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Negative Capability

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  • dick.richardson@rocketmail.com
    Negative Capability (too many typo s in the last one) [ Re: Negative capability Just to make clear what Keats meant by the term, negative capability , here
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 2, 2010
      Negative Capability

      (too many typo's in the last one)

      [ Re: Negative capability

      Just to make clear what Keats meant by the term, "negative capability",
      here is an extract from the letter to his brothers George and Thomas in
      which his explanation is given:

      http://www.mrbauld.com/negcap.html <http://www.mrbauld.com/negcap.html>

      "I had not a dispute but a disquisition, with Dilke on various
      subjects; several things dove tailed in my mind, and at once it struck
      me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in
      Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean
      Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in
      uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after
      fact and reason - Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine
      isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from
      being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued
      through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a
      great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or
      rather obliterates all consideration." L]

      So that is what he meant by negative capability. Fascinating, but not a
      good choice of words for what he was getting at I would have thought.
      But the concept and the phenomenon is a fascinating one. But the word
      negative is generally taken to mean NO or NOT. Such as in I would have
      negative (no) capability in writing an opera, and no interest in doing
      so anyway. But it is good that some do. I was trying to think of a
      phrase or word which we have for this aspect of our being, but one did
      not spring to mind off the top of my head. Maybe somebody will think of
      a good and fitting one.

      But it seems that what he was getting at (in which case) was that of
      making the most out of a situation, experience, or feeling, in which
      logic and rationality could not swim, so to speak. And this of course
      would be highly positive, not negative. Make the most out of
      everything. This really is exactly what is meant by the POTENTIATION of
      experience – letting it work, and do its thing. And, of course,
      there is much positive advantage in potentiating even bad experiences.
      Let it sink in by giving it much thought and feeling about it.
      Resolving it. Not hiding it or blocking it out.

      However, with good experiences (such as mans perception of beauty; and
      its effects) then the same applies, POTENTIATE it; let it do its thing.
      How much poorer would humanity be without the antenna to pick up on
      Beauty and ride with it, and dwell in it; and be grateful for it. It is
      a part of the icing on the cake of BEING. Such as is the potential to
      love. Homo Ensophicus will have even greater sensitivity to these
      things than does homo erectus or homo sapiens.

      However, dwelling with such, and its being a greater part of ones
      make-up or wiring up, in no way negates or struggles with reason and
      logic, nor does it contradict them, or push it aside. Neither should
      one confuse this with the meaning of there being no reason, meaning,
      purpose and function in it. What IS the reason (purpose) of mans
      ability in the perception and harmony with Beauty? It sure does us
      good doesn't it. How would a life be in which there was NO ability
      to perceive beauty? Think about it. It would be GRIM ! Imagine a life
      with neither love or beauty in it. Who would want to live that kind of
      life? Certainly not me. And how boring and dull it would be.

      Mystery (in the sense of knowing that one does not know or understand
      something) to me is one of mans great abilities; for like love and like
      beauty, it has great attractive power, like a giant magnet attracting
      and pulling one toward it. An offer one cannot refuse. Such is in –
      `what is that, I don't understand that'! And then one
      flings oneself into it to get not only your head around it (reason and
      understanding) but also let more of it become one. Ignorance is the
      road to Understanding.

      Talking of Coleridge; he also lived just up the lane from here, as did
      Arthur C Clark (2010 Odyssey) and R.D. Blackmore (Lorna Doone) and
      quite a few others. Some were born here and some (like myself) were
      attracted to live here because of the beauty of the place – it is
      beyond words, and even though words struggle to describe. But wherever
      one looks here there is breathtaking beauty, and it never ever wanes or
      runs dry. Just another of life's intangibles and utter joys :- )

      Tis funny, and I have told the story before. But one day I grabbed a
      book on the way out of the library, just for the sake of picking up a
      book, because the one I wanted was not in. It was a biography of
      Coleridge. And which of course contained the stories of all his mates,
      and enemy's too. What an ODD character Coleridge was. I can just
      imagine him in that poky little cottage up at Nether Stowey on the
      Quantocks (now a museum to him) and of course on his walks around here,
      both on the Quantocks and Exmoor. And also sitting in the pubs at
      Watchet and Porlock writing that stuff. Fascinating. The only rub as far
      as I am concerned was his dalliance with drugs. But I do have a BIG soft
      spot for him. Not so with his best `mate' Wordsworth (the
      miserable plagiarist).

      But anyway, one day whilst they were both wandering together up there on
      the Quantocks, Coleridge asked Wordsworth to write philosophy in rhyming
      verse. Wordsworth told him to piss off :- ) But I had to laugh
      because reading this was just a few years after I wrote the last of my
      poems. So I said to him, don't worry son for I have already done
      it for you ! There is no way that Wordsworth (the little fluffy bunny)
      could have done that. Like Coleridge I started writing in the public
      domain whilst living in Bristol, and I finished doing it in West
      Somerset on the Quantocks and Exmoor. How strange eh. And even while
      walking those self same paths and sitting in the self same pubs. But
      no drugs here :- ) Well, just a little bit of tobacco and the
      occasional pint of beer – and cream teas :- )

      Yeah, I have big soft spot for Sammy Coleridge. Try the Ancient Mariner
      and Kubla Khan. He too was a perennial romantic and idealist; and also
      much (very much) into politics. Some locals thought that he was a spy
      for the French. But he was not a pragmatist, like what I am :- ) Also
      unlike him I have never been depressed. But I tell you what, I would
      love to pop back in time and walk the hills and vales with those guys
      and their friends here. We could sit chatting the Ship Inn in Porlock
      for weeks and weeks yakking and never getting bored :- ) You
      don't meet many like it today. I don't think that I would come
      back here again. For today there is too much negative interest and
      gloom. I love excitement, beauty, love, doing stuff, living, and BEING.
      The perceiver of beauty is in little need of tittle-tattle and
      trinkets, baubles and beads. But they were men for their time, and time
      moves on; and go with it we must. Whilst retaining all that is good and
      constructive from days past.

      Dick Richardson


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