By Geoffrey Geddes
Flowering plants elegantly model the human life cycle. Seeds depart from a pollinated parent; roots sprout and suck nourishment from their earthy womb; stems stretch toward freedom; petals unfold to welcome the light, and then wilt as their season wanes; plants return to the earth to fertilize future generations. The process is wondrously simple – adornments living gracefully unadorned lives.
Each human begins life as simply and innocently as a Daffodil seedling. Our limbs sprout, our umbilicus sucks nourishment from our own earth mother, and, as gestation ends, we struggle for freedom. Then … we cry.
We cry for milk. We cry for warmth and from colic and to be free of our shit. We cry for company and we cry to be left alone. We cry for relief.
Notwithstanding at least one Indian zookeeper who believes that his elephants weep from sadness, zoological consensus tags humans as the sole sorrow-criers. Perhaps as self-awareness evolves so does an awareness of suffering. Perhaps crying from sadness reveals intellect. Perhaps the more you know about the world and your circumstances, the more you cry.
Perhaps humans are just crybabies.
For some, crying subsides with maturity. For most, tears of sadness persist, hidden from ridicule and well-intentioned judgment. Or we dry our tears with diversion – with a chocolate truffle or a shot of Jack. Unfortunately, tears wiped with subterfuge or distraction inevitably return, often in a tsunami of emotional silt that we must eventually excavate to permit the seeds of an effective life to bloom.
Psycho-spelunkers warn of the perils of stuffing feelings. Shame-based tear quelling certainly qualifies as emotional stuffing. Authentic tears wash away angst and stress; they carry emotional sludge like a purgative river for deposit into the ocean of renewal. Damming the flow may create temporary relief; but pressure will continue to mount until an emotional flood becomes inevitable.
But crying is so … unseemly. Doesn’t decorum demand a cap on emotional expression?
Authentic emotional expression depends more on rigorous honesty than on benchmarks. The quantities and comparisons we use to shame and belittle ourselves become irrelevant when tears flow from genuine emotion. Genuine emotion derives from honestly accepting reality and unconditionally embracing life’s impermanence.
Life forever replicates a recognizable scenario: individual entities transfigure physical ingredients into a distinctively expressed life-force. Bacteria absorb matter through osmosis to energize movement and reproduction; amoebas consume bacteria and other organic materials through phagocytosis to power movement, growth, reproduction, and even shell building. Flowering plants metamorphose soil, water, and sunlight into blossoms. Humans likewise require food, water, and sunlight for survival. For humans to effectuate a figurative bloom, however, the evolutionary leader of the pack needs more than a physical environment within acceptable parameters; we also need favorable social conditioning.
Barriers to a human bloom abound; those that context and poor conditioning do not impose, our tendency to self-abuse inflicts. In a clumsy effort to mediate our transition from lizard-brained reactivity to human consciousness, we transfigured parasympathetic responses into emotions. Fight-or-flight begot fear, worry, regret, and depression; copulation and hunting successes begot happiness, contentment, desire, and love. Sadly, emotions do little to aid adaptability and much to hinder it.
Our emotional land mines rely on self-deception and negative assessment. Life is not intrinsically bleak or blissful; rather, life mirrors our assessment of it. Choose to appraise life as frightening or unwelcoming or trying, so it shall be. Choose instead to view life as a precious gift, celebration will fill your days.
If honestly embracing reality is paramount to effective living, and choosing a perspective crucial, do the two criteria conflict? How can an arbitrary evaluative choice comport with a rigorously honest appraisal of existence?
The choice of perspective is not one of opinion so much as vantage point. Reality is; perspective directs emotion and action. Hunger need not be attended by hopelessness; death need not be preceded by fear. A courageous, hopeful man will pull a drowning child from the river; a cowardly man will watch the child drown. The river will flow in either case.
Embrace reality honestly and courageously. Cry real tears.