So I did some serious internet research (i.e.wikipedia) and none of the explanations satisfied me. I did, however, find it ironic that "The question of the function or origin of emotional tears remains open."
Sure, we all know the various reasons why we cry. We shed tears of loneliness, helplessness, loss, physical pain, and, of course, tears of unmet expectations (see earlier post). And while I began writing this post with a particular idea in mind, it's become something more.
Let me explain, in my usual round-about way.
Have you ever really thought about E=mc² before? While I won't even pretend to say I get the complete concept, I get the gist, and it's pretty amazing.
Einstein's formula helped people understand just how much energy there is ... everywhere. Newtonian physics (which, sadly, is over 300 years old and the only physics our kids learn in schools) held that bodies of mass at rest don't contain much energy at all. E=mc² proved that there are massive amounts of energy in all bodies of mass, even ones that aren't moving or radiating energy.
Basically, "E" equals the mass of an object times the speed of light squared. I italicized those two words on purpose because ... well ... like that's pretty crazy if you think about it. The speed of light moves at 299 792 458 meters per second. So I'm like 210 lbs and I feel a bit queasy when my 1997 Accord gets over 150 km per hour (mostly because of the car, and - for the record - I would be totally comfortable at 240km/hr in my brother-in-law's Porsche). Anyway, the speed of light is fast, and that formula makes "E" almost incomprehensible.
To save myself time, I borrowed an example of just how much energy quietly exists here, there, and everywhere:
Assuming you could convert a 1 kilogram rock entirely into energy, how much energy would be released? This is a relatively simple problem. Using Einstein's formula...
E = 1 kg x (300,000,000 m/s)ˆ2
Using your scientific calculator (or you can just trust us) that is 90,000,000,000,000,000 joules. This is roughly enough energy to power all cars in the US for a week!So yeah, I guess that's why when they split a uranium atom (which has like a kajillion electrons and protons) it creates such a massive reaction. All that idle energy dancing around in harmony gets disrupted and suddenly erupts. A nuclear explosion. Energy erupts. Remember that.
Time is also a funny thing. While there's great debate about whether time even exists, we're definitely bound by it in our lives. We live right now. Moment after moment fades into the past. And who knows what the future will bring. But we live right now.
We're bound by now. We're bound by time. All living organisms are. But what's funny is that we're the only organism (on this planet) that contemplates the deeper mysteries of time. Even more, maybe we're the only organism that wonders what the future will bring, and the only one that reflects on times gone by.
I always think of this when I see dogs wearing those lampshades on their heads. They can't foresee or anticipate the future consequences of what their biting and gnawing will do to their healing wound. But we can. So we put lampshades on their heads to prevent them from doing it. It's really a wonderful and amazing ability we have. It makes me smile every time I see a dog wearing a lampshade.
At the end of the day, language allows us to do the above (or our brains do, if you want to get nit-picky). Language allows us to share our experiences. Our thoughts. Our feelings. You can tell your friend what you did yesterday, with words. You can tell your friend how you felt about yesterday, with words. You can tell your friend what you're going to do tomorrow and you're feelings about it, with words.
Could you imagine the dog with the lampshade doing that? Telling his neighborhood dog friends what the man with the knife did to him the day before? And how different he feels with some of his parts missing? How it feels like a part of him is gone? And how difficult it's going to be to come to grips with his new reality? With his new body? With his new identity? Or how he just feels "flat" ... like something more than his parts are missing? Like there's nothing really to get excited about anymore? And how - for some weird reason - he now has patience to listen to what the female dogs on the block are trying to talk to him about? How they actually have feelings, and just want to be listened to, instead of impatiently jumped on? And how they don't like being called "bitches!?" And how he panics and catches himself and shrieks to his friends, "Like what's going on guys?!" And then he worries about whether Buster and Spike will still want to hang out with him, or whether they'll start teasing him?!
But that's just the miracle of the last paragraph. If you laughed or smiled it's because you saw that conversation going on in your mind. That totally absurd silly conversation existed in your mind. It was real. Just as the lemon in this exercise is sort of real (for most of us, if you do the exercise right).
What that means, though, is that more than right now can really exist in our minds. The past, present, and future can exist in our minds. So can someone else's past, present, and future. So can anything, really.
Not only can our minds transcend time, but our minds can transcend us.
That's how we're different. That's how we're human. It's amazing, really.
(Let me just say that I'm speaking metaphorically here, not scientifically.)
So we all know that energy is both positive and negative. It's both, always, and at the same time.
I believe love is the human form of the positive energy force, just as I believe hate is the human form of the negative energy force. Love breaths life into things. Hate sucks life out of things.
Energy is free. It's free from time. It's free from space. It flows.
We're not. We're bound by time (i.e right now). We're bound by space (i.e. our bodies).
So what are tears?
Like I said, I've never cried more in my life. And a part of me is embarrassed that this blog has made several people cry too (like are Buster and Spike gonna want to hang out with me any more?) But the tears come quick, and they come often. Why?
I think it's funny that "the function or origin of emotional tears remains open." It's seems so obvious to me now.
I think our "emotional" tears are rushes of energy. I think our ability to exist things in our minds – things that aren't right now – overwhelms our "carrying capacity" ... and we cry.
We cry when say goodbye to a family member we know we won't see for a long time. We're not crying because they're walking or driving away. We cry because all the memories and feelings we've had with them, and all the memories we know we're not going to have with them, all of which are positively charged with love, come rushing into our hearts and minds in that very moment. Our mortal bodies that exist in the "right now" have to deal with this rush, this release of energy, like an atom splitting, there's a reaction.
And we shed tears.
The same thing happens to new parents when they meet their brand new baby for the first time. It's not the baby that makes them cry. It's the entire lifetime of forthcoming events that comes rushing into the very moment that makes new parents cry. Like an atom splitting, there's a reaction, and we shed tears.
So I guess I think of tears really differently now. They're really amazing sometimes.
Sometimes the thought of my little girl's short life - from the start to the end, with all its highs and lows - fills me up with tears. Sometimes her smile makes think about what life's going to be like without her one day, and that fills me up with tears. And sometimes when I'm cuddling her, I think about how incomplete my life would be if she were never born, and that fills me up with tears. The past, the future, and the hypothetical come rushing into the moment. I'm overwhelmed with love. With energy. With tears.
It makes perfect sense to me that "no other animals are thought to produce tears in emotional states" (link). And while I run the risk of losing my status with the Busters and Spikes of the world, I think it's worth saying:
Tears are beautiful.
Tears are magical if you view them in this way. Maybe that's what "emotional tears" are ... the physical response to our ability to transcend time and space. Maybe tears bring moments from the past and moments from the future into the present moment, freeing us from time and space. Maybe tears are what happen to us when we tap into the infinite amounts positive energy everywhere and all around us. To infinite love.
Sometimes I think tears are okay.
Sometimes I think tears are beautiful.