Friday, March 03, 2006
The Glass is ALWAYS Full… a Different Way of Seeing
Tonight over dinner and a bottle of wine, my husband and I discussed all sorts of things from religion to politics to business to art, and more. A good bottle of wine can do that, I suppose, but then we can do that without a bottle of wine – we always could. That’s why we’ve lasted over 40 years – in part, at least.
But tonight he surprised me with a new way of seeing an old cliché. There’s always been talk about optimists and pessimists, with optimists seeing the glass half full while pessimists see it as half empty. But Frank says the glass is never, ever empty. And how is that, I wondered. So we started with the story of the science prof who had a bottle full of water on his lab bench. He asked his students if the bottle was full and they all agreed it was. Then the prof added some large stones to the bottle and again asked if the bottle was full. Yes, the students agreed, it was indeed full. The prof then added a large handful of small pebbles, again asking the class if the bottle was full. Yes sir, this time for sure it was very full, they responded. So the prof then pulled out a container of sand and proceeded to add the sand to the bottle, with the same question: is the bottle full? Yes, professor, the bottle is now full to the brim. So, when was the bottle “empty?” Was it still somehow ‘empty’ when it only held water? Or water and stones? Of course not.
Now the story doesn’t say that when the prof added stones, pebbles and sand, that water is automatically displaced and spilled out over the lab bench. So the bottle was really full all those times and when something new was added, but something else had to go.
So the old adage of the glass half full of whatever, has us presuming it is also half empty, right? Yet that is no more true than it was in the case of the professors bottle. The glass may be half full of water, but it’s also half full of air. The glass is never empty – as long as it is a container, it contains something within the confines of itself. Only when it ceases to be able to contain does it cease to hold. And whether or not we LIKE the contents that it holds is what makes all the difference in the world to us.
And so there never really is a glass that is half full or half empty. The glass is always full and it is up to us to decide how we view the contents and how to make the best of what is held therein.
Or so it seems to me…