On Keats, the Subconscious, and Being a God

On Keats

For the first time since my school days, I recently set about reading something about the insa and outs of poetry.  It is actually amazing that I remembered as much of it as I did, from so long ago.  Along my meanderings, I ran across the term, “Negative Capability,” a phrase coine by the poet John  Keats about 200 years ago.

[Wikipedia] Negative capability describes the capacity of human beings to transcend and revise their contexts. The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being. It further captures the rejection of the constraints of any context, and the ability to experience phenomenon free from epistemological bounds, as well as to assert one’s own will and individuality upon their activity. The term was first used by the Romantic poet John Keats to critique those who sought to categorize all experience and phenomena and turn them into a theory of knowledge. It has recently been appropriated by philosopher and social theorist Roberto Mangabeira Unger to comment on human nature and to explain how human beings innovate and resist within confining social contexts. The concept has also inspired psychoanalytic practices and twentieth-century art and literary criticism.

Here is what Keats wrote to his brothers, in critiquing fellow poet Samuel Coleridge and a few others:
I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, upon various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once 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 a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason – Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.
I most often reach after fact and reason.  But I am also a guy who knows when a situation or piece of information has me beat.  In other words, that I know when I can’t do something with whatever it is that I am focused on.  If it is information I’d like to be able to do something with someday, I have enough experience with such things that I know I have to put it in a corner of my mind and let time, events, and my subconscious mind work out a way to bring it back to me further along its evolution or mine, hopefully when I can do something with it or about it.  In fact, I’ve held onto some thoughts and glimpses for years and years – not knowing what, if anything, I will ever be able to do with them.  Some have come back to me, and some haven’t.

Who knows? It might even be that I will live long enough to have them ALL come back to me.

I consider it a bit of wisdom to not spend my time and my life and energy, even on things that fascinate me, if I cannot see a way to go forward with whatever it is.  (It is why I never even considered getting interested in UFOs.  I simply thought that the information about them was so nebulous that it did not seem anything would or even could be done with them in my lifetime.)  If certain subjects fascinate me now, I think there is a good chance that each will fascinate me in the future, too – and each might come back to me as a delightful surprise.

It helps that I have enough interests to keep me busy.  And they do, in fact, keep coming back and back and back.

As over-analytical as it may sometimes seem that I am  (to others), I have always always looked at myself more as an emotional person.  I bring that emotion and its energy into my intellectual pursuits, and why not?  Energy in mental – why not?

The Subconscious

…Somewhere along the way, in my metaphysical explorations, I came across a reading of the subconscious mind that floored me.  The meaning of it in psychology and psychoanalysis has always seemed extremely nebulous to me.  I, like most people, had some vague notion of what it meant, but didn’t really have a handle on it.  Even the textbook definitions were vague, at best, even if those who wrote the definitions didn’t think so.Back in the ’70s I wasn’t really looking for a meaning of the subconscious.  I was just reading about internal infernals, like I always have.  Then I stumbled across one person’s take on it that seemed to be far more usable than anything I’d ever read.  Don’t even ask me if “uxability” is something we are out to discover about metaphysical terms.  But this definition/description was terrific.  It made it tangible, for one thing.  Metaphysical stuff can be so intangible, and in a room of 100 people the same word may mean very different things to each one of them.  But this one was really a solid one.  Heck, I may have even misunderstood what the guy had written!What I came away with was this (translated into today’s terms):

Your subconscious is a verbally and mentally programmable operating system, a tool for our use, and what it does is this: Exactly what we tell it to do.

What the guy had written is that we need to be careful what we tell out subconscious to do, because it will set out blindly to get it done.  He said that the subconscious has no filter and no “snarc” alert to tell it when we are kidding.  So when we tell it something – even if we don’t really mean it – the subconscious accepts it as a command and does whatever is in its power to make it happen.  So, we need to be very careful what we tell it, because sometimes we casually say things that it takes literally, even stuff about our health or minds.  At the same time, we can also instruct our subconscious to bring about things we do, in fact, want to come into our lives.  It all depends on what we say to it.  It is our choice, and I have found that to some degree it does work.

So, back then I was a young man and felt like I had the time and the capacity to test out some of the things I’d heard worked, or even things that no one said worked, but that I myself had put 2 and 2 together on and come up with my own way of realizing things.

Which brings us to Negative Capability again, which was
…the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being.
I accepted that we humans may be capable of more than we  supposed.  I did what I could to test it in a couple of ways suggested by metaphysicians long ago.


For example, having to do with karma, it occurred to me that I didn’t really need the universe to sandbag me and throw crap at me just whenever it wanted to.  I thought, well, hell, if I am a Son of God (which I did think and – in a bit more evolved way – still do), then I should be able to start directing my own course, right?  And if I don’t direct my own course, how much of a god could I be, anyway?  So, what did this possible enlightenment do for me back then?  What did I do?

I decided to test it with my driving in my car.  Insurance wasn’t mandatory back then, and I didn’t want to have to pay for it if I didn’t have to.  After all, hadn’t I been reading that each of us was responsible for what happens to us?  If so, WTF did I need insurance for?  If it was true – that I was responsible via karma or otherwise for my physical well-being in this lifetime and the possible injury to others – then I felt like I needed to test it out.  I thought I should be able to control in some way whether accidents happened to me.  And then I thought that if it was my karma to be in an accident, for whatever reason, then it would happen. I said, “Universe, if I’ve got that coming to me, we might as well get it out of the way.  So, come on and give me whatever I deserve!”  If it is my karma to be injured or lose money that way, or just experience the hassle, then – I thought – let it happen.  So, I went out driving just this side of like a lunatic, and I had a close call here and a close call there.  But the god in me, or my karma, or luck, or other drivers seeing me coming and getting out of the way – something kept me from having an accident.  Oh, did I mention I am a terrific driver, too?  LOL  Actually, you will rarely drive with anyone as good in the USA as I am.  (I may be rusty now, though, not having driven but three hours in the last 7 months.  Where I live a car is not a necessity, and often is more hassle than it is worth.)

