Negative Capability is a term developed by the poet Keats, who only lived to the age of 25. It’s a term that describes doubt, conflict and uncertainty as something not to be resented, but a gateway to creativity. It doesn’t mean ‘the capability to be negative’ but rather the capability to understand our own minds constant desire for only the positive, and our absolute discomfort for a perceived negative experience. To sit comfortably with the sometimes unreconcilable events in life, is to embrace a negative capability. It is about wading through uncertainty, and being okay with it.
In some areas of our life we absolutely love mystery and uncertainty. Falling in love is to utterly intoxicating, because of the mystery involved, the learning and unraveling that creates such a heightened experience. Having children and raising them plunges us deep into the depths of the unknown. New creative projects. Traveling to explore cities and towns and countries whose details are unknown to us. This is living with mystery.
Can we agree that these above experiences are all wonderful? Can we also agree that sometimes within the joy, we are fraught with worry?
Then there are some other situations where mystery and the unknown simply terrifies us. Not knowing if our relationship will last can nearly kill our souls. Being unsure about the economy, our financial state, our job security tips us over the edge. For some people it’s unstable politics. For others it’s health that is shifting. And the mystery of this, the not knowing can drive us to a very unstable and controlling state. Yet even within these states, we can find joy. They are not completely void of joy. We are forced to re-evaluate, to take time to work it out. To question, to grow.
I enjoy exploring this concept in regards to us being in charge. There might be some areas we put neatly into an ‘I’m okay with this’ box, and others we just hate. The key thing is that we get to choose. We get to choose to freak out, or sit within the situation. We can fight it, or we can surrender to it. We can choose joy within a perception of negativity, or we can make our own hell. It’s only us that gets to choose this.
So what if we let go of ALL of our pre-conceived ideas? What if we could embrace the mystery of every element? Could we sit within the discomfort and embrace it as a learning experience? What would your experiences be like for do you think, you if you were to live this way through all of it, just constantly running the experiment. No branding ‘good’ and bad’. What would life look like?
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