A farewell to Winter

I wanted to revisit something that I have previously thought to be of great importance, and that is the concept of negative capability as defined by the poet Keats. This popped up in Orna Ross' blog on creative intelligence (http://www.ornaross.com/). While I am not really in sync with Orna's design aesthetic, or I suspect her fiction, some interesting things turn up in her blog from time to time, and I enjoy her regular email.

Recently Orna reminded her readers of the concept of negative capability, which Keats defined as being ’when a man (sic) is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts — without any irritable reaching out after fact and reason." I knew this quote well, and have long considered that negative capability is one of the most underrated and overlooked thinking concepts of the last few centuries. This is a powerful counterpoint to the searching, visually probing, post-enlightenment scientific gaze, a dissenting voice in a time where scientific thinking sought nothing more than a constant, exhausting and 'irritable reaching out after fact and reason".

Keats himself clearly understood the capacity of his concept to offend the man of science, when he said that 'what shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the chameleon poet."

It gets better. I had never read the later part of the quotation, where Keats goes on to say the following: "It [negative capability] does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things any more than from its taste for the bright one, because both end in speculation." What a fantastic appeal to the aesthetics of the Gothic: to joyously relish the dark side of things. This is the essential nature of my love of the winter season, that it is the time of darkness and brooding fascination. Now, of course, Spring is upon us, and so we bid farewell to the darkness for another year. Nevertheless, it will be good to keep hold of Keat's negative capability as we enter the new seasonal cycle. This is a potent time of year creatively, when darkness turns towards light, and the days lengthen - and I look forward to the coming regeneration, hopefully without an irritable reaching after facts and reason.