So, there I was, doing everything I could, to get my karma over and done with, and what happened?  NOTHING!  After several months of that I concluded that I must not have any such karma.  I took it as one lesson learned, and any worries I had back then just disappeared, like a wisp in the wind.

Obviously cars and insurance aren’t the only thing we can have karma about, though.  Having that experience under my collar, though, I gained a little bit of respect (understanding?)  for this way of dealing with karma.  Karma is one reason why we come into an incarnation, but it isn’t the only reason.

Would I recommend anyone else to do what I did?  After later getting a ticket and risking a HUGE fine for not having car insurance after it was mandated by law, I would not advise it in the USA.  Down here in Mexico?  I don’t know.  I don’t think so.  I did it when that lesson was possible.  Not all lessons are available at all times, I guess.

But folks should know this:  All karma is not bad karma.  You may have heard that before.  I am here to tell you it is true.

I tried that experiment with my physical health, too, and for the same reasons.  I’d learned in all sorts of ways that we each are responsible for our own health.  Most of us don’t think so, but that is the way I learned it.  It’s why I eat the way I do and treat my body and mind the way I do: I am responsible for my own health  I have carried health insurance so little in my life, and you’d be amazed at how little I ever needed it – or how little I ever spent on doctors.  This after a childhood of being in hospitals fairly often and for fairly long stays.  I won’t go into me and doctors, but let’s just say that I found that they never did find out what was wrong with me, in about 27 years.  It took a chiropractor to help me keep my nerve impulses relatively healthy, and I didn’t need doctors for much beyond that.  And the principles in chiropractic are more in keeping with my self-responsibility idea.  This is not the usual male macho, “I hate doctors”  thing (although I do hate AMA doctors) – I came at it almost completely from a metaphysical direction.  I did have reasons for not liking doctors, mostly because they didn’t seem to know WTF they were doing with me and my condition.  My inner guide seems to have picked the right way, because the problems that afflicted me for much of my first 33 years have rarely affected me at all in the last 30 years.  I put that inner guide thing down to me learning enough about the human body (from a non-AMA point of view) so that I could recognize what would help and what wouldn’t.  It did work out; that is the bottom line on that.  Luck?  Coincidence?  Skeptics would say so.  Fearmongers, too.

So, the two things dovetailed, and I have made it a very long way here in life with very little insurance of any kind.  My soul tells me I am responsible for myself, and I have tested it well, with only a modicum of damage to me or those around me.  And who can get through life with zero injuries?  Outside of two broken bones, I’ve not needed them for the last 43 years.

So, I’ve laid it on the line, with the gods of karma, and IMHO, they have said to me, “Steve, you actually GET IT.  And in getting it, some of your karma has been erased.  Karma, as you know, is not there to punish or reward, but it is merely you needing to learn from something.  Nothing more.  And if you’ve learned that lesson without karma, you don’t need to go through the physical ‘actuality’ of it.”

So, i my life, I’ve learned to trust the Universe, the gods, my life, and my choices.  I’ve learned the even if I chose a bit erroneously, there is something to be gleaned from it, and that in the end I will be in a pretty good place, anyway.  Living like this means I can make decisions without stress, without worrying about the outcome – because whatever that outcome is, I will still be able to find some happiness and learning, something to sink my teeth in, and something fascinating.

So Keats’

Keats, again

I think that Keats was a bit rough on old Coleridge and the others.  A bit judgmental, actually.  And feeling a bit superior.  He, as much perhaps as any man in the last 300 years, created the myth of the idyllic countryside, the utopia far from the madding crowd.  But, actually, it was easy for Keats.  He lived under patronage, on estates, with nothing to do but write poetry, and he didn’t have much of a care in the world.  Literally, we all can’t live like that – not yet, anyway, and maybe not ever.

(At the same time, if ever there was a poet close to my own heart in black and white, I think it is he.  Much of his poetry is a bit of nothing, and that is as it maybe should be.  I sometimes think my own poetry evokes emotions somewhat better, actually, and I was disappointed, really, that his phrasings were often pretty banal.  Yes, I am aware that this is the man considered by many to be the best poet of all time I am talking about.  And like him, I think I am, when near my best, better than all other poetry I read, including his.  His I found mostly boring and no fun.)

Coleridge, it seems, was more attentive to the bigger world out there, and the world is big enough for both Coleridge’s and Keats’ points of view.  Woe unto a world where one poet sits in judgement on another’s – if the world takes him at his word. . . LOL

Myself, I have spent much time in that practical world that Coleridge evidently was touching upon and that Keats disdained and dismissed as beneath him.  Though I started out a fish out of water that practical world, its lessons are good lessons to learn; its characters are good ones to be exposed to, even the dickheads.  I think that having been in both worlds, I am more than I might otherwise have been.  And I think that is one reason the gods like me, that, like Keats said, I can live with uncertainty and half-truths the rest, in my own negative capability – but it is not the only way to be.  The world is big enough for a plethora of views and capacities.

I laughed at Keats and his understanding that he was a great poet.  He was a rock star, it seems, in the time before rock.  A Jagger or Lennon, knowing his place in the pantheon.  And where am I?  Truly where I want to be.  Though my poems are great (some of them at least, as only some of Keats’ were great), I want to be here, where I am, where I am discovering that the poetry is beginning to flow and flow nicely.  At least sometimes.  In my limbo of uncertainties, and where I feel comfortable where many others would not be able to.

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