- Martin Buber
Those using the “glass half full, glass half empty” metaphor to make the distinction between optimism and pessimism miss the point: drink!
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Every challenge we face provides opportunities for personal evolution. Growth is why we are here.
As Peter Kingsley wrote in his insightful book, Reality, “… when we live the illusion to the full, to its furthest limits, we are nothing but reality fulfilling its own longing. In spite of the appearances, regardless of all our seeming limitations, we are simply reality completing itself.” 1
The key here is to “live the illusion to the full.” That means, regardless of whether you are a glass half full person or a glass half empty person, drink the water! Engage with your life full on, face challenges to find opportunities that can help you complete yourself… as reality. Paradoxically, it requires embracing illusion to experience reality!
We are conditioned to believe—and most people do believe it—that life is supposed to be comfortable. When discomfort shows up, everything goes into upheaval. But, from a relative perspective, discomfort and comfort go together. We can’t really have one without the other, just as we can’t have light without dark, warmth without cold, or positive without negative.
It’s the interaction between polar opposites that provides the friction necessary for growth and evolution. If you acknowledge that life will always be a mixture of comfort and discomfort, and that this relationship provides what you need to evolve self-awareness, then you can use challenges as opportunities to grow beyond egocentric levels into trans-egocentric experience.
What shows up—whether comfortable or uncomfortable—is always meant to support this transformation. How do you maximize opportunities? First, you must see them as such. Secondly, as all the great masters have said—repeated through centuries of investigation and mentoring—invest in self awareness. This is why you are here and this will be the only thing you take with you when you depart this human madhouse.
Author Lauren Mackler writes, “We’re living through challenging times. But inherent in nearly all challenges are opportunities for renewal and transformation.” 2
True enough. She goes on to make another critically important point. “How you respond to crises has a lot to do with the lens through which you habitually perceive the world. If you tend to see the world through a “gloom and doom” lens, you may be reacting to current events with feelings of fear, anxiety, or a sense of despair or powerlessness. And even if you tend to view things through the lens of optimism, you may be reacting to the constant barrage of negative media messages with milder feelings of concern and insecurity.” 3
She’s talking about tracking and adjusting our reactions to the news, which is her first of four advice points. The other three are: list your current crises, try to locate opportunities in them, and, finally, recognize those challenges that are beyond your control.
This last one is particularly interesting. It illuminates a growing epidemic of what’s termed “decision fatigue,” defined on Wiki as “the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making.” 4
So, just how long has our “long session of decision making been going on?” For many of us, that would be most of our lives! It’s a deeply ingrained habit, to believe that we must figure everything out. Who needs God to run the universe? Didn’t he die back in 1882 when German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche pronounced “God is dead?” Or was it earlier when another German philosopher, Hegel, lamented about how difficult it was “to retain any system of values in the absence of a divine order?” 5
One might ask, “Where did that divine order go?” If it’s missing in human experience that’s not because it left; we left! I know, The Bible says that God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden but I don’t really conceive of God as a chauffeur, do you? Blaming God for something we did, and then denying that He exists any more… what a strange brew of incoherent insanity!
God is not dead. Divine order prevails, throughout a billion star systems and throughout the billion details of our lives. It’s all right here, staring us in the face. Glass half full, glass half empty, we see through the lens of our choosing. Likewise, it’s a choice to look for opportunities and embrace them, not as necessary evils, but as the raw material we can use with enthusiasm to complete ourselves, ever evolving towards a fuller expression of the perfect essence that we already (and always) are.
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1. Peter Kingsley, from Reality