Recently, an associate from the from the automotive industry threw out this still popular yet archaic cliche;

“He is one of those ‘glass is half full’ kind of people”

Half-full or half-empty

So what does that mean exactly? For the listener, answering that question is the inherent challenge of such generalized social judgements. Why? Because much of this interpretation process depends upon the perspective of all parties involved and perspective can be a bit of a paradox.

Consider three potential perspectives on “The half glass of water”:

  • In Western cultures, it is typically considered a negative – the pessimist, the complainer, etc.
  • In Eastern cultures, it can be a positive – a half glass has room to be filled, open-mindedness, humble.
  • In the practical, “sustained excellence” way – it’s just a glass of water, if you are thirsty drink.

Interestingly, the hidden little lesson in it all is that these types of comments seem to give more insight on the person making the statement than the person to whom they refer. Nonetheless, it demonstrates how language is often inadequate in describing the direct experiences of an individual. In that respect, it is perhaps what is referred to in the Zen tradition as a “Koan”.

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