If I Wasn’t Real

“If I wasn’t real,” Alice said-half laughing, through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous- “I shouldn’t be able to cry.”

“I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears?” Tweedle-dum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.

“I know they’re talking nonsense,” Alice thought to herself: “and it’s foolish to cry about it.” So she brushed away her tears, and went on.

Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass”


Yesterday was a day of tears. Not literally, but philosophizing about crying came up in a number of places. From the mouths of ten year olds in a grade five class, to across the desk banter in the office. It’s interesting that we still, for the most part, feel as though crying is shameful, even as little kids. People tend to get uncomfortable or itchy or annoyed when any display of tears occurs in the vicinity.

Why is that? Why do we feel the need to stop the tears, if not our tears then the tears of other people?

I think we need to take a closer look at Alice’s words. “If I wasn’t real …I shouldn’t be able to cry.” Part of being human is the ability to cry. We cry when someone dies perhaps as a physical validation of his or her existence. We cry when we’re overwhelmed with sadness or joy or frustration in order to confirm what is lost or what is gained, or what is out of our control.

What if we perceive crying not as a weakness, but rather strength? A strength of emotion. Cathartic.

What of the “real” tears referred to by Tweede-dum.? Because some feel a sense of lack of control or sense of uneasiness when someone else is crying, tears can be used to manipulate. Tears with the intent of eliciting pity for gainful purposes. To get out of a speeding ticket, to maintain a relationship out of guilt, to divert attention from the truth.

But some things are nonsense. A lot of things are nonsense. It should be easy to distinguish between the two but often times it isn’t. We don’t realize that what we’re getting emotional about is beyond our control or simply other people “talking nonsense”.

Some things ARE worth crying over if not physically than certainly emotionally. Worthy of the energy. A physical veneration of sorts. What if we shed our inhibitions with regards to crying.

Then, like Alice, brush away our tears and move on.


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