Clichéd, right? – It’s going to get better, you just wait.
They say whatever attains the status of cliché must have a time-tested foundation of truth supporting it. Having a different viewpoint is not an exception to this. It can have powerful, significant effects on one’s life and on the world. But like any other powerful tool, it begs to be used with moderation. Overuse of the ‘different-ness’ idea can get old very fast. So much so that as a slogan, it has become counterproductive in our times – people have jumped on the ‘uniqueness’ bandwagon merely because everyone else is doing it, ‘being different’ has become an universally common fad.
However, we’re not going to talk about that particular cliché here. This one is going to be about optimism and pessimism. You got it, this is gonna be one of those endless ‘glass-half-full/glass-half-empty’ posts.
But I am here to solve that problem for you. Forever. That knot, my friend, is undone.
You see, the person who says ‘The glass is half full’ need not be the optimist and the person who says ‘The glass is half empty’ need not be the pessimist.
It all depends on the stress pattern when you say it.
The glass is half full. – Pessimist
The glass is half full. – Optimist
The glass is half empty. – Optimist
The glass is half empty. – Pessimist
So when we just say it all flat and even, both statements mean just that you are a realist, inclining to neither optimism nor pessimism.
That is the truth of the matter, and like so many things in life, it is simple to understand and complex to tackle.
Fullness and emptiness are complimentary concepts. One does not have meaning without the other. There is no difference between describing a glass as half-full, and describing it as half-empty, because each expression immediately implies the other.
With complex systems, it is almost impossible to reduce any given scenario to a simplistic ‘glass/water’ model. Real life does not come in airtight boxes. At every moment, we stand at the crossroads of a thousand eventualities, and we have to consider and weigh a hundred factors before making a pronouncement or taking a decision. It is not possible to oversimplify and describe a person’s stance – in a real moment – as optimism or pessimism. Even in the case of the glass, the statements ‘It is half full‘ and ‘It is half empty‘ fail to define anything. Actually the glass is always full, since we are not particular about the stuff it must be filled with. A glass can be half-filled with water, and the rest of it is full of air. And even if we fill the glass up to the brim with water, there is still dissolved air in the liquid, which warrants the notion that the glass is never really full.
This is not an over-complication of the metaphor. The metaphor, in fact, is an oversimplification of life.
There are circumstances in our lives which demand the full glass of water and nothing less. A half-glass, in these circumstances, is as good as no glass at all. To preach the ‘glass half-full’ credo to people who have been hurt but not mutilated, raped but not killed, bankrupted but not impoverished, ignored but not silenced – is a crime of insensitivity. It is not a desire to provide emotional support, but a desire to project yourself as a holier, better person that leads you to do it.
Time buries everything, so in every tragedy there is always the beginning of the end of that tragedy. The silver lining does not negate the cloud, it simply compliments it. To see the lining and miss the cloud is not a mark of maturity, it is a sign of infantile blindness.
Imagine telling a mother who lost a child, ‘But at least you have the other one.’ Imagine telling a child who lost his father, ‘But at least you have your mother.’ Imagine telling the refugees who left behind their burning homes, ‘But at least you didn’t lose your lives.’ Imagine telling a crippled soldier, ‘But at least you came back,’ and telling the family of another who didn’t come back, ‘But at least he died bravely.’ And smile at any un-soldierly death, thinking ‘But at least now he is in heaven.’ – Where does this madness end?
If you are in a position where you can rise above suffering, – good for you. Try to help others if you can, with your head and your heart and your hand. But if you have nothing to offer other than ‘hopes and prayers,’ keep your mouth shut and keep stepping. Those who suffer will make it on their own, or maybe they won’t, but in either case, they won’t need your worthless sermon.
And if you feel strongly about people being pessimistic and always describing the glass as half-empty, you shouldn’t complain – because at least you get to correct them and then pat yourself on the back, right? How’s that for half-full?