Half full of what?

It is often said that there are two types of people: those who see the glass as "half full," and those who see it as "half empty." The latter may argue that the former are naiive and that to find good in an unfortunate situation is to ignore reality. A third party sees this proverbial cup as completely full; half-full of your drink of choice, with the remaining half-space filled by air. No matter which way you perceive the cup, there is always another half. While this world may be littered with war, poverty, and decay which may never go away, there is just as much worth celebrating. The purpose of this exhibit is to explore the other half of the glass, through which we can see the aesthetic beauty of the universe, the capabilities of the human mind and spirit, and the harmony that underlies all things. This optimism is not rooted in the belief that we live a perfect world, but rather the belief in the deep-rooted goodness of human nature. To quote John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, “now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” 

On Knowledge, Ričardas Bartkevičius, 2008, From the collection of: Modern Art Center / Modernaus Meno Centras
"Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious." Stephen Hawking This piece illustrates the optimism of humans in the pursuit of knowledge. While the artist intends to lightly mock the irony of mankind's sometimes futile habit of asking questions to which there are no answers, he also illustrates the beauty these questions can hold. While not all exploration leads to discoveries, all discoveries are born from exploration. Asking unanswerable questions, such as "Is there a God?" is not pointless in that it exercises the imaginative capabilities that are unique to our species. Humanity's glass may only be half-full of knowledge, but the remaining space is filled by curiosity. We will never live in a perfect world, but we must remain "thirsty" and keep asking how to make it better.
A Half Moon Drown into the Universe, Yi, Hee Choung, 2010, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
This piece shows an interpretation of a half-moon, which contains several symbols of nature and life. According to the title, this moon is sinking into the universe. The artist's choice of symbols adheres to the "beauty of the world" theme of this exhibit; there are images of flowers, butterflies, and other objects typically associated with beauty. This piece is at once simple in detail and complex in arrangement, such is the Universe and our share of it. While at times the Universe can seem so intricate and difficult to understand, it essentially all comes down to particles. For centuries, humankind has constantly questioned its purpose the "meaning" to its existence, but scientific studies insist that we are simply an accidental and miraculous collaboration of the same elements that make up the plants we grow and the stars we gaze at.
Harlem Paper Airplane Project, Kim, Seung Young, 김승영, 2000, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
This is a beautiful example of the healing powers of time, hope, and perseverance. With this project the artist transforms a park in Harlem, once a place burdened with hate and racial tension, into visual poetry. A cup once half-full of blood becomes a cup half-fun of wine. This is similar to the way in which Kevin Powers produces compelling prose from his tragic experiences in Iraq.
Dream of Green, Kim, Do Myoung, 2006, From the collection of: Korean Art Museum Association
This is a visualization of the connectedness of humans to the earth and the notion of "ashes to ashes". This harmonious link of life in death is mimcs the Yin and Yang symbol of Daoist philosophy. This also coincides with the people-made-of-clay concept in The Epic of Gilgamesh. It can be reassuring to consider that although all of us must eventually die, our deaths create more life and beauty on earth. While we may make countless mistakes in life, they are not worth regretting, because at the end everything balances itself out.
Scene of Happiness, Ahn Jung-sik, 1861/1913, From the collection of: Korea Data Agency
"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be." Anne Frank The word "happiness" is typically used when describing a person's emotions; However, this piece titled "Scene of Happiness" features no visible people. This artist likely adheres to the philosophy that the earth is not solely ours, and that our (humans') happiness does not reign above Mother Nature's. The landscape depicted here is "happy" in the sense that it appears to be at harmony. Its features are simplistic but beautiful, with light shading and soft curves. While the houses with lit windows imply human presence, this presence is not causing a disturbance; the houses seem to blend into the landscape the way mankind should ideally "blend into" the universe. This can be related to The Epic of Gilgamesh, in which men are made of clay from the earth. While Gilgamesh's giant body is made of this same humble material, he assumes a tyrannical position over his kingdom, which throws off the harmony of his universe and calls for the creation of Enkidu to balance things out. Gilgamesh may have benefited from reading the Daodejing.
Goodnight, Surendra Shrestha, 2005, From the collection of: The International Museum of Children's Art
This piece from the mind of a child illustrates the purity of youth. The young artist, given free range of imaginative expression, does not depict himself as The King of the Universe or as the richest man in the world, but simply as himself, a child dreaming in the arms of his mother in a modest home on a starry night. This can be used as evidence for the argument that human nature is inherently good -- in childhood we crave love, safety, and peace. Often, the world conditions us to believe that we need much more. When we become too greedy, we sometimes forget about the simple things that used to make us happy and still can. To children, the glass is always half-full. An adult such as Candide's Pangloss who exclusively dons this rose-lensed acceptance of the world may be naive, but every once in a while such a childlike perspective can be a healthy tool with which to create your own happiness. This tool may have been useful in the case of The Metamorphosis's Gregor, who has completely abandoned childlike idealism and become a dispassionate slave to his job.
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