Nature's healing drops

Crying is a powerful means of catharsis, of venting feelings a fact we often overlook.

On entering this world, the very first thing that every human being does is to let out a cry. In fact, if the infant does not do this of its own accord, it is forced to do so. Yet, in life, crying is the last thing we like to be caught doing or see others indulging in. We live in a culture that is embarrassed by tears. 

My father, a competent and caring doctor, was prone to shedding tears at poignant moments. These could be real-life situations or those enacted on the screen.

My mother disapproved of this thoroughly as she considered it unmanly and unbecoming of a doctor. As a child, I could not decide who or what was right, but it was a matter that I found difficult to bring into the open and discuss.It was literature that came to my rescue.

“Home they brought her warrior dead” by Alfred Tennyson was one of the poems taught at school. It concerns a young woman who lost her much-loved husband in battle. She sits gazing at his still body, maintaining a stolid and unmoving silence. Those around her feel that, “She must weep or she will die.” 

Eventually a 90-year-old nurse sets their child upon her knee. Now the tears break out like a summer tempest and she exclaims, “Sweet my child, I live for thee.” Reflecting on the poem, I realised that crying is not always a sign of weakness, but rather an expression of deeply felt emotion. 

A little later, I came across a passage in Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist,” which was even more revealing. Put into the mouth of the officious and unsympathetic Mr. Bumble, who was determined to remain unmoved by the poor orphan’s tears, these are the words he utters, “It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper. So cry away.”

Cruel as the circumstances are, the words succeed in exemplifying the benefits of crying. It is a powerful means of catharsis and of venting feelings, a fact we often overlook. 

Besides, crying can express feelings other than that of sorrow. There is the trickle from laughter, the sobs of delight, the teardrops of joy and victory and the sighs of understanding. When we see another person cry, what is uppermost in the mind is to stop him or her from crying. But tears are nature’s healing drops and what we really need to do is to respond appropriately to the feelings expressed through them. Often, one’s caring presence can be more comforting than words.

Once again, it is Charles Dickens who comes to mind, for here is another enlightening observation that he made, “Heaven knows that we need never be ashamed of our tears. They are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried than before... more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle. 

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