given the overt themes of madness in the story.

Carroll himself, it seems, drew many of his depictions directly from the treatment of mental disorders in 19th century England, many of which were linked to “extremely poor working conditions,” notes Franziska Kohlt at The Conversation. During the industrial revolution, “populations in so-called ‘pauper lunatic asylums’ for the working class skyrocketed.” Carroll’s uncle, Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, happened to be an officer of the Lunacy Commission, which supervised such institutions, and his work offers “stunning insights into the madness in Alice.”

Yet we should be careful. Like the supposed drug references in Alice, some of the lay diagnoses now applied to Alice’s characters may be a little far-fetched. Do we really see diagnosable PTSD or Tourette’s? Anxiety Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder? These conditions hadn’t been categorized in Carroll’s day, though their symptoms are nothing new. And yet, experts have long looked to his nonsense fable for its depictions of abnormal psychology. One British psychiatrist didn’t just diagnose Alice, he named a condition after her.

In 1955, Dr. John Todd coined the term Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) to describe a rare condition in which—write researchers in the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences—“the sizes of body parts or sizes of external objects are perceived incorrectly.” Among other illnesses, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome may be linked to migraines, which Carroll himself reportedly suffered.

We might justifiably assume the Mad Hatter has mercury poisoning, but what other disorders might the text plausibly present? Holly Barker, doctoral candidate in clinical neuroscience at King’s College London, has used her scholarly expertise to identify and describe in detail two other conditions she thinks are evident in Alice.

Depersonalization:

“At several points in the story,” writes Barker, “Alice questions her own identity and feels ‘different’ in some way from when she first awoke.” Seeing in these descriptions the symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder (DPD), Barker describes the condition and its location in the brain.

This disorder encompasses a wide range of symptoms, including feelings of not belonging in one’s own body, a lack of ownership of thoughts and memories, that movements are initiated without conscious intention and a numbing of emotions. Patients often comment that they feel as though they are not really there in the present moment, likening the experience to dreaming or watching a movie. These symptoms occur in the absence of psychosis, and patients are usually aware of the absurdity of their situation. DPD is often a feature of migraine or epileptic auras and is sometimes experienced momentarily by healthy individuals, in response to stress, tiredness or drug use.

Also highly associated with childhood abuse and trauma, the condition “acts as a sort of defense mechanism, allowing an individual to become disconnected from adverse life events.” Perhaps there is PTSD in Carroll’s text after all, since an estimated 51% of DPD patients also meet those criteria.

Prosopagnosia:

This condition is characterized by “the selective inability to recognize faces.” Though it can be hereditary, prosopagnosia can also result from stroke or head trauma. Fittingly, the character supposedly affected by it is none other than Humpty-Dumpty, who tells Alice “I shouldn’t know you again if we did meet.”

“Your face is the same as everybody else has – the two eyes, so-” (marking their places in the air with his thumb) “nose in the middle, mouth under. It’s always the same. Now if you had two eyes on the same side of the nose, for instance – or the mouth at the top – that would be some help.”

This “precise description” of prosopagnosia shows how individuals with the condition rely on particularly “discriminating features to tell people apart," since they are unable to distinguish family members and close friends from total strangers.

Scholars know that Carroll’s text contains within it several abstract and seemingly absurd mathematical concepts, such as imaginary numbers and projective geometry. The informed work of researchers like Kohit and Barker shows that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland might also present a complex 19th century understanding of mental illness and neurological disorders, conveyed in a superficially silly way, but possibly informed by serious research and observation. Read Barker’s article in full here to learn more about the conditions she diagnoses.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

What is the Secret to Living a Long, Happy & Creatively Fulfilling Life?: Discover the Japanese Concept of Ikigai

Ikiru, one of several Akira Kurosawa films routinely described as a masterpiece, tells the story of Kanji Watanabe, a middle-aged widower who, three decades into a dead-end bureaucratic career, finds out he has just one year to live. This sends him on an urgent eleventh-hour quest to find something to live for. The picture's The Death of Ivan Ilyich-inspired script originally bore the title The Life of Kanji Watanabe, but Kurosawa chose to rename it for the Japanese verb meaning "to live" (生きる). And anyone who wants to truly ikiru needs an ikigai.

A combination of characters from the Japanese words for "living" and "effect" or "worth," ikigai (生き甲斐) as a concept has recently come to attention in the West, not least because of last year's bestseller Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and‎ Francesc Miralles. (Note: You can get the bestseller as a free audio book if you sign up for Audible's 30-day free trial program. Get details on that here.)

Writer on health and longevity Dan Buettner has also done his bit to promote ikigai, interpreting it as "the reason for which you wake up in the morning" in a TED Talk based on his research in the places with the longest-lived populations in the world, a group that includes the Japanese island of Okinawa.

