In our world of duality, a thing is either this or it is that - half empty or half full. It can’t be both, and it can’t be what it is not, right? So the only reasonable response to have about a thing is deciding which side you’re going to be on, and then proving (or defending) why yours is the ‘right’ side.
The question itself assumes that it is 'this' or it is 'that,' and so we automatically choose from the two options presented what we believe it to be.
I spent so much of my life processing life’s questions with this dualist thinking (though it would seem that only the ‘better’ option was presented to me):
What college was I going to?
Was I going to get married after college, or quit college if I found the right guy?
When were we going to start a family?
Have we bought our own home yet?
What do we do for a living?
Can you ‘hear’ the other (or wrong) options implied here? Can you see the assumptions being made in these questions - the line being drawn in the sand?
And yet I picked a side, took a direction, believing the options presented to me were the only options available to me, pursuing the implied better option.
Back to the half filled glass of water, Christopher Phillips later shares his experience with a different group of kids.
One student said, “It’s half empty and half full. … It’s half full of water and half empty of water.’”
Another student said, “It’s half empty and half empty! It’s half empty of air and half empty of water.”
Still another student said, “It’s completely full. It’s full of water and air molecules.”
Yet another spoke up. “But it’s completely empty too ... It’s empty of everything but water and air.”
These kids came up with all sorts of possibilities other than the two options presented to them. In light of their answers, the idea of having to choose between only two options suddenly seems restrictive. Limiting.
Y’all, reading this in his book made me cry. I’m not even sure why. But it feels like relief, like taking in a big breath of air. It feels like it's full of color and flourish, and of possibility. Full of freedom.
Then he explained. The statement makes the assumption that each of the twos in the equation are whole numbers. In that instance, yes, 2 + 2 = 4. But 2.5 + 2.5 does not equal four, and 2.9 + 2.9 equals almost six!
Rod could see the assumptions behind the question; he could also see alternate sets of assumptions which yielded a different conclusion.
He loved to answer questions with questions, or answer specifically and exactly the question he was asked. I think he was trying to help people understand that the question they were asking was based on certain assumptions, and it might not have been the question they actually wanted answered. Or maybe he just liked to annoy people.
This is one of the secondary losses that I am just now putting words to - the loss of perspective. I’ve known for a long time that Rod had a very different perspective than I have, and I relied on that perspective to help me make decisions throughout our whole marriage.
I never thought I could see things the way he saw them. So, without him in my life, I believed his perspective was lost to me forever. And continuing to move through life without that perspective, continuing in my dualistic mindset, I felt helplessly controlled by someone else offer me only the options ‘they’ deem appropriate.
But what if he had the perspective he did because he asked questions? Because he challenged assumptions? Because he didn’t accept the status quo, or believe in absolutes? Because he believe there was an option C?
What if he just assumed there were other options, and trained his mind to look for them? What if his perspective was, at least in part, the result of a way thinking?
What if I could learn that way of thinking?
What if I become open to identifying underlying assumptions, to look beyond the questions, and to see the world as a place of unlimited possibilities?
What if …?
Moving forward, not moving on.