Two Glasses

My internet connection was dodgy all weekend. At first I was a little nonplussed, but then I did some of the things I used to do PB (pre-blogging). Read, watched films, cleaned the house, made blueberry muffins, had a chat with some friends.

Back in the day when we were less busy my friends and I used to have proper discussions about things. We used to wax philosophical all the time. We went back to that time on the weekend, talking about the glass half full versus the glass half empty scenario.

We are all in our early forties (or there are the ones we call the young ‘uns who are 38 and 39) and many of us have dealt with depression and accompanying therapies. All of us have encountered the perspective-altering glass half empty or half full argument.

You know how it goes – it’s all in the way you look at things.

The half empty glass is a coming from a negative perspective (supposedly). A half empty glass connotes an air of world-weariness, a sort of what can go wrong will go wrong world view.

Alternatively, the half full glass suggests a more optimistic viewpoint. A merry, whistling, always look on the bright side attitude.

Who would have thought that whether one chose half full or half empty to convey the volume of liquid in a glass, would be such a determinant of positive mental health?

Yet it is. And many of us agreed that this argument is a useful tool in generating a healthy change in outlook. But we also argued that not everyone who describes a glass as being half empty is a depressive menace to society.

I know a few people who follow the half full line of thinking –

It could always be much worse.

At least we’re not fleeing from genocide.

At least we have our health.

They take world catastrophe orย  the threat of the body shutting down to dilute the passionate energy of whatever drama they are embroiled in. In a way, I am all for that. It is good to remember that we are not the only ones who suffer; but sometimes focusing on how much worse things could be negates and relinquishes our ability to hold, and shake, and scream in the middle of what is bad for us right now.

Sometimes I look at a glass of water and I can see quite clearly that it is half full. At other times it is obvious to me that it is half empty. Is this illusion, delusion, or the mark of a difficult, changeable nature?

When the glass is half full does that mean that we crave more, that our thirst for the water or the juice, or maybe even life, has not been quenched?

When the glass is half empty does that mean our thirst is sated, that we are close to having had enough?

Or is how we perceive it just the way the light frolics with the atoms in the glass?

31 thoughts on “Two Glasses

  1. the glass needs not be half empty or half full,, either way there is some portion of it is missing,, isn’t it…

    no,, we aren’t refugees,, or terminally ill,, but each and every one of us has or will,, undergo life shattering experiences,, grow old and eventually die…

    somehow just knowing the ‘facts’ so to speak color our perceptions to the point that we cannot see clearly… to make us wonder what it ever was about life that appealed to us so much,, that made it so precious…

    maybe now is just one of those times we would rather know someone is coming someone or something that will see to it that the glass is refilled.. be it half empty or half full….


  2. Is it just me?

    I want the water to be at the halfway mark, the point of equilibrium, neither full nor empty, some missing but some left behind, in equal measure. It satisfies me that way because it means I have dipped into both the good and the bad, the high and the low, the devastating and the uplifting, it means I have tasted all there is to taste and I am still here to imbibe of it all again.

    I need the ups and downs, I need the elation and must also experience the devastation… it’s what has made me a worthwhile person. It’s what has given my life real value.

    It’s hard to see it as you swim through the lower half, and even harder to acknowledge when floating through the upper half of that glass that is our life.

    But in the end we must partake of it all or we simply have not lived.



  3. Either way, as long as it’s whole, the glass can always be refilled. Maybe that’s what we should focus on instead of whether the glass is half-empty or full.


  4. To me, the half empty glass says, “There isn’t enough” where the half full says, “There’s plenty.” When one is FULL, one doesn’t want anymore – there is abundance, where as EMPTY suggests a need for more – scarcity. Think of how your belly feels either way.

    I think it all has to do with what we’re feeling at that moment with whatever is causing the feelings of half empty or half full. People will stuff themselves not because they’re hungry, but because they feel empty inside. These are the people who no matter how full the glass gets, even to overflowing, they will always see emptiness…

    I guess what I’m saying is, yeah, I agree in attitude changing the way we look at things, but sometimes we have to look deeper at what’s going on beneath the brave facade people are putting up and realize that someone can have a great attitude, but until one addresses and “fills” the void inside, that glass (or the fullness of life) will always be lacking.

