Today my wife and I drove down to The Denver Museum of Nature and Science and watched a 3-D IMAX film entitled "Secret Ocean," produced by Jean-Michel Cousteau. The movie featured close-up footage of a variety of different sea creatures, especially those inhabiting coral reefs. As I watched the beauty and movement of these stunning creatures set to music I began to cry.
This is a usual occurrence for me, especially with IMAX or National Park movies that focus on the grandeur and beauty of Nature. I find myself feeling ONE WITH the creatures and landscapes depicted, an experience that expands the boundaries of my usual self to include an Other - the sacred inner core of plants, animals, landscapes, skyscapes and people. Something similar occurs whenever I experience the beauty of Nature through the vehicle of my camera lens. As my boundaries melt and flow outward to include the multi-faceted beauty of the world, the only possible response is a RELEASE of the usual centripetal, inward-focused energy that works so diligently to hold those self-boundaries together. Indeed, this explosion is so immense that it can only result in tears.
For most of my life, I've known that tears are not necessarily associated solely with sadness. Rather, they express an indefinable emotion that includes not only sadness but elements of longing, joy, awe, belonging and union. Even sadness here recasts itself as fulfillment. We can see this association illustrated by the fact that the Latin word "satis" - the root of our word "sad" - is ALSO the root of the word "satisfied."
Although macho-oriented cultures may believe otherwise, tears are not a sign of weakness. Instead, they offer evidence of an immense strength that arises from being CENTERED enough to allow our boundaries to expand to take on the identities of others. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls this the "sore spot" that enables us to fall in love. As Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast puts it, "In genuine feeling, the deeper it is, the more ambiguous it is." Here, sadness is joy and joy is sadness, and we find both exquisitely expressed in tears. It is especially important, I'm convinced, for men to cry, for this expression reveals a TRUE masculine strength that far transcends the usual macho posturing which has brought so much suffering and devastation to the world.
May all of us - both male and female - know the true POWER of tears!
Photo: Artistic ice on Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.