A Time of Uncertainty
Catherine Ann Jones
“Awakening: self-giving in the hope of honest self-realization.”
In a debate with the English Poet and philosopher, Coleridge, poet John Keats defended a willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity. He called this willingness to embrace uncertainty, ‘negative capability.” Keats insisted that life is about living the questions, that the unknown is what drives science, and that the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.
“Several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & 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 & reason.” – Keats
Turning points come at various times in one’s life. I suspect this is yet another turning point matrix for me. As is usual at such times of transition, one is left brutally in a period of uncertainty or ‘negative capability’ as Keats might say. One major turning point began four years ago with the death of my mother and my being with her those last ten days of her passing. The day after her death, a close relative brought a legal suit against her will and this lasted for three hellish liturgical years. As her executor, I felt duty-bound to honor the will and my mother’s intention. Though my conscience is clear that I did my duty as a daughter, the aftermath of those years in conflict is still keenly felt, much as surviving a war and then attempting to return to normal living.
Today, due to other occurrences – personally, professionally, and spiritually- there remains this overall theme of ‘uncertainty’. The result is a withdrawing from the fray, no longer having the energy or push to ‘hustle’ my creative work, and, even in my personal life, having less and less inclination to socialize. . I am grateful for a few good friends, yet desire has turned to stillness, both within and without. Enjoyments chosen are being in nature, swimming, reading with a cat next to me, streaming good films, and reading and re-reading fine books. Creatively, I must remind myself that such ‘in-between’ periods often arise before launching another creative project such as a book, play, or screenplay, and yet this time it feels so over powering that I feel I can only wait as a confused passenger at a railway station, having yet no clear sense of destination.
I sense that what I am feeling personally is also mirrored in the collective as I follow from afar the national and global news. Also when I raise the topic with friends, they seem to resonate as well. Everywhere I look it is a time of uncertainty.
At such times, we are thrown back on ourselves and must turn within to see what is true now. Doubt spurs inner inquiry and that may well be a good movement, if it leads to some deeper understanding. Whatever tomorrow brings, I feel a commitment to simply remain true to what is now with no pretense or bravado, and to simply trust the process that something wiser than one’s self knows. Again uncertainty, for this is the gamble called Life, is it not?
Then again, from this uncertainty, who knows what wonders of creation and beauty may arise? Both Keats and Shakespeare transformed uncertainty into greatness through writing.
Perhaps it is good to remember that Creativity can be alchemy for the soul.
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