    I would have enjoyed your “club” – I’d be a young ‘un… but not too bad. I turn 38 in May… *grin*


  5. >>It could always be much worse.

    At least weโ€™re not fleeing from genocide.

    At least we have our health.<<

    Did you read Andy McNab’s ‘Bravo Two-Zero’?

    McNab and his patrol were taken prisoner by the Iraqis in the Gulf War, and treated pretty badly. They were just about at their lowest ebb, when someone remarked:

    ‘At least, they can’t make us pregnant!’


  6. Ah, the good old fashioned bull session. I hardly have any of those any more. The problem is that they go around around in circles.

    I often wonder about the glass half full / half empty dichotomy. My conclusion is that I’m a glass half empty kind of guy who wants to be a glass half full kind of guy because that’s a happier way to be.

    As far as the “things could be worse” approach, I often run down a little list of mine. When I’m feeling down I ask myself if a) I’ve been given a cancer diagnosis b) anyone close to me has died or is dying c) if I’m facing bankrupcy, poverty or eviction from my house. The list can go on from there, but it’s a good way for me “put things into perspective”.


  7. I am sitting here at my computer, fingers on the keys and ready to leave a comment, but at a loss as to what to write. I’ve never, for some reason, been able to wax expansively over the half empty/half full glass of anything. Though I don’t put any stock in the Zodiac, I am an out and out true Capricorn. I see life for what it is. I see reality. If there is but one full glass of wine left in the bottle, and a full evening before it’s time for bed, one has two choices: down it quickly and wish for more, or savor it sip by sip and make it last until it’s time to hit the covers. Life is pretty much that way.


  8. Even if the glass is half empty, there is always the possibility that someone will come along and pour some more wine into it – and that is always a good thing ๐Ÿ˜‰


  9. Maybe we are asking the wrong question.

    Maybe we should be looking at our willingness to make the glass full if necessary or to empty the glass.

    Now you have me thinking about the concept of infinity. The question I am playing with as I read this. Where does the glass end and the water begin.


  10. Book group is about as close as I get to philosophical discussions these days, aside from those with my husband or college-age daughter. I thrive on such ponderings. I’ve often been told or teased that “I think too much.” Well, I’m proud that I DO think and love to hear others’ views, bat around ideas, musings, and such.

    Like others probably mentioned I don’t feel that the glass half empty is depressing. It’s about viewpoint and circumstances at the time. For instance, I could be happy as a lark and view the glass as half empty because I want to be sure my guests’ don’t become thirsty.
    Anyway, I’ve never been one to side with black and white interpretations of how things “should be” just because others say so. I’m independent, plucky, and yes ‘gutsier” than I show on my blog. Terrific post, Selma.
    BTW: Love that abbrev “PB”


  11. I think your last line says it all… “The way the light frolicks with the atoms in the glass…”

    Its the play of light… the seasons of emotion…that is the stuff of being human…

    I love those words by William Blake

    “Man was made for joy and woe,
    And when this we rightly know…

    Through the world
    we safely go,

    Joy and Woe are
    woven fine

    A clothing
    for the soul

    Winged peace, Maithri


  12. PAISLEY – I really like the perspective you present – that something is missing; as well as the need that prevails as we wait for the glass to be full again. It would be good in those half empty moments if we knew someone was coming along to top us up. If only….

    BEAR – absolutely spot on. We need to be able to see both sides to have fully lived. I really couldn’t have said it better myself.

    VIC – I love that. I really do. It can always be filled again. It offers such a sense of reassurance. Thank you, Vic. I really appreciate your perspective.

    TEXASBLU – you’re definitely a young ‘un. However, you are very wise with it. You are so right about addressing the void inside, otherwise we keep continuing to try and fill up the holes. Great point!

    PAISLEY – I am inclined to the morose myself. Your post struck a chord with me. I have been thinking about it and you all day. You are worth the effort, hon, remember that!

    TRAVELRAT – I haven’t read it but that is what you call looking on the bright side alright. A blessing in disguise!

    RICHARD – I like the way you characterise yourself. I think I am a little like that too. I do love the old bull sessions. Lots of fun!

    MARY – you are just brilliant. Always. I value your comments so much. Thank you.

