One of poet John Keats’ most memorable insights revolved around what he described as the ideal state of the psyche being what he referred to as negative capability — the ability “of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” Renowned author Joyce Carol Oates echoed Keats when she wrote, “The truth of life is its Mystery.” This comfort with mystery and the unknown, as Brain Pickings’ Maria Papova notes, “is at the heart not only of poetic existence but also of the most rational of human intellectual endeavors, as many of history’s greatest scientific minds have attested. And yet, caught between the opinion culture we live in and our deathly fear of being wrong, we long desperately for absolutism, certitude, and perfect truth. And yet, caught between the opinion culture we live in and our deathly fear of being wrong, we long desperately for absolutism, certitude, and perfect truth.”
Popova elegantly refers to the 1993 book The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning, which takes a fascinating look at what is arguably the most important dimension of what it means to be human — our inherent imperfection — and the countless ways in which we violate it daily. The book is a powerhouse resource which delivers a fascinating wisdom and practical insight into how we can navigate the human condition in a way that empowers, rather than disables, our humanity. Authors Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham describe what they refer to as the Spirituality of Imperfection: “a spirituality of not having all the answers, stories convey the mystery and the miracle — the adventure — of being alive.”
Much of the book focuses on the Alcoholics Anonymous program, a movement the authors rightfully hail as one of the most extraordinary achievements of the 20th century. The book, which passes the skepticism radar even of someone as non-religious as myself, is really about cultivating our capacity for uncertainty, for mystery, for having the right questions rather than the right answers. You can read Brain Pickings’ full profile of The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by visiting BrainPickings.org. And for a complete archive of Maria Popova’s incredible work for Brain Pickings CLICK HERE. You can also get LIVE updates from Brain Pickings via Facebook and Twitter. To purchase your own copy of the book, as well as read the first several pages, be sure to visit Amazon.