"For this 102-year-old karate master, his ikigai was carrying forth this martial art," Buettner says of one Okinawan in particular. "For this hundred-year-old fisherman it was continuing to catch fish for his family three times a week." He notes that "the two most dangerous years in your life are the year you're born, because of infant mortality, and the year you retire. These people know their sense of purpose, and they activate it in their life, that's worth about seven years of extra life expectancy." This phenomenon has also come under scientific study: one paper published in Psychosomatic Medicine found, tracking a group of more than 40,000 Japanese adults over seven years, "subjects who did not find a sense of ikigai were associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality."

We in the West have long looked to the traditional concepts of other cultures for guidance, but the Japanese themselves, a population among whom dissatisfaction with life is not unknown, have long scrutinized ikigai to draw out useful lessons. "There are many books in Japan devoted to ikigai, but one in particular is considered definitive: Ikigai-ni-tsuite (About Ikigai), published in 1966," writes the BBC's Yukari Mitsuhashi. "The book’s author, psychiatrist Mieko Kamiya, explains that as a word, ikigai is similar to 'happiness' but has a subtle difference in its nuance. Ikigai is what allows you to look forward to the future even if you’re miserable right now."

Akira Kurosawa, who painted his movies when he couldn't find the money to shoot them, stands as a towering example of someone who found his ikigai in filmmaking, which he kept on doing it into his eighties. In Ikiru, he guides the bewildered Watanabe into an encounter with ikigai in the form of a young lady who quits her job in his office to make toy rabbits: more arduous work than the civil service, she admits, but it gives her a sense of satisfaction that feels like playing with every child in Japan. This inspires Watanabe to return to find his own ikigai, if only at the very end of his life, in campaigning for the construction of a neighborhood playground. But one year with ikigai, if you believe in the power of the concept, beats a century without it.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

What Shakespeare’s English Sounded Like, and How We Know It

A common joke has Americans overawed by people with British accents. It’s funny because it’s partly true; Yanks can grant undue authority to people who sound like Sir David Attenborough or Benedict Cumberbatch. But in these cases, what we generically call a British accent should more accurately be referred to as “Received Pronunciation” (or RP), the speech of BBC presenters and educated Brits from certain middle- and upper-class areas in Southern England. (If you like Received Pronunciation, you’re going to love “posh” Upper RP.) Received Pronunciation is only one of many British accents, as comedian Siobhan Thompson shows, most of which we’re unlikely to hear narrating nature documentaries.

RP is also sometimes called “the Shakespeare accent,” for its association with famous thespians like John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, or Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. But as we’ve previously noted in a post on the work of linguist David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, the English of Shakespeare’s day sounded nothing like what we typically hear on stage and screen.

What linguists call “Original Pronunciation” (OP), the actual Shakespeare accent, had a flavor all its own, likely combining, to our modern ears, “flecks of nearly every regional U.K. English accent,” as Ben Crystal tells NPR, “and indeed American and in fact Australian, too.”

You can see the Crystals explain and demonstrate the accent in the video above, and make sense of many Shakespearean puns that only work in OP. And in the animated video at the top of the post, get a whirlwind tour from Chaucer’s Middle English to Shakespeare’s Early Modern variety. Along the way, you’ll learn why the spelling of English words—both American and British—is so confusing and irregular. (“Knight,” for example, which makes no sense when pronounced as nite, was once pronounced much more phonetically.) The range of regional accents produced a bedlam of variant spellings, which took a few hundred years to standardize during some intense spelling debates.

You’ll get an introduction to the first English printer, William Caxton, and the “Great Vowel Shift” which changed the language’s sound dramatically over the course of a couple hundred years. Once we get to Shakespeare and his “Original Pronunciation,” we can see how rhymes that don’t scan for us sounded just right to Elizabethan ears. These lost rhymes provide a significant clue for linguists who reconstruct OP, as does meter and the survival of older pronunciations in certain dialects.

When the Crystals brought their reconstruction of Shakespeare’s English to the stage in hugely popular productions at the Globe Theatre, members of the audience all heard something slightly different—their many different dialects reflected back at them. Listen for all the various kinds of English above in Ben Crystal's recitation of Hamlet’s “to be, or not to be” speech in Original Pronunciation.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

David Byrne Launches the “Reasons to Be Cheerful” Web Site: A Compendium of News Meant to Remind Us That the World Isn’t Actually Falling Apart

Whatever your ideological persuasion, our time has no doubt given you more than a few reasons to fear for the future of civilization, not least because bad news sells. Musician, artist, and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has certainly felt the effects: "It seems like the world is going to Hell. I wake up in the morning, look at the paper, and go, 'Oh no!'," he writes. "Often I’m depressed for half the day." But he writes that on the front page of his new project Reasons to Be Cheerful, which began as a quasi-therapeutic collection of pieces of "good news that reminded me, 'Hey, there's actually some positive stuff going on!'" and has grown into an online observatory of world improvement.

