Is the glass half empty or half full? That’s the classic question posed by a sculpture in the reading garden at Winnipeg’s Millenium Library. It’s a giant beaker, like the sort you’d find in a science lab. Created by architect Bill Pechet of Vancouver the sculpture is made from 22,000 kilograms of steel. It is called emptyful. Pechet has his own interpretation of the artwork something to do with the empty boundless spaces of the prairies around Winnipeg and the richness and fullness of our province’s seasons, people and heritage. I like to think emptyful is in the shape of a beaker because life is really just one big experiment and we are never sure what is going to happen.
The sculpture also makes me think about why some people tend to be optimistic looking at life through rosy lenses with a glass half full kind of perspective, while others always think first about what could go wrong, rather than what could right. They have a glass half empty approach to life.
Winston Churchill once mused For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else. It reminds me of something Democratic candidate for American President Elizabeth Warren said in a recent debate when she chided a fellow candidate asking him why in the world he would run for office if he wasn’t optimistic that positive changes could be made.
I think I’m a glass-half-full kind of person most of the time, but not always and not in all areas of my life. I do know that being optimistic is far better for both my mental and physical health.
I wonder if we inherit optimism? I suspect that while biology and nurture can influence how optimistic we are, life events and experiences can also alter our degree of optimism.
Charles Carver of the University of Miami suggests it is best to have a balance of optimism and pessimism if we want to have safe and happy lives. You need to have a certain amount of optimism in order to make decisions about things like marriage, parenthood, travel or a career change. Optimism can help us keep going even when our lives are tough. A little pessimism though can help us assess situations and choices more realistically and can inspire us to try to fill the half empty glass by taking actions that will improve our lives or the life of society.
On a CBC Ideas program, a panel discussion participant talked about the importance of cultivating optimism for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Our optimism will encourage our kids to have hope for the future and confidence in their ability to achieve things even if they don’t succeed right away. Cultivating an optomistic next generation is essential to the preservation of society and culture. Just look at Greta Thunberg the sixteen year old girl from Sweden whose campaign to save the environment has already garnered her a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Are you a glass half empty or glass half full kind of person?