Negative Capability New Year by Sonali Khatri

One day, during a 110 minute English class I became enlightened. Poetry has never meant much to me: a bunch of fancy words that I don’t understand organized into stanzas and iambs. This year, however, we’ve gone beyond the surface level and into the most minuscule details. The conversations I’ve had get so deep at times they give me a mini existential crisis.

The topic for this particular day was Keats and his negative capability. John Keats, a romantic poet, wrote in a letter to his brothers a couple centuries ago about negative capability: mans’ capability “of being in uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts without any irritable reaching after fact or reason”.

It was eye-opening because it reminded me of all my personal experiences in which I have felt uncomfortable with not knowing what the future will hold. Whether it be waiting for college decisions, anticipating a test grade, or making a risky decision it’s always been hard to step away from these sorts of situations with a level head. Keats would argue that this “up in the air-ness” adds to the charm of life.

If we knew everything about everything we wouldn’t be curious or have an imagination. Not knowing what your future will hold allows you to develop personal dreams and goals. Just as Keats believed that refraining from fact and reason allows beauty and art to manifest naturally, refraining from overthinking similarly allows life to take its course in the way it should.

So if you haven’t decided on a new years resolution just yet just jump on the negative capability bandwagon. Living with this philosophy in mind has already helped me on a daily basis. It’s about feeling comfortable in your decisions, remaining in the present, and normalizing the feeling of not always having a definitive answer. So if anyone is nosy and asks what you’re working on this year just say you’re strengthening your negative capability.

One thought on “Negative Capability New Year by Sonali Khatri

  1. Sonali,
    This really made me think and I appreciate the freeingness (I think I just made up a word) of the philosophy of negative capability. Living in the moment is something I have been working on in meditation, and especially with the uncertainty that life has handed all of us for the last two years in particular, stopping the trend of obsessing about “what next?” allows me to relax a little. Thanks for introducing this topic!

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