Sunday, December 26, 2010

Negative Capability

Sportswriter Thomas Boswell on the steroids controversy in baseball:

“The moralist wants to decide what’s right and wrong; the artist wants to see things exactly as they are, even if there are so many shades that right and wrong isn’t a place that you get to. John Keats wrote in a letter—and he was talking about William Shakespeare—he said that the feature that distinguished Shakespeare the most and made him the greatest of all writers was what Keats called 'negative capability', which he described as the ability to remain in tension, undecided between opposing poles. And he said that Shakespeare had that negative capability, the ability to see everything and not jump to one side of the question, to a greater degree than any other artist.

“Now we live in a sports age and a baseball age, where nothing’s more valuable than negative capability because if we’re just in a rush, if we can’t wait to see Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, or whoever it is, as right or wrong, then we’re missing the complexity of these people and the difficulty of the age that they’re living in.”

From "Inning Ten: Bottom of the Tenth (1999-2009)" in Ken Burns Baseball

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