What kind of positive stuff has Byrne found? He identifies certain common qualities among the stories that have caught his eye: "Almost all of these initiatives are local, they come from cities or small regions who have taken it upon themselves to try something that might offer a better alternative than what exists." These adjustments to the human condition tend to develop in a "bottom up, community and individually driven" manner, they happen all over the world but could potentially work in any culture, all "have been tried and proven to be successful" and "can be copied and scaled up" without the singular efforts of "one amazing teacher, doctor, musician or activist."

The stories collected so far on Reasons to Be Cheerful fall into several different categories. In Civic Engagement, for example, he's found a variety of effective examples of that practice in his travels back and forth across the United States. In Health, he writes about efforts to end the war on drugs in places like Vancouver, Colorado, and Portugal. As anyone who's followed Byrne's writing and speaking about cycling and the infrastructure that supports it might imagine, this side also includes a section called Urban/Transportation, whose first post deals with the global influence of bike share systems like Paris' Velib and bike-only street-closure days like Bogotá's Ciclovia.

In Culture, Byrne writes about the rise of a form of music called AfroReggae that offers an alternative to a life of crime for the youth of Brazil's favelas, the distinctive libraries established at the end of Bogotá's rapid bus lines and in poor parts of Medellín, and even some of his own work related to the recording and tour design of his own upcoming album American UtopiaAmerican Utopia in the year 2018? That might sound awfully optimistic, but remember that David Byrne is the man who once went on an artistic speaking tour about his love of Powerpoint. If he can see the good in that, he can see the good in anything.

Visit Byrne's Reasons to Be Cheerful site here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

An Animated Introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Philosophical Recipe for Getting Over the Sources of Regret, Disappointment and Suffering in Our Lives

The idea of acceptance has found much, well… acceptance in our therapeutic culture, by way of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief, 12-step programs, the wave of secular mindfulness practices, the body-acceptance movement, etc. All of these interventions into depressed, bereaved, guilt-ridden, and/or anxious states of mind have their own aims and methods, which sometimes overlap, sometimes do not. But what they all share, perhaps, for all the struggle involved, is a general sense of optimism about acceptance.

One cannot say this definitively about the Stoic idea of amor fati—the instruction to “love one’s fate”—though you might be persuaded to think otherwise if you google the term and come up with a couple dozen popularizations. Yes, there’s love in the name, but the fate we’re asked to embrace may just as well be painful and debilitating as pleasurable and uplifting. We cannot change what has happened to us, or much control what's going to happen, so we might as well just get used to it, so to speak.

If this isn’t exactly optimism in the sense of “it gets better,” it isn’t entirely pessimism either. But it can become a grim and joyless fatalistic exercise. Yet, as Friedrich Nietzsche used the term—and he used it with much relish—amor fati means not only accepting loss, suffering, mistakes, addictions, appearances, or mental and emotional turbulence; it means accepting all of iteverything and everyone that causes both pain and pleasure, as Alain de Botton says above, “with strength and an all-embracing attitude that borders on a kind of enthusiastic affection.”

“I do not want to wage war against what is ugly,” he wrote in The Gay Science, “I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse.” Readers of Nietzsche may find themselves picking up any one of his books, including The Gay Science, to see him doing all of the above, constantly, on any random page. But his is never a systematic philosophy, but an expression of passion and attitude, inconsistent in its parts but, as a whole, surprisingly holistic. “My formula for greatness in a human being,” he writes in Ecce Homo, “is amor fati

That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.

Although the concept may remind us of Stoic philosophy, and is very often discussed in those terms, Nietzsche saw such thought—as he understood it—as gloomy, ascetic, and life-denying. His use of amor fati goes beyond mere resignation to something more radical, and very difficult for the human mind to stomach, to use a somewhat Nietzschean figure of speech. “It encompasses the whole of world history (including the most horrific episodes),” notes a Leiden University summary, “and Nietzsche’s own role in this history.” Above all, he desired, he wrote, to be a “Yes-sayer.”

Is amor fati a remedy for regret, dissatisfaction, the endlessly restless desire for social and self-improvement? Can it banish our agony over history’s nightmares and our personal records of failure? De Botton thinks so, but one never really knows with Nietzsche—his often satirical exaggerations can turn themselves inside out, becoming exactly the opposite of what we expect. Yet above all, what he always turns away from are absolute ideals; we should never take his amor fati as some kind of divine commandment. It works in dialectical relation to his more vigorous critical spirit, and should be applied with a situational and pragmatic eye. In this sense, amor fati can be seen as instrumental—a tool to bring us out of the paralysis of despair and condemnation and into an active realm, guided by a radically loving embrace of it all.

Related Content:

The Philosophy of “Optimistic Nihilism,” Or How to Find Purpose in a Meaningless Universe

Nietzsche Lays Out His Philosophy of Education and a Still-Timely Critique of the Modern University (1872)

An Animated Introduction to Stoicism, the Ancient Greek Philosophy That Lets You Lead a Happy, Fulfilling Life

The Digital Nietzsche: Download Nietzsche’s Major Works as Free eBooks

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness





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