You must have come across this question at some point. Do you see life as a glass half empty or half full? It is a big old cliché, and a too simplistic way of separating the optimist from the pessimist. People don’t like to be reduced into -ists and -isms, generally. And you know what? Most of us aren’t hard-and-fast -ists and -isms all the time. Even if you are reasonably content with yourself and consider your life blissfully ordinary, you just take a minute and look inside yourself. And do just that. Oh yeah, you didn’t think you had all that in you, did you? And now that you know, what are you gonna do about it? Welcome to the world of the rest of us. We try to simplify the universe within and without with deceptively simple half filled glasses (or should I say, half empty), and fool ourselves into thinking that our attitude to life can be reduced to a metaphorical glass. However, conversely, there must be a reason why this metaphor endures through so much over-thinking (what we humans call in our glass-full manner, intelligence) in modern life. Why is it so appealing? What does it really say about us?
Let’s address the literal problem with this proposition first. A glass is never half full or half empty, unless you specify what it is supposed to be full of. I haven’t read any Physics in quite a long time, but a glass half full of water is also half full of air, besides other things. Maybe a fly who unfortunately fell into it. Or soap suds that have remained from the previous washing. Now, before you think I’m just babbling about the ridiculous, let’s go back to the metaphorical, which I’m much better at than Physics. The point of a glass being full of well, glass to begin with, as well as water, air, a dead fly, soap suds, possibly saliva and maybe lipstick traces as well if you have been drinking from it, all demonstrate that your glass is never half anything. You never look at a glass and go, yeah, that’s it, I’m half empty or full. If you were a constant optimist, you would have departed from this world long ago for your constant, hopelessly naive, faith in everything. If you were a constant pessimist, you would have met the same fate, because you would suffer from your hopelessly naive disbelief in everything about the world. The former death would probably be something like a road accident, while the latter will be something like a heart-attack. And that, is the only difference. In the former, you are blind to or ignore the perils of the world we live in. In the latter, you are too obsessed with its presence. And, the mistake you are making with both is simply depending on your outlook, instead of questioning the validity of it. You are making yourself immune to change, to adaptation, to a life where the chemical balance of that glass of water can, and will be altered.
The metaphor is right. Life is a glass of water, with all the other accoutrements you can think of. Maybe, that glass is of fruit juice (which, of course, has a high percentage of water) which you decide to have a brimful of. Maybe it has wine, which you obey your doctor and have only a small amount of, perhaps near the lining of the bottom of the glass. You admire its colour, its texture, how it sparkles in the light. You are unconscious of the air you suck in as you drink it. Your relationship with a simple glass of water, fruit juice or wine, is so much more than an act of simply satiating your preferred drinking needs. It is not just a glass of water. It never is.
The way I look at it, my glass has an indeterminate quantity of water. Even if it looks half full to the naked eye, I suspect that is incorrect, and I’d need some good old Vernier callipers from the Physics laboratory to investigate. Or metaphorically, I am always open to the possibility that life is not what I assume it to be. There are days when my glass is sparkling with clean, blissful water, a nectar which reminds me how there is so much to wonder at in this world and life. On other days, I only see the empty air, air that seems to be escaping from around me as all these man-made structures come crashing down, with no means of escape. But, without being overly dramatic, on most days, life is just some sort of combination of the two in lesser degrees than these extremes. So, deal with it.