A LITTLE LESS COLERIDGE
The Romantic poet John Keats lived his short life with intense passion.
Moved by his senses and imagination.
He longed to find beauty in a world of suffering.
And his writing is a radiant reflection of those dreams.
Keats was also a great admirer of Shakespeare.
He once described the Bard’s genius as Negative Capability:
“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 man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”
Uninhibited, open, without judgment.
Giving oneself fully to the process, to that which is being experienced.
Without the need to figure it all out, or the desire for gain.
Sadly, that sentiment is antithetical to today’s goal-obsessed culture.
An anxiety-fueled zeitgeist that is sucking the spirit out of people.
And which, I’m pretty sure, was the crux of my angst.
For I often found myself wondering.
Why do it? What’s its purpose? What’s it going to accomplish?
Driven, instinctively, by my insatiable desire to understand, to connect the dots.
Just like another Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Who obsessively searched for “the truth” of the human condition.
And the mysteries of the natural world.
Keats saw Coleridge’s compulsion as narrowly subjective.
Keats believed that the inspirational power of beauty was more important than the quest for meaning.
It has taken me quite a while to wake up to it, assuming I actually have.
But Keats was right.
In our dogged pursuit of knowledge and goals, we have forgotten to live.
To subdue self-concern and identify with others.
To open up fully to here-and-now experiences.
And to embrace our empathetic impulses and imaginative creativity.
So I’m going to try to stop connecting all of the dots.
It’s really hard.
Stop trying to predict an unknowable future.
And instead, be a connected and passionate part of the present.
For as Goethe made clear, “What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.”
Here’s to life!
A little less Coleridge.
A lot more Keats.