A Short Treatise on Tears

By | 13 May 2024

It is a secret place, the land of tears
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ‘The Little Prince’

Sometimes a thought breaks from the body in liquid form:
O small seismic! Usually this is when we have no words.
Instead we taste our tears and are reminded of the sea.
Others may perceive these tiny flarings but often they are
overlooked in daylight or take place under cover of dark.
Once dry, the face from which they emerge is indefinitely
changed. Other times, eyes remain inconveniently tearless.
For this we have what the Germans call künstliche Träne
artificial tears—bought in small bottles over-the-counter
to administer as needed. The inability to secrete natural
tears should not be taken for a lack of feeling, the same
way the effects of slicing onions do not reflect true grief.
There is no optimal word in the English language for the
inappropriate production of tears. Magnified one hundred-
fold with a high-resolution microscope, tears become
remarkably kaleidoscopic. Photographed, they form
vast yet intricate landscapes suggestive of names such as
Abandonment, Desolation and Loss, as well as the less epic:
Frustration and Dust. Every day, artists and scientists work
to uncover novel and authentic ways of interpreting tears.
They may well be our last remaining frontier.

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