Glass half what?
Are you a “glass-half-full” person or a “glass-half-empty” person?
I’ve always thought that question was really dumb. It seems to me that any living entity has something going for it at some level. So why limit our way of looking at our overall fortunes in human life to such a crude, binary construct?
For those who insist on that approach, I think the more relevant way of getting the same basic information would be: Are you alive or are you dead?
If your answer is that you are dead, then just move on. Nothing else for you to see here. There are no half-full glasses or even half-empty ones for you. There is only the void. But thanks for participating in our survey this far, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, if your answer is that you actually are alive, that’s where things start to get interesting.
The photo at left is a microscopic view of a living paramecium that some scientist actually took the time to rescue from a freshwater pond in Tallahassee, Fla. Who knows what its “purpose” is by any of our walking-around definitions. But according to the website where I found the photo, these critters are among the most complex single-celled organisms out there. Something like 75,000 individual species of paramecium have been identified. As a life form, that little blob has enough going for it that lots of scientists have spent lots of time and entire careers counting up and recording all those variations. If just one of those suckers — just ONE — were found to exist on a planet orbiting a star in some faraway galaxy, it would be a cosmic game changer. It would immediately be voted People Magazine’s “Sexiest Thing Alive.” So as noted in the caption, I’m going ahead and saying its “glass” as a living entity is at least .001 percent full.
In the photo on the right is the multiple Grammy-Award winning global megastar Beyonce Knowles. She really needs no introduction. Just based on her beauty, talent and character alone I’ll go out on a limb and say her “glass” is 99.999 percent full.
Now here’s where the fun part comes in. Let’s go ahead and rate some other living things on this new scale we’ve created. Snakes and lizards? I think they clearly rate a “half-full” glass simply because they have mobility, the ability to hunt and eat food and some primitive level of consciousness. Any creature as beautiful and mechanically complex as a bird? It can do everything already mentioned and also gets to sing and fly? Glass 75 percent full, no question. Mammals? With their warm blood and sensational sex lives? Glass 80 percent full, thank you very much. Domesticated pets with good owners? They get to be pampered in the comfort and safety of human homes? Welcome to the 90 percentile range, Chopper and Kaley.
This new quality-of-life rating system is all very good news for most human beings. So I think many of us who might moan a bit too much about what we see as our sorry lot in life should maybe just tone it down a bit. In fact, if you are such a smart and curious enough person that you are still interested this far into a post this insane, I think it means you automatically qualify as someone whose glass is 99 percent full. Who knows? You may even be right up there with Beyonce. Okay, you might not be quite as beautiful or half as talented or even fractionally as famous as her — but who really could be? And who really cares anyway? We’re only talking about a few thousandths of a single percentage point either way. It really doesn’t matter. (But think about how much our celebrity and beauty and “success” obsessed culture spends worrying about those few thousandths of points. Entire industries have been built on exploiting our individual insecurities about those microscopic variations.)
What I do think we should spend more time worrying about is how our society treats things such as long-term sickness and profound disability and clinical depression and mental illness and poverty and homelessness — just in our own country. We should ask ourselves why it seems so easy to disregard and devalue (or just not think too much about) the lives of fellow human beings who occupy those categories. Why would we ever want to disregard them? Isn’t that sort of like leaving a glass that’s at least 95 or 96 or 97 percent full just sitting neglected on life’s collective kitchen counter?
Pardon my rambling. I have, of course, gotten loopy by this point because of all the chemo and radiation I’m going through. In fact, by way of full disclosure, I should say that most of the daily topics for this blog come to me in the morning as I’m laid out on the radiation table, smelling my own crispy-crittered brain cells and listening to 80s rock music. (Thank God I’m two-thirds of the way through it now.) But the whole reason I thought of this topic Wednesday morning is because I was laying there thinking about all the time and energy people are expending right now to help me out, either in person or by sending me food, letters and messages of support on a daily basis. I mean, I’m just one guy. All I represent is one life.
I think what it proves is how much we all do instinctively value life and each individual life so much. I just wish we all — myself included — could find a way to go with that feeling more intensely and on a more regular basis; not only in how we view the value of our own lives, but in how we treat others day in and day out. Why should someone we know have to get something as gnarly as brain cancer in order for us to prove to ourselves the fundamental truth of our own goodness?
Enough of this already. My buddy Dave Noland has been spending this week with me, helping out. After coming into the room where I am and seeing the headline on this post just now, he told me he has a T-shirt with a photo of a half-consumed pint of Guinness beer on it. The caption on the shirt reads: “Some people say this glass is half full. Others say it’s half empty. But the Irish just say: Are you finished with that?”
That T-shirt says everything I was just trying to say, only way better and more succinctly than my meandering post did.
Thank God I’m Irish. I am alive and I am not yet finished with that. And anyone who thinks otherwise can kiss my glass.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Yesterday’s post featuring “Bad Ass” vs. “Crazy Ass” drew lots of reaction. Most folks seemed to come down in favor of Bad Ass, and most predictably the women (all except for my supersmart lifelong friend Becky Royal and my 7-year-old niece Elizabeth). But I think we should all follow Becky and Elizabeth’s example and cut Crazy Ass some slack. Okay? After all Bad Ass is merely a costume, a facade, a mask. Stay away from that guy, girls! He doesn’t even exist. Crazy Ass is real.