Half Full AND Half Empty

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Today, NaBloPoMo poses the question, Is the proverbial glass half empty or half full?

My personal proverbial glass is not static.  It moves as if it's liquid, like I'm constantly glassblowing it.

I imagine the DSM-IV and the DSM-V would probably have a few different pharmaceuticals for that floppiness, to stabilise the ship.  But I don't think the ship is meant to be stabilised in that fashion.  A bridge is built so that it sways.  It is the in-built sway which gives it its strength.  It's learning to lean into the curves that is the beginning of wisdom, not trying to straighten them out so that every road is a ruler.

But this is especially true for me lately because how that proverbial glass appears on any given day is determined by what is happening in my body.   I try to listen to what my body needs in order to do what it does - heal, magically, with the right ingredients.  But sometimes taking the very ingredients your body needs can make you feel temporarily worse before you feel better.  Sometimes stopping what you are doing because it is making you feel worse is the very worst thing that you could do.  But then sometimes it's the best.  And sometimes it's hard to know the difference.

In the times when I am laid low, through healing crises, bodily malfunctions, or through simple colds and flus, the glass can be as empty and as dry as if it had always lived its life in the desert and the only time it is filled  is when it's caked up with dead, dry sand that is threatening to submerge it entirely.

But those times pass.  Just like the good times must pass too.  When my ship is on a more even keel, and the seas are calm, then that glass does seem half full.  There is something within me that returns to optimism, and joy, when I feel well, like one of those babies' toys that are weighted in the base so that they never topple for good.  Beauty siren-calls me back, and possibility, and simply the lack of suffering.  But when wellbeing hits, it is its own reward.  It's remembering when those times hit that bad times will return again, and not being averse to that, which puts the extra weight in my bottom and wind in my sails, to mix a couple of metaphors.  It's not the absence of those bad times that makes for good times.  But it's so easy to forget this.

When I think of the collective glass, the world I live in and take my part in, and whether it's half-empty or half-full, it becomes more complicated.  I know that the times we are living in now are dark, and the way we are living may possibly destroy the very earth that we depend upon.  We are knowledgeable but unbelievably stupid, and allowing ourselves to be led by the nose by corruption that leaks out of all of the institutions we have depended upon in the past.  There is much to be depressed about in this insane world, and it's here that it is tempting to see the glass as half empty, and that human stupidity and ignorance will be our downfall for good.

But maybe not for good.  I like to look at the march of time not as linear, in the stupid and boring way that is our Western inheritance, but as circular.  That is a much wiser way to look at it.  I read this the other day about traditional Hindu conceptions of the passing of cultural time:

... the Iron Age is the last in the great cycle.  It begins with the Golden Age, a period of great stability and very slow change, in which the wise are recognized, and rule.  In the Silver Age, things are changing more, though still slowly.  In the Bronze Age, change is faster, people are turning more outwards, "doing" more.  Finally, in the Iron Age, which is the shortest of the four, change becomes more and more rapid, the wise long ago ceased to have any say in the form of our outer life, and we all become more and more materialistic.  It ends in self-destruction, but from the flames arises the phoenix of the next Golden Age.
(Tilo Ulbricht, 'A thousand roots: an introduction to the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke,' Parabola magazine

I love this recycling and composting view of the degeneration that comes at certain periods of time :)  How very wise.  Whatever comes up must go down. But then, whatever goes down must come up.  And so in this instance, when I look at the way the Western civilisation works now, knowing that it is not sustainable for us or for the earth, the most positive way to view the future is to go right through the most negative, and to see that our current way of living must destroy itself.

Paradox.  The seeds of the new are in the midst of the old and will sprout, just the way they do after fire.  And that's a beautiful thing, and it's both glass-half-full and glass-half-empty all at the same time.

Which are perhaps the most beautiful moments of all.


  1. Yes yes. Circular, not linear. I've written about this before, it's very interesting. I wonder if it's stretching it to say circular makes one think of feminine, linear masculine. Too obvious? Maybe. But fertility/nature based cultures are often of a more circular/cyclical leaning. I think we often want to go around (or turn around) but as you say, the only or best way out is through. I think that's true of my own mental health and, as you say, it goes right up to the planetary health. Round and round we go.

  2. very well written. :)

  3. I definitely think of circular/feminine and linear/masculine too, Emma.  It makes such a difference thinking about the nature of time in this way, doesn't it?  It's like things and possibilities and hope open up where the other way causes a kind of paralysis.  Round and round we go (and now I'm singing awful Spandau Ballet songs but hopefully that will end soon ;)

  4. Beautiful! Love it. I think I'm going through an emotional / spiritual healing crisis. My glass is half empty today, with hopes of a half full for tomorrow.

  5.  Hey, SS.  Thank you.  Ahhh, them healing crises are rough going.  Here's to hopes for more half full days to come *clink*


Newer Older