Negative Capability revisited: not knowing
I’ve enjoyed this article where Paul Tritschler revisits poet John Keats’ idea of Negative Capability via psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion. “Bion said that one discovers truth, the ingredient essential to psychic growth, on the cusp of knowing and not knowing. On the cerebral map, not knowing is located somewhere at the edge of the world.”
Bion urged us: “Discard your memory; discard the future tense of your desire; forget … both what you know and what you want, to leave space for a new idea. A thought, an idea unclaimed, may be floating around the room searching for a home.” Such radical discardings may seem harsh, and an unwise approach for tackling the pan-species existential climate crisis. But it’s worth remembering that Bion’s understanding, like Keats’, is focused on addressing our ‘now’: liberating us in the moment from our chains of preconceived notions and factual obsessions. Memory and desire are core to how we continually recreate the crisis, and to our battles over solutions.
Tritschler concludes: “On one level, negative capability would help us to manage the emotional challenges associated with uncertainty. On another level, it could reveal the unconscious as a reservoir of possibility and hope.” A tool for our times?