It’s all about the bottle

Pessimist or optimist?

Who cares? Apart, that is, from the good folks at WordPress, where today’s instalment of ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’ poses the familiar question:

‘The glass? Is the glass half-full or half-empty?’

A true pedant (who? moi?) could deconstruct this interesting philosophical question for hours on end. Assuming that there really is a glass in the first place. And depending exactly what you mean by glass.

If the glass is completely devoid of content then by convention it is said to be empty. On the other hand – that’s the philosophical bit, y’see – if it is physically impossible for any further content to be added to it, then it must be said to be full. Any proportion – whether half or more or less – that allows for the addition of further content must mean that the glass can be said to be either partly full or partly empty.

Or, indeed, both at the same time. Like Schrödinger’s cat.

And if you want to get really pedantic about it, even a conventionally empty glass, unless it is sitting in a vacuum, isn’t completely empty. It’s got air in it. Plus, realistically, and despite your best efforts, almost certainly a few specks of dust. If you’re a bit queasy by nature, don’t even think about the countless microbes.

This whole half-empty/half-full glass thing is a metaphor though (innit?) – but really not a very helpful one. Typically, it would be understood that a glass that’s seen as half-full is indicative of an optimistic outlook – there’s still something left. Conversely (philosophical bit again), if it’s seen as half-empty that’s pessimistic – there’s less than there was, or could be, and availability is diminishing.

Ah, but what’s in the glass? This is a crucial question. Suppose it contains some revoltingly-tasting medicine: if I’ve managed to get 50% of it down then I would be more likely to be ‘optimistic’ that it’s already half-empty and/or ‘pessimistic’ that it’s still half-full. There are no easy answers.

Now, I appreciate – as I’m sure you do too – that none of this drivel is getting anywhere closer to pinning me down as to whether I am, generally speaking, an optimist or a pessimist by nature.

The truth is, I’m damned if I know because I can see evidence of both. But if you forced me to choose which is the stronger force, then I would probably have to plump for being…cautiously optimistic – which memorably has been defined as ‘opening your eyes when you wake up in the morning’.

And in the great scheme of things:

But it seems to me that all of this misses the most crucial point of all: never mind the glass, what about the bottle?

Grounds for optimism

365 Days of Writing Prompts


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