Like many of you, I have been trying to keep working and pressing ahead with my personal responsibilities while deeply saddened and troubled by recent events. Our twin pandemics. I have not even been able to organize thoughts on the page – I am not a therapist or doctor, a theologian or minister (I was an Episcopal youth minister 20 years ago) or anything that feels helpful right now. I am sure many of you are in the same boat.
This week I was reading a business book on growing wealth, which even before the protests broke out seemed oddly inappropriate in times like these, but through the lens of the last 9 days and a very sincere author/seminar guru wrote the book in 2005 – before the internet really took off, before social media and when reality TV was still in its more adventurous, insane adolescent period before the Kardashians and Bachelor and whomever else with a TV camera and crazy soap opera life came along. His books bounces between truisms that I have been making note of and a stark lack of awareness of gender, race and economic forces that keep certain people from achieving monetary success and wealth. It is also a rather simplistic a + b = c formula that equates success and wealth with money.
This is not a book report but I have found myself continuing to think of his lack of awareness and definition of wealth as money. He also uses one of the more cliché and overused questions – is the glass half full or half empty?
While this may be a telling exercise for testing one’s optimism levels, I think it’s also an interesting philosophical question, especially now as our economy has collapsed and people are finally fed up with injustice.
The glass is half full if someone started pouring liquid and then was interrupted and had to stop. Maybe a child came into the kitchen asking a question. Maybe the phone rang with an important call you’ve been waiting for. Maybe the glass is half full because the vessel from which you were pouring was empty – a pitcher of tea, a bottle of water or wine. Maybe you only wanted that much and a smaller glass was not clean or available.
The glass could be half empty for very good reasons too. Maybe it was a full glass and you quickly enjoyed half the contents after pouring it out and then were distracted with one of the scenarios above. Maybe you had a full glass and it was the last of the wine, tea, soda whatever and someone asked for you to share.
In our country – since our founding, so there is absolutely no finger pointing and current participants of our society here – there has always been the deep reflex to look at things as either/or. Even though the revolutionary generation was initially horrified at the idea of political parties and purposefully kept the notion out of founding documents, everyone “bunnied up” into teams almost instantly after the ink dried on the Constitution. Pick one. Pick a side. Pick a team. Half full or half empty. This knee-jerk, quick decision making reactionary thought pattern because we are “a people on the go” to paraphrase De Tocqueville, keeps us from really observing, listening, thinking and processing.
It keeps us from understanding and going deep into another person’s reality.
To quote singer-songwriter Steve Earle, “we need to find something in common with each other. Otherwise it’s going to kill us.”
Make your glass half full by making sure your neighbor’s isn’t completely empty.
Grace & Peace,