the philosopher’s foam


* Coffee art by Japanese barista Kazuki Yamamoto.

The badge on the barista’s lapel featured a hand reaching out of water and begged the question. Are you waving or drowning, I asked.

Giving the milk jug a knock on the bench, he paused to consider me for a few seconds.

I think, most days, it’s a little of both. Isn’t it the same for everyone?” he mused.

The philosopher’s foam, I thought glibly, but found what he said stuck with me through the day.

Take the call, as I left the coffee shop, from a friend who excitedly revealed he was about to have his first short story published.

Owen’s definitely waving, I thought.

Then, in the next breath he admitted he’d never in his life been more anxious. He couldn’t believe it would be well received, much less read, by anyone.

It wasn’t the publication of his work he cared about as much as others’ reaction.

Without approbation would he sink – his writerly ambitions scuppered?

Often it comes down to the individual. Whether you’re a coffee cup half-full-or- empty-kind-of-person will determine if you are lapping up the crema or out of your depth.

Sometimes though it’s not a question of choice. Really, why pretend to embrace a situation as “a character-building challenge” when it’s patently an awful ordeal?

Modern society’s obsession with the positive leaves little room for genuine feeling or emotion.

But our failures, our sorrows, our regrets, our hardships are part of the sum of the human experience.

And even if that outstretched hand is clutching a coffee, it’s probably best never to assume anyone can tread water for too long.


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