We all have those days when the glass is empty—when we are turning it upside down cursing the powers that be—wishing even a drop would fall from our overturned dreadfully dry, empty glass.
Those days are the worst, hopeless, sad times when we struggle to see just a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
2016 was a particularly challenging year for us all. We watched so many of the World’s great people pass away. We witnessed war and destruction in so many places on the globe. We saw corrupt governments and politicians adversely affect the lives of people in many countries and states, including our own home state of Michigan. We saw forests burn, oil spills, earthquakes, and terrorism.
When we turn on the news we see people struggling while the powers that be prevail, gleefully overturning our full glasses—laughing mercilessly as we cling to our ideology, naively shaking our fists at the injustices we witness.
Why did Muhammed Ali have to die? Why did David Bowie have to suffer with cancer? Why did Carrie Fisher have a heart attack? Why couldn’t Michigan’s government keep thousands of people safe from poisoned drinking water? Why did the earthquakes in Italy have to happen? Why didn’t anyone stop the bombing in Syria? Why are there still people starving, living without water in a world of billionaires?
I saw a news story once many years ago, where they interviewed a doctor who conducted psychological research on depression. He said that in the past people who struggled with depression were considered to be out of touch with reality.
He then went on to explain that more current research had debunked that theory entirely. He said that recent research has indicated quite the opposite. People with depression are TOO in touch with reality.
They shake their fists at the injustices in the world and stay angry and sad because of the wrongs they witness in their daily lives and on the news. They weep for the environment and cry over the latest extinct animal, devastating forest fire, or displaced war scarred children. They stay mired in the cold, hard real world with tears streaming down their faces, popping Prozac like candy, going to psychotherapy sessions to discuss the source of their sadness, reality.
Buddhist religion teaches that the source of all human suffering is resistance.
The Serenity prayer says:
Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
I think the happy subjects in that Doctor’s research recognize both the Buddhist concept and the serenity prayer in their own way. They see the forest fire and they know they cannot personally change the outcome They see Muhammed Ali has died and they accept that he is gone.
The art of keeping the glass half full is accepting what we cannot change while keeping our rosy tinted glasses on for sanity’s sake; letting ourselves believe everything is going to be okay, no matter what.
The art of keeping the glass half full is believing that we are acceptable, worthy of celebration and happiness even if reality tells us we are out of shape, or that we could be doing better. We are what we are.
If we take the Buddhist advice to stop resisting what is and accept the challenge to change the things we can. Maybe we can keep our glasses half full. Maybe we can manufacture our own happiness despite the things that strive to bring us down. We need to allow ourselves to candy coat reality a little bit… a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.
Like the good Doctor said, the people who embellished reality a little bit and let themselves believe in a reality that was rosy tinted were healthier than the subjects that were entrenched in the cold hard real world.
Clinging to our rosy tinted glasses is not a sign of weakness, it is a survival mechanism that we need to practice more. If we allow ourselves to believe in happiness for happiness sake alone and fight the good fights while allowing ourselves to accept the things we cannot change; perhaps we can put the Prozac down and stop shaking our fists at a world of injustice that will surely endure beyond our short life times.
New World Seeds, Traverse City, Michigan