Monday, 10 May, 2021
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OPINION

An Uncertain Era



Dixya Poudel

THERE is a term in psychology called liminality that describes a state of transition from one stage of life to another. It is derived from the Latin word, limen which means "a threshold." It certainly seems like the world is at a threshold during this era of pandemic. Adding to it is a general fear of uncertainty.
May be our savings are running out, our career and education have been halted or perhaps we are facing a precarious future. Each one of us has experienced despair in the current times when the world is tethering on the edge. How we manage our feelings of uncertainties will determine the forthcoming days.
A relevant term in psychology is 'negative capability' which was first coined by the poet John Keats in 1817 AD and refers to resilience in the face of uncertainties. Born in 1795 AD, John Keats, after completion of his medical studies, went on to write some of the greatest poems in English literature. He is known for writing remarkable poems such as "To Autumn" and "Ode to a Nightingale."
When Keats coined the phrase negative capability, he described it as "being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." Rather than imparting judgments on the uncertain, Keats suggests to continue to understand it better. Today the phrase has come to signify the importance of resilience.
While our initial reactions to uncertainties are wariness, fear and opposition, it can help to think of them as lessons to be learnt. According to John Keats, instead of lamenting the precariousness of life, we can consciously embrace its uncertainties and strive to understand them better. Humanity has always achieved more when faced with adversities which they prevailed over with resilience and fortitude. And once people acknowledge that adversities can be overcome, there are likely to be new breakthroughs.
Today people dread the microscopic virus that causes devastating casualties, leaving in its wake a feeling of loss and tragedy. The global state is mostly an anxious one due to the virus variants even as vaccines have been rolled out. Future seems to be on the precipice created by the pandemic and every one of us is at its mercy.
Currently the economically disadvantaged know how difficult it can be to live hand to mouth. Even the well-to-dos are restricted in their future prospects. Instead of a future where we can work consistently towards progress, growth and prosperity, we are faced with the ravages of a virus. It is a virus that has bought the world to a standstill. And in doing so, it has robbed people of their inherently held optimism towards a secure future. We prefer to think that we are mostly in control of our circumstances in life but then misfortune such as the pandemic occurs.
When circumstances are out of our bearings, it is necessary to take a step back and contemplate on our course of actions. After we comprehend uncertainty, we gain resourceful insights about the course of actions we can pursue in trying times. And once we realise that there are spaces beyond uncertainties we gain an upper hand to difficult circumstances. At this threshold, our resilience can ultimately shield us from the further debilitating effects of the pandemic.