On Negative Capability, the Ability to Find Comfort and Beauty in the Unknown

WHAT IS LIFE, if not a constant asking of questions and seeking their answers — a quest to uncover the best way to live, which route to take and how much effort to exert?

Why are we here, if not to find the answer to the question: who am I?

If we had the answers life would be rendered meaningless, as we’d never have to stumble through the darkness to feast our eyes on a beautiful dawn; if life was never-ending sunlight, perhaps we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.

The serendipitous moments of life come when we’re unsure about something yet we go for it anyway — we try something new where perhaps we might fail. We take a chance.

Yet, it’s uncomfortable not knowing. We’d rather stick to a path with a preordained finish line.

But I believe a life in the known is a life without growth. A life in the unknown contains boundless opportunity, for we never know what road a decision might lead us down, nor how we’ll bloom and transcend all previous personal boundaries.

To be comfortable in the unknown requires patience, grace, and trust. Yet no great story, no historical transformation or revolutionary figure was ever formed from playing it safe.

The English Romantic poet John Keats coined the term Negative Capability in a letter to his brothers George and Thomas (December 21, 1817). He wrote:

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.
Springboard Journaling

Perhaps you want to create change in your life. You know you’re destined for something more, but you can’t seem to get out of your own way nor commit to taking that first step into the unknown.

It’s frightening to even ask how we’d like our lives to change because then, we’d become aware of what needs changing.

Try this: Get out a journal and start writing down any question that comes to mind. Write down those questions that linger and weigh heavily on your conscience.

Don’t answer them.

Ask one question, or a hundred questions without the need to find an answer — this is about open-ended inquiring, not problem solving.

Allow the Universe to Answer

Personally it can feel like I’m afraid to ask questions, even in my journal, because I won’t like the answer. It will require me to take a good hard look at myself and the way I’m living.

Springboard journaling is different and feels beneficial and healing, in that it allows us to ask those deep questions, the ones that human beings have been asking since the beginning of time.

Just get the question down on the page and move onto the next question. Without seeking an answer, this will allow you to decompress, unburden your mind, and move on.

Now, you’ve taken the first step. You’ve taken the questions from the confines of your mind and put them on the page. Let the universe run its course.

You may begin to notice that by fearlessly asking questions without needing an answer, the answers will begin to formulate when and where you least expect them to.

And now that you’ve taken that first step, who knows — perhaps you’ll find the confidence to act on that answer, to cross into the unknown, and awaken to the beauty that exists where you’ve never been.

You may see that life, inspiration, and creativity exist on that border of known and unknown. To become the person you’ve never been, you must do what you’ve never done.

This might write a simple question you’ve always wanted to ask.

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