We now know enough to know that we will never know everything. This is why we need art: it teaches us how to live with mystery. Only the artist can explore the ineffable without offering us an answer, for sometimes there is no answer. John Keats called this romantic impulse ‘negative capability.’ He said that certain poets, like Shakespeare, had ‘the ability to remain in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’ Keats realized that just because something can’t be solved, or reduced into the laws of physics, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. When we venture beyond the edge of our knowledge, all we have is art.
An interesting quote from Jona Lehrer’s book Proust was a neuro-scientist. Something like Coleridge’s willing suspension of disbelief,though it is not the same thing. An artist is capable of living with ambiguity, postponing the need to be precise ,content to live under clouds of uncertainty. A scientist is not. The reason why we need humanities to co-exist with science is the difficulty of explaining everything, even those which offer no explanation.Mysteries that might tomorrow offer empirical explanation but today you live with their mystery,without even asking what are we doing with it?
Coleridge’s suspension of disbelief has to be willing, not a reluctant belief arising out of our inability to do anything about it. It is a cognition of the need to maintain an artist’s world with all its basic limitations, the inevitability of continuing with ambiguity, the mysteries of myth and legend. Knowledge is reason but we venture beyond the borders of knowledge to achieve art.