The power of negative thinking 

Life sucks — but maybe that’s a good thing?

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Toward the end of the book, Mr. Burkeman quotes a 22-year-old Keats on what he called, in a letter to his brother, “Negative Capability” — “that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

Mr. Burkeman adds: “Sometimes the most valuable of all talents is to be able not to seek resolution; to notice the craving for completeness or certainty or comfort, and not feel compelled to follow where it leads Ultimately, what defines the ‘cult of optimism’ and the culture of positive thinking — even in its most mystically tinged New Age forms — is that it abhors a mystery. The greatest benefit of negative capability — the true power of negative thinking — is that it lets the mystery back in.”

However, he is quick to say, “This ‘negative path,’ it should be emphasized, isn’t one single comprehensive, neatly packaged philosophy; the antidote is not a panacea.” No doubt, since the condition is terminal. Best to accept the diagnosis and act accordingly.


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