I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the “glass half-full” versus “glass half-empty” measurement of optimism and pessimism, because it implies that we can know the shape and size of the glass into which fate is poured. Optimism might be better defined as seeking faint light among deep shadows, treasuring the past and looking to the future with anticipation while striving to see the present with clarity. Let the ream of what didn’t happen, and what might have been, belong to the pessimists. They will always find the world around them inferior to the grand story they would have written, if given editorial control over all of Creation.
It’s easy to think that way, in the face of unexpected tragedy, senseless cruelty, unbearable pain, and unfathomable loss. It is difficult to be truly humble at such moments, admitting we don’t know enough to comprehend a design painted with so many tears. Should we be thankful for all the days we were given with a loved one… or bitter about all the days we were denied? When a life is cut short, there are hours in which the best of us struggle to answer that question with certainty.
Those hours pass, and eventually we find peace. It arrives like the first drift of snow on a quiet winter evening, soft and unheralded, surrounding us before we look up from our thoughts and notice the world has changed. We realize that a world made larger by the arrival of a cherished friend is not truly made smaller by their passing, for what they added can never truly be subtracted. We finally hear what they’ve been trying to say since the moment their voices were stilled: Go on, live, be happy, I’m right beside you. We find our share of the peace they have been given, and the pain of loss fades into that quiet night, replaced by the lingering anticipation of a faraway reunion, and the warmth of memory held close. Grief over what has been taken is, at long last, swept away by gratitude for what has been given. The true wisdom of the optimist is revealed: it doesn’t matter if the glass is half-full or not. What matters is that it’s not empty, and never will be.
I don’t know if we live in the best of all possible worlds. …read more