The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Negative Capability and Resilience

John Keats
In December 1817 the English Romantic Poet, John Keats, in a letter to his brothers (George and Thomas) used the phrase negative capability. He described this capability as belonging to a person capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’1

Since Keats time the term has come to be applied mostly by artists to mean the ability to seek after beauty and perfection, even if this leads them into uncertainties and confusion.

The phrase, however, is of use to humanity as a whole, rather than limited to artists and philosophers.

Undoubtedly, we are entering into times of uncertainty. Indeed, we have been in those times arguably since at least the beginning of this century.

Since the 1970s there have been numerous studies that put forward various scenarios (not to be confused with ‘predictions’) indicating collapse of life as we know it sometime from the middle of this century onward.

Others tell us not to worry, our ability to innovate will solve any problems. Technology has come to the rescue previously, and will do so again.

There are advocates, academics, influencers, radio talk-back hosts, politicians, commentators, and others on both sides. And, we all choose which of these we listen to. We all choose whom to believe. We also choose whom not to listen to, and who not to believe.

Between the two seeming polar opposites – collapse vs techno-optimism – most people on Earth live their lives in many different states: denial, despair, hopefulness, anger, apathy, lethargy, idealism, etc etc.

All these states of awareness and consciousness are possible and do exist. Yet, no-one can reliably predict what will or won’t happen.

There is no doubt we are living in uncertain times.

If the future is uncertain then how do we prepare for it? John Keats’ advice was to enhance our capability to live with the uncertainties ‘without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

That means becoming resilient.

Resilience (literally to leap back) is associated mostly with a mental capability. Most dictionaries will define it as the ability to regain a happy outlook following some sort of setback.

So, in uncertain times, how do we become resilient? Keats’ advice is negative capability, whereby the uncertainty is held without attempting to rationalise what is happening. This does not mean ignoring what is happening nor fantasising about some rosy future. It simply means letting go of the need to control outcomes. It also means letting go of fear and anxiety.

But note too; Keats wrote of mysteries also.

We live in a world full of mystery and wonder. Again, Keats advised not to want to diminish our sense of awe with facts, figures, data, and intellectualising.

I am certain that Keats would have said to just enjoy the mystery. That’s why he was a Romantic Poet.

Negative Capability is such good advice. Let us enjoy the romance of mystery and uncertainty.


1. John Keats, The Complete Poetical Works and Letters of John Keats, Cambridge Edition, Houghton, Miffen, and Company, 1899.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This blogsite is dedicated to positive dialoque and a respectful learning environment. Therefore, I retain the right to remove comments that are: profane, personal attacks, hateful, spam, offensive, irrelevant (off-topic) or detract in other ways from these principles.