Hello again Craig,
Love it. Not bothering to pick up on all that has passed me during my time away from SuN but having read NonZero by Robert Wright, this topic does interest me.
I think you`re right to recognize that the zero sum is rarely achieved and that our world doesn`t really work that way (except in some weird idealistic vacuum).
I also think that the term zero tends to have a negative connotation, as in nothing gained. But believe that most people can appreciate that while zero may mean that you have nothing, it also can represent the fulfillment of a debt, the stability of sea level, a call from a doctor with a clean result from a test.
People make conscious and unconscious decisions every day which side of zero they are going to occupy. Some people stay under zero their entire lives and have no expectation or desire to make it anywhere near it. Others will live paycheck to paycheck financially at zero but have very fulfilling lives with their families and friends. Some people have so much on the top side that they have enough to toss down to the sub zeros.
Here`s my main point though. in all matters people are moving up, moving down, or maintaining. Zero is not in itself a destination as much as it is a point on the gauge. To make matters more confusing, everybody has a different "meter" or way to measure where they fall along that line.
After factoring everything in-- my overall state when considering physical and emotional health and the financial situation, I try to be on the positive side of things, but I know that it is almost always in flux.