This beautiful passage seems at first glance disconnected from the Amor Fati plotline of Book IV, but in fact, it’s one of the most moving illustrations of Nietzsche‘s yes-saying philosophy. Walter Kaufmann believes that the piece was written for Franz Overbeck, with whom Nietzsche had a recent falling out when THE GAY SCIENCE was published. Here’s the crucial passage:
But then the almighty force of our tasks drove us apart again into different seas and sunny zones, and perhaps we shall never see each other again; perhaps we shall meet again but fail to recognize each other: our exposure to different seas and suns has changed us. That we have to become estranged is the law above us; by the same token we should also become more venerable for each other—and the memory of our former friendship more sacred.
There are a couple striking phrases in this passage. The first is “the almighty force of our tasks.” This has a religious overtone, which is not accidental, it alludes to Overbeck’s theological work. Nietzsche appreciates the difficulty of the two men remaining friends while standing on opposite sides of a philosophical divide.
There are more religious overtones in the phrase “the law above us.” But while Overbeck would interpret this phrase to mean God’s law, Nietzsche fully intends a dual meaning that, for him, means physical laws. And this is where the piece becomes fascinating:
There is probably a tremendous but invisible stellar orbit in which our very different ways and goals may be included as small parts of this path; let us rise up to this thought. But our life is too short and our power of vision too small for us to be more than friends in the sense of this sublime possibility. —Let us then believe in our star friendship even if we should be compelled to be earth enemies.
It’s a sublimely beautiful analogy that has some very interesting scientific cousins. Take, for example, the concept of quantum entanglement, which was written about in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. As the story states:
When two photons get “entangled” they behave like a joint entity. Even when they’re miles apart, if the spin of one particle is changed, the spin of the other instantly changes, too. This direct influence of one object on another distant one is called non-locality.
This provides a strange cosmic validation to Nietzsche’s idea of a “star friendship.” While Nietzsche and Overbeck may remain miles apart due to their work, their abiding friendship keeps them entangled. And Overbeck honored this friendship to the end, keeping close watch over Nietzsche’s papers after he had gone insane, refusing to cooperate with his revisionist, ambitious sister and continuing to visit Nietzsche until his death.
So it’s a beautiful, prescient view of friendship, but how does it connect to amor fati? When Nietzsche writes about how “the memory of our former friendship” has become more sacred over time, he’s applying the retrospective power of amor fati. Even when we cannot fix our troubles in life — when we cannot untwist the knots that cause us the greatest anxiety — we can let those knots dissolve and appreciate the eternal parts of life that will stay with us forever and that we will relive in our minds repeatedly until our final day.
A love of fate frees us. And Nietzsche’s beautiful dream of a star friendship offers hope that when we die and our elements return to the stars that created us, our entangled elements may remain in perfect sync.