Updated: Feb 6, 2021
Coined by the poet John Keats, negative capability is a fancy way of expressing a person’s willingness to exist in uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity. What a novel idea in modern society.
For better or worse, we live in a world where copious amounts of information is accessible near instantaneously. An unforeseen consequence of this perceived benefit is that it has become a cultural disgrace to simply not have an opinion on any given topic. For example:
What do you mean you don’t have the medical expertise to offer a credible critique of the new mRNA vaccine methodology?
You are not investing in cryptocurrency? Do you hate money? This is the future. These are my top 3 altcoins of 2021.
Chances are that unless you are friends with a leading virologist or blockchain developer, your buddies got their “insight” from a biased source who considers themselves an expert. Where did this expert form his/her opinion? By citing specific examples of a previous opinion that backs their narrative while ignoring the rest. Confirmation bias anyone?
You can see where this rabbit hole leads and the dangerous effect this perpetual cycle of misinformation can have. So what’s the point of this tirade?
It is ok to say, “I DON’T KNOW.” Crazy right? Listen to some of the smartest people of modern society during a long open session interview. When a topic comes up that they don’t fully grasp, they don’t simply apply bro-science or regurgitate someone else’s thoughts without validation. They simply reply that they don’t have the knowledge or expertise to speak intelligently on the matter at hand. Again, it is ok to say, “I DON’T KNOW.” Even more important than being able to admit ignorance is the ability to differentiate understanding vs. being right.
So, you were part of a passionate discussion and it turns out by chance that the 30 seconds of information you recalled from a Twitter video you watched a week ago, later proved to be correct. Wow! (Slow sarcastic clap) Congratulations. You took an unoriginal thought pawned it off as your own and were “technically” correct. However, you failed to understand and have learned NOTHING.
It’s 2021 folks. We should not be expected to have an opinion on EVERYTHING, and if we do have an opinion, it should be a genuine one that we have developed ourselves through personal comprehension. It is infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right - even if it means changing your mind about a topic, ideology, or, above all, yourself.