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  • Writer's picturePaul Cotter

The Truth About Tears

Close-up abstract view of a melting ice sculpture

I have a confession to make: I’m someone who gets teary-eyed quite easily. That's not a typical thing for guys, I know, but it’s always been a part of me and it's something I’ve learned to embrace.


The world has taught us that crying, particularly for men, is a sign of weakness. I don’t see it that way. Rather than a show of weakness, I see tears as a sign that we’re fully alive, fully feeling things.


As I’ve gotten older, and since I’m facing a terminal form of cancer that has no cure, I find the tears flow even more freely nowadays. It’s not that I'm overwhelmed with sadness or fear or self-pity. No. It's because I’m feeling the sweet and bitter poignancy of the world more acutely than ever before. I see the beauty, the tragedy, the kindness, the cruelty, the love — all of it, rolled into one big ball that we call life. And I find it incredibly moving.


It reminds me of my favorite scene from the film American Beauty, where the teenaged kid Ricky is describing a plastic garbage bag that he filmed dancing in the wind.


“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it … and my heart is going to cave in," Ricky said as he choked back tears.

If you’ve never viewed this remarkable scene, you can watch a clip of it here. It's a cinematic moment that has always stayed with me. And yes, my eyes fill with tears every time I watch it.

Photographer's Footnote: I photographed this melting ice sculpture in December 2019. My nephew Andrew was visiting us in Charlotte, and we brought our cameras along for a Saturday morning stroll around the city.


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