Thanks for this. I enjoyed reading it, and I agree that fear is a big motivator for probably all artists. Fear in the work itself too is always interesting. I could be wrong, though, but it feels like she willfully complicates negative capability and some other things. Seems to me that all Keats is really saying is that one can (at times) be open to whatever one experiences and not try to judge it or categorize (intellectualize) it – as soon as one does this, one kills the world, limits it. What does this mean? Stop thinking. Beyond thinking. Part of the trouble she gets herself into in the essay is that she posits thinking, self-consciousness, cognitive abilities, the intellect, as the highest of the high, the greatest state for humans. This is exactly what Keats was responding to: let that thinking mind shut up sometimes, that mind that tries to figure all the shit out. Pretty difficult to do and one can’t understand that state (the Be Here Now comment is cheesy) or know it but just be it. It would be surprising to me if she believed that poetry was all about thinking shit through and feeling shit and then writing it down – great poetry to me is often an opening up and shutting up of the thinking moron we all have constantly going in our heads.
Also, she says suffering is based on ignorance in Buddhism, but this isn’t correct understanding of Buddhism – yeah, the term “ignorance” is used in Buddhism, but it’s not the same as western culture where ignorance means lack of knowledge or understanding (the Third Reich example betrays this – if they just knew more about people, that we’re all the same, it wouldn’t have happened). In Buddhism, all ignorance is is a state of selfishness: selfish craving is the cause of suffering and that selfishness is ignorance; one can have all the knowledge and understanding in the world and still be ignorant in Buddhism. It’s not about knowledge or understanding, it’s about being okay that one isn’t anything and then being that – which is basically Keats – when one is in “uncertainties” one is also uncertain of oneself. Also, suffering doesn’t end. There’s often this idea, definitely present here, that negative capability or something like Buddhism is a state of non-suffering – that’s not really right. It’s more like suffering still is there but one suffers and is okay with it, is open to it, where typically we try to fight it. Same with fear. The more we fight it with our thinking, the worse it gets.
Lastly, one can still know things, understand some things, and at the same time be openly unknowing – feel like she wants things like yes/no. She asks: “should we finally and willfully cease to understand?” Understand what? I would say: it’s okay to try and understand, but don’t be worried or afraid when you don’t because you’re dreaming. I don’t know.
Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t really want to have a conversation about this essay. I just wanted to share my appreciation for it. Hopefully someone else will reply to your thoughtful comments, in full.