Opinion: What’s the use in crying?


Although the very earliest forms of expression were often cave paintings of heroic deeds against formidable opponents, animal or otherwise, art eventually matured into other forms — romantic expressions, then deities, then edifices and so on. We retell the story of our personal state, often the universal human condition, through art in all its forms — music, painting, sculpture, theater, literature, song, dance – the list goes on.

The subjects haven’t found much variability in these many years. We brag of our conquests and prowess. We express our fears and loathing. And we emote. Wow, do we emote. French poet Raymond Queneau entitled his magnum opus “100,000,000,000,000 Poems,” but it is unlikely that he managed to say it all. Anger, pain, love, loss and need all find outlets in our expression. The notion of human crying appears so often in song lyrics that even the vaunted artificial intelligence will not yet provide a specific answer, instead asserting it blithely to be “a common theme” in music. No doubt.

What is the use of all the time we spend crying instead of time doing? Were we to dedicate our energy and emotion to action, would the foundation for sadness dry up? Even the great Nat King Cole observed that we’d be better off to “smile” and rhetorically queries, “What’s the use of crying?” Still, there is much evidence that our sobbing is good for us, that grief has an important role in healing.

In 1981, the rock band Journey found a hit among all of those seeking revenge in “Who’s Crying Now.” Is there a different act that could serve us in our need to feel better? Fury? Reason? Resignation? Evolution? Even if tears are the best path, is there a point too far? Is there a point of self-indulgence?