“When a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason,” Keats writes, he is negatively capable. He goes on in the next sentence to criticize Samuel Taylor Coleridge for his obsession with truth at the expense of beauty—for being “incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge.”
When Ricky Williams was running the ball for the Miami Dolphins in 2002 and 2003 he was not reaching irritably after fact and reason. At least not on the football field. Instead, he was disappearing into the sport. The Ricky Williams who read book after book about his soul and struggled with anxiety gave way to an entirely un-conscientious being who existed purely in the context of the game around him. He allowed himself to be fully inhabited by his perfect natural instincts and his enormous physical talents. This lines up with Keats’ vision, in which the true genius is able surrender everything, even himself, to beauty.
The always poignant and thoughtful Eric Nusbaum on Ricky Williams’ years with the Miami Dolphins.