So many law-abiding citizens remained at home during the various pandemic lockdowns that burglars must have found it difficult to make ends meet. What was the point in getting kitted out in a domino mask, a red and black striped jersey and a swag bag, and then trawling the streets in vain for an empty house to break into? You would feel such a fool, almost dressed for prison before you were arrested. Maybe leave the swag bag at home from now on?
Life is frequently a matter of perspective. When a man on the opposite riverbank shouts to you, “How do I get to the other side?” tell him he is already there. And if springtime takes your breath away, you may be suffering from an allergy. “Always look on the bright side of life,” sings Eric Idle, reminding us there are two sides to every argument, every football and tennis match, and many marriages. Not everything is as black and white as chess players would have us believe.
Observing things from more than one viewpoint isn’t always a comfortable umpire’s chair to sit in. The horologist who built the most accurate clock in the world, a clock that wouldn’t lose a second in 5 billion years, became quite depressed by his own achievement. “Who will notice if it does go wrong?” he asked. “Or even care?” A perfectionist whose boiled egg is too soft, perhaps.
It has been said the most fatal illusion is an inflexible point of view. With perhaps sawing a woman in half the second most fatal. Our understanding of most things is never absolutely fixed — what is now right could be wrong a second later. (Or 5 billion years later.) The Earth, I was disappointed to learn at school, is no longer the centre of the universe, although it is still the centre of mine, for the moment at least.
The danger is that once people espouse a cause, they may become less likely to dislike its effect. And you don’t have to be a genius (but congratulations, anyway) to see the previous sentence could be applied to anti-vaxxers who think they aren’t imperilling others by their refusal to bend the arm and lose their prefix. No wonder some of the great thinkers of our time — well, Joni Mitchell, anyway — admits that she’s looked at life from both sides now, and that it’s life’s illusions she recalls, she really “don’t know life at all.” Join the club, Joni.
If you are an optimist (in which case, congratulations once more) who tries to walk on the sunny side of the street, you must still be saddened by how often other people’s behaviour can disappoint. Age doesn’t always improve the attraction of the road ahead, even Perspex windscreens don’t necessarily provide better perspective. Not even Joni Mitchell would argue with that.
I once asked somebody if his glass was half empty or half full. He was a scientist, and his reply was, “This glass contains twice the required space for the volume present within it.” Everyone wants to be Einstein.