    DAOINE – now that is what you call the real Aussie approach to the half full vs half empty debate. Fill ‘er up. Love it! ๐Ÿ˜†

    NAT – I hadn’t looked at it like that before but you are absolutely right. Now you’ve got me thinking….

    GEL – I really like your point about the half empty glass and your guests. Black and white interpretations definitely are not the way to go. I agree with you 100%.

    MAITHRI – your comments are a delight for me. I do love a bit of William Blake. Thank you.


  13. I am rather late here again – unusual for me really because if there is mention of a glass with something left in it, I’m usually over like a shot.

    I tend to just take life as it comes. I think maybe those eternal optimists who constantly relate their own experience to bad things going on elsewhere and use that to keep themselves happy, live a different way to me. I just live my life. I do care about other people and if I read of something horrible in the world it does make me feel thankful but it does not have a long-lasting effect on my own equilibrium.

    I think my state of mind is largely hormonally driven. I struggle to be positive when I have PMT and there is one week in the month where almost nothing can drag me down or stop me skipping about and the rest of the time I am on the path between those two states. Things give me little blips in the path, that is all.

    So where’s that glass? And top it up, if you will!


  14. As a beer drinker I’ve come to the conclusion that the half empty/full predicament traps a person in a moment in time. The best attitude is, I think, where the hell’s the next fill up! ๐Ÿ˜‰


  15. I am a glass half empty kind of gal who wants to be a glass half full kind of gal because thatโ€™s a happier way to be. But, I find that weather the glass is half full or half empty the missing part is what bothers me the most. The need to fill that empty space can at times be all too consuming.


  16. Your cup can runneth over with stuff you don’t want, or be devoid of what you do want.

    I like Bear’s thoughts of it regarding balance. I guess that’s how I’ve always thought of it, just never thought to put it into those words.

    Selma, that last line is simply “oooh! Aaaahhhh!”

    (by the way, my glass is half full… of brandy. Guess where the other half went…?)


  17. I am trying to work on the half full concept because I used to see it half empty more than I would like to count, but with all this crap going on in my life I do see it half empty at times ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    When the glass is half empty does that mean our thirst is sated, that we are close to having had enough?

    I totally agree with this line, right now…

    Great post… it really made me go hmmm…


  18. I’m feeling more in the “half-empty” mode these days…sigh. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ But at the same time, no matter how much life deals out in the way of challenges, I still feel truly blessed in so many ways. At this time of year especially, with so many people losing jobs, facing homelessness and hunger…for me, this puts it all into perspective. I NEED to remind myself though, to never take for granted all that I have been blessed with. I am also so inspired and encouraged by the blog friends I’ve made, including you Selma. You have been a light and an inspiration for me, from the first day you stopped by my blogs.

    Big hug, G


  19. Somehow as I get older I’m searching for sharpness in feelings. I like to feel the bite. So I rarely try to put a spin on it but take it straight. If it’s half empty damnit let’s revel in the fact that it will all be gone soon, let’s not sugar coat it and miss the feelings. Like you Mme Kaufman, I am a practical no-nonsense Capricorn through and through.


  20. Hi Selma–I’m checking in to try to play “catch-up”(it’s been weeks–I’ll go “reverse” order this time(I’m starting here).
    While in the hospital(I’m okay; I’ll be blogging about it later), I spoke on the phone with my Dad about that study that was done on water–you know, several glasses of water were treated differently, and then the molecules were examined, etc……
    the result?
    The water which had loving prayers said for it, at it, thrived.
    The water which had negative insults and ugly words hurled at it, became stagnant much faster. This was a scientific, controlled study.
    At first, I found it hard to, uh, swallow(sorry for the silly pun there), but the more I thought about–as I told my Dad, the more it made sense. Everything is made of energy, responds to energy. The lesson here–half-full, or half-empty, is how you TREAT the water–how you respond when things get rough.
    Thank you for the fascinating post, Selma, and THANK YOU too, to your marvelous readers who commented here–they all seem like such interesting, thoughtful people.
    Now, I’m scrolling on down to read(& comment!) on your previous posts. Peace, kid.


  21. RELUCTANT – hahaha. You are a character. I really like your philosophy. All the mental health experts I have ever met have said a similar thing to me on many an occasion – live in the moment. It really is the way to go. One of these days we will have a drink together. I’m sure of it!

