Michael Trimble: The Evolutionary and Social History of CryingRoundup: Talking About History
IN 2008, at a zoo in Münster, Germany, a gorilla named Gana gave birth to a male infant, who died after three months. Photographs of Gana, looking stricken and inconsolable, were ubiquitous. “Heartbroken gorilla cradles her dead baby,” Britain’s Daily Mail declared. Crowds thronged the zoo to see the grieving mother.
Sad as the scene was, the humans, not Gana, were the only ones crying. The notion that animals can weep — apologies to Dumbo, Bambi and Wilbur — has no scientific basis. Years of observations by the primatologists Dian Fossey, who observed gorillas, and Jane Goodall, who worked with chimpanzees, could not prove that animals cry tears from emotion....
“It is no little thing to make mine eyes to sweat compassion,” said Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. And yet the Greek epics are filled with tearful heroes like Odysseus, Agamemnon and Achilles. In recent decades, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have normalized the sight of the weepy chief executive. Twice in the last week — at a campaign speech in Iowa on Monday, and addressing his campaign staff in Chicago after his re-election victory — President Obama choked up. Babe Ruth cried when he learned he had cancer, and Floyd Patterson after losing to Muhammad Ali....
THE association of tears with art has ancient roots. The classic Greek tragedies of the fifth century B.C. were primarily celebrations of gods, especially Dionysus. Tragedies, like poetry and music, were staged religious events. Even then it was recognized that crying in response to drama brought pleasure. (Hollywood filmmakers certainly know this, as do playwrights, television producers and even news presenters.)...
comments powered by Disqus
- Deb Haaland: My Grandparents Were Stolen from their Families as Children. We Must Learn about this History
- Efforts to Restrict Teaching about Racism and Bias Have Multiplied across the U.S.
- "It’s Apartheid," Say Former Israeli Ambassadors to South Africa
- When Monuments Go Bad
- What the Pandemic Has Stolen from Black America
- Legislating Against Critical Race Theory
- "Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture" by Sudhir Hazareesingh wins Wolfson Prize
- The Importance of Teaching Dred Scott
- I Visited A Former Plantation To Understand Why People Get Married There. All I Saw Was Pain
- Education Failed To Be An Equalizer In Boston — A Review Of “The Education Trap”