Mar 26, 2011


The Romantic poet John Keats defined what he called “negative capability,” the ability to make one’s own prejudices, attitudes, preferences into a blank sheet, and allow those of some other living being to fill it. He practiced this on the sparrows on his windowsill, and was able, to some extent, to see and feel what he imagined sparrows saw and felt.

In the thin layer we call the biosphere, which covers the surface of the earth from a few feet underground to a surprising distance up into the heavens, living and non-living beings exist together. The German writer Goethe was the first, to my limited knowledge, to extend negative capability to plants, a vital part of the living web for all its inhabitants.

The opposite of this capacity to see through the eyes of another is “sentimentality,” when the viewer projects all his (or her) attitudes and convictions on to the beings they are looking at, and consequently fail completely to apprehend anything at all about them.

People who dress up their dogs in little bootees for their feet, and fine jackets for their shoulders are showing a sentimental attitude. Common sense suggests that for a dog bare paws and a furry back are healthy and normal. Cats certainly wouldn’t stand for it, and will claw and bite the clothes right off, if they can, but some animals can be made to comply. The notion that little boots to keep their feet warm, for example, would improve sparrows, identifies the extreme sentimentalist.


Wahyusamputra said...

The religiously inclined, who insist that God would not allow it to happen, must be answered that they mistake the divine purpose, which is not under the time constraints of the creation.

The Stuxnet virus, hailed as a triumph of US/Israeli ingenuity to sabotage the Iranian nuclear effort, appears to have prevented the automatic shutdown of the Fukushima reactor, of which the Israelis were also in charge.

Your fate is in your own hands. If you insist on reducing Mother Earth to a smoking cinder, then to watch a man doing something is not the same as compelling him to do it.

Wahyusamputra said...

"Whatever can be imagined can be achieved," says Angela Palmer, creator of the "ghost forest" of huge ancient rainforest tree root stumps in Oxford, England.

Unfortunately that applies equally to all human endeavors, the evil as well as the good.