    ANTHONY – Amen. The people with the best attitude are the ones who say :’It’s my round.’ Salt of the earth. ๐Ÿ˜†

    TIPOTA – thank you for visiting. Nice to hear from you.

    MELEAH – what you have just said is so profound. That’s what it is all about, isn’t it? The missing part and our need to make it whole again. Thank you so much, hon. What a valuable insight!

    DIAMONDS – ‘fill it up quickly’ is definitely the way to go. And it is important to keep oneself hydrated. ๐Ÿ˜€

    KAREN – brandy, eh? I got very drunk once on Brandy Alexanders. Totally warmed the cockles of my heart. It’s true what you say – sometimes our cup does runneth over with the things we don’t want. You’ve really got me thinking with that one!

    TBALL – you have every right to see it as half empty at the moment. Good Lord, I would be tearing my hair out and throwing things if I were you. I admire your dignity. SO MUCH. How amazing you are. XXXX

    ROMANY – we Aussies know a thing or two about life, don’t we? And drinking. Whisky with a beer chaser, anyone? ๐Ÿ˜€

    GERALDINE – I know, G. Sometimes the feeling of half-emptiness pervades no matter how hard we try. It is hard to escape it. Life is difficult at times. I give thanks for you too. As well as all of my other dear blogging friends. You are like family to me. Thank you. XXXX

    LAURI – you know, you really are awesome. And I rarely use the word awesome. The bite of things as we get older becomes more acute, I think. I want it too. Not in a masochistic sense but because that bite, that sharpness, feeling it, not being afraid of it, is what it means to be alive. Your perspective is always spot on!

    LISA – you are kidding me! I am blown away by that. I actually feel a little bit stunned. It seems like alchemy. However, when you think about it, it does make sense that atoms should be affected by negative energy. This is just fantastic. Thank you so much for letting us know about it. Billy ocean was right when he said: ‘When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going’, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I hope you are starting to feel better, hon. I have been worried.


  22. This is my first visit here, and was attracted here naturally. Sometime in my late twenties I wanted to know what this glass half empty/full business was all about–but after studying Zen for three decades, it was difficult for me to comprehend–I felt as if the analogy was beyond me. It was actually a turning point in my journey as eastern thought is so far removed from the entire concept. But I discerned and contemplated–finally achieving an understanding.

    From my perspective the glass is not half full or half empty. In Taoism, we are taught the glass is completely empty–having nothing to do with optimism or pessimism–but of reflective thought and openness. In Zen . . . there is no glass–no place for water to gather. If such glass exists, it becomes a distraction–in Zen thought–blocking ones’ view of truth. Like Bruce Lee said, “It is like a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t look at the finger or you’ll miss all that heavenly glory.”

    For me, there is no glass–thus opening my intuitive spirit, leaving it unobstructed. I had to share this with you. These days, I have both attitudes: there is no glass or there is–but I am detached from it.

    Thanks Selma. This is a fantastic blog and I shall return. After months of writing horror fiction, you have me wanting to write something philosophical. God bless and have a wonderful holiday season ๐Ÿ™‚


  23. Of course, I don’t often think of glasses being half-empty or half-full … it’s either ‘Do you want a top-up?’ or ‘Do you want another drink?’


  24. BOBBY – your comment is so enlightening. Thank you so much. You have given me a great deal to think about. I have often thought I should read a little more about eastern philosophy and now you have convinced me. I am very glad you visited. Wishing you peace and joy for the holiday season.

    TRAVELRAT – you’ve been hanging out with the Aussies for too long.


  25. Hi Selma,
    Many times I feel my life is half empty these days with my freelance career isn’t catching up and getting across good work becoming a tough task, indeed.
    But again, having this little luxury to have a wife supporting me to pursue what I’m so passionate about writing, blogging which takes huge chunks of time as I’m a beginner. With the hope that my glass if not half full will be full and brimming!
    I’m a die hard optimist, which made me think each time the glass is half empty it teaches to drink slowly and savour every drop and be happy for it!
    Thanks for the great post!


  26. SOLOMON:
    Thanks so much for stopping by and for your lovely comment.
    You are indeed fortunate that your wife is there for you. Don’t give up on your passion for writing – you are learning a craft and that takes time. I wish you all the best with it!


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