Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Glass

I had reason last night to ponder again the old glass half full/half empty adage, and something struck me. Forgive me if this has been said a million times before.

The test is supposed to determine what kind of person you are, an optimist or a pessimist. And I think most people try to answer it in that spirit. Of course, the real answer is that the glass is both half full and half empty. Those things are equally true. That alone is boring, but here's what struck me -- even though that's correct, might it be a bad way to see things? Would it be better to have a strong opinion about it that then might influence the way you behave than to simply observe that both conditions are true? Might such an accurate-but-tepid response lead to some kind of paralysis? And if harboring strong opinions has some greater inherent value than being correct (if and when the two are in conflict), doesn't that change a hell of a lot about the assumptions of a moderate like me, who scoffs at Fox News and The Nation and their ilk? I ask sincerely...

4 Comments:

Anonymous pf said...

J-J, it seems to me (since you asked) that it may in fact be best of all to look at a half-full -- wait, I mean half-empty -- whoops -- um, half a glass of water and say simply that it's half a glass of water. (What I'm saying, I think, is, you're right.) Maybe the point is (and I don't know, I'm just throwing this out there)that the reasons for how you feel are not to be found in the glass itself.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

My opinion would be that the world is not made up of only optimists and pessimists.

I would say your view of the glass makes you more of a realist. Which is the best way to be, I think.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Sleepless Mama said...

I'm a moderate with conservative tendencies, but even if I were liberal I think I'd say the same thing: when you are talking about a glass of water, it doesn't matter which side you pick, but if you're talking about an issue that will directly affect living people, you cannot straddle the fence. Neutrality is an illusion that appears to serve no one but actually serves negativity (or "evil" if you will) by not stopping it. We hide behind neutrality and never pick a side, never even say "Hey, wait a minute, maybe we should try it another way," and then we are surprised when things don't get better. Even looking for a third or fourth option is better than choosing nothing.

Of course, I'm greatly oversimplifying. Sometimes there is no right answer. We don't go to war and many people suffer under a dictator. We do go to war and an entire nation is subsequently doomed to constant civil war by terroristic splinter groups. That's the nature of the situation, and no amount of optimism has been able to change it.

But in answer to the water question: if someone's in the process of filling it, it's half full, but if someone is drinking it, it's half empty.

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Seth said...

I think George Carlin put it best - "the glass is too big."

9:25 PM  

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