Tag Archives: emotions

Thought #42. Crocodile tears.

Crying emotional tears is a strange quirk of humankind. Sometime during the early development of the species, our ancestors had to contrive ways to express emotions in response to new forms of social interaction. However, social traits have been widely and deeply observed among other animal species and yet shedding emotional tears is considered uniquely human, making it so far impossible to reveal the mystery over why others animals do not show emotions using their lacrimal gland.

Apparently, this unique feature could be one of the answers to my dearest question: what makes us human. We are used to witnessing impressive emotional displays involving the act of crying. Despite being generally attached to sadness or sorrow, our ability to weep tears goes beyond these bounds. Angry tears can fill someone’s eyes when an upsetting situation is confronted. Similarly, bitter tears are suitable for disappointments. We even have invented the glamorous happy tears, especially reserved for great moments. The crocodile tears are aimed to make the viewer misleadingly react, which could be tantamount to the popular insincere smile.

Streams of tears have flooded our planet since time immemorial. Genuinely or not, we cannot deny that crying is a powerful tool to convey outward messages. Luckily, modern societies have positively evolved into a social system in which this communicative tool can be used not only by children and women but also by boys and men. But we must be able to turn away and hide tears because crying is also part of our intimacy and sometimes, the mere presence of a single tear rolling slowly down your cheek can make people willing to stop you by making the well-known and telltale “please, don’t cry” statement. I would go so far as to say that sometimes I love tears in my eyes, I need them all around but, I prefer to shed them in private. I cannot stand being told to stop crying. Emotions make us human.

Though #35. For my own amusement.

I enjoy the solitude of life. There is only so much one can learn by itself. Do not get me wrong, sometimes I can be a good human companion too (ask my dog if you cannot believe me). Do not ask my wife though, she should be tagged as a limited edition human being because she is the only person that really understands my idiosyncrasy. I deeply adore Marta.

I often ask myself big questions. At any moment, you could find me wandering about, listening to my preferred classical “hit”, feeding my brains with some food for thought, aloof. I would like to say that I probably have nothing against you. My rudeness is involuntary, totally unintentional.

What makes us humans? I recently discovered a BBC Radio podcast in which the presenter, Jeremy Vine, and a guest, share half an hour trying to figure out the answer. At the very beginning of each programme, Jeremy asks the guest the question, which is answered as merely foreplay in the form of an essay. After that, Jeremy plays 30 seconds of the guest’s favourite song and they start a conversation, sometimes a monologue, in which Jeremy dissects the ideas presented in the essay and developed during the programme.

Questions like “what makes us humans” are the kind of gambit that I use for my own amusement. Boring, you may think. Ok, I understand it may sound ridiculously boring but I love it. After having been thinking about those big questions, life is simply less harsh, cosier, better.

For example, imagine that I have received unfair treatment by someone that really means a lot to me. Instead of playing the blame game, I do prefer to think that to err is human. Forgive and forget or a way better, just forget. That simple? Do I really need 500 words to say that? Let me give you another example. Instead of blaming someone for not paying enough attention to your needs, why you do not just enjoy the solitude of life and do whatever you like, for your own amusement. It seems quite fair, doesn’t it?

Boredom is healthy. Being slack is often a source of inspiration, an opportunity to grow, to improve. Stress, on the other hand is harmful, at least for me. When stressed, I cannot think clearly and in my opinion, thinking is what makes us human and I do not want to be another kind of animal.

Thought #21. Identity crisis.

What do people need to forge their own identities? Is there any method (scientific or not) to know if you are on the verge of an identity crisis? These are silly questions, perhaps?

Identity is what makes a person (or a group) different from others. Our world is in dire need of finding common ground, and yet having your own identity might be more necessary than ever. Think about, for example, the political crisis that is facing the UK after the Brexit referendum. Are not the British struggling to understand their role in today’s world?

However, I am far more interested in personal identity crisis. In my opinion, the only way we have to know who we are is by asking ourselves whether we are happy or not. Simple as this question seems, it is easier said than done. In fact, inquiring into yourself is one of the most difficult, repetitive and sometimes Herculean tasks you will ever have to undertake. It is an eternal referendum.

In this referendum there are not winners or losers, though. You can be either or both. It all depends. At the ballot box there will be a single vote: yes, no or so-so. You must not allow abstentions because you have a stake in your well-being.

You will find those who argue that such an existential question is not their cup of tea. I prefer to run the risk rather than to avoid it. The reason why knowing your grade of happiness is worthy lies in the paramount human need to overcome difficulties. Why on earth are you going to improve if you do not know that something is not working?

By looking at your reflection in the mirror while asking “The Question”, you may be able to realise that you have nothing to fear from yourself. Chances are that you will feel ridiculously well after casting your ballot and realising that despite the fairly dismal future, you are more than happy. If it turned out to be the contrary, you would have a golden opportunity to ring the changes on the malfunctioning part of your life.

Last but not least, be yourself. It is all you have.

Thought #20. The power of an infectious grin.

Six o’clock in the morning and your alarm clock went off. Last night, you did not sleep a wink, tossing and turning all night long. You felt wretched by those nagging problems. A pile of things to do awaited you at work. On the radio, the weather forecast did not look promising. To top it all, you remembered that the car has broken down. Obviously, your patience was wearing thin at 7 a.m. and you were on the brink of a nervous breakdown. About to quickly abandon your apartment, wishing not to exist, thinking why on earth you are on the receiving end of life… Suddenly, you stumble upon the boy next door. A gentle and broad smile spreads over his face and your dismal day is over. The smile healing powers have emerged.

Smiling is also the universal language par excellence, a beautiful language shared by human beings, a gift from the gods and ultimately, a force to be reckoned with. However, all that glitters was not gold. According to a Scientific American column, the origin of grins and smiles goes back to our ancestors’ times. Through detailed observations of chimps and other primates, biologists and anthropologists have shown how baring one’s teeth denotes, in fact, an explicit threat or a show of unquestioned authority. Further investigation of ape’s smile has produced unexpected results: apparently, the display of a teeth-held grin is more a sign of submission than a show of power. The general consensus among experts is that it is precisely the submission trait what we have inherited.

Smiles and grins have been deeply ingrained in people since the advent of humanity. As any language, this one consists of carefully arranged building blocks; teeth, mouth, face and eyes are involved in the process of smiling. Luckily, evolution left its submissive character behind.

Thenceforth, we learned to combine those pieces to build a splendid array of expressive gestures. We can wear all kinds of smiles. An occasion may arise when you can wear a bright and broad smile because you are proud of something. You could also force a toothless one at your boss if he vetoed you taking any more time off. Just as revenge is sweet, a mocking smile or laughter might be sometimes pleasant. A flashed disarming smile could end up in hasty marriage. The most well-known method to convey an apology is certainly the apologetic one. A polite smile serves as an opening gambit in most speeches. An enigmatic smile may have puzzled you in the past. You should remember the reassuring smile that your parents used to give you. As you can imagine, this list would be never-ending.

One lesson about grinning and smiling is that despite all the beneficial effects, it is normally offered totally free of charge. Take advantage of this feature. Although you should always be dismissive of feigned or forced smiles (disavowal is, in this case, allowed), this must not prevent you from beginning each day with an infectious grin. Promise me!