Category Archives: Emotion

Emotion – suddenly overcoming

As a young man, Francis Parkman loved to wander over his beloved New England; over Europe; over the American West when travelling the Oregon Trail. In his Journal, July 23, 1846, he made a reference to Indian women—squaws to most whites. One reference got my attention.
He wrote that crying was the “commonest thing” in humanity. Then referred to a common sight that impressed him. He had often seen the women crying as they moved from camp to camp. Part II, Journals, 461

Reading that in 2017, 171 years removed from the historian’s trailside observation, still stirred my interest. Why would Indian women be so often in tears? Was it the hardship of everyday life? We know they worked like slaves while their husbands loitered, smoked and exchanged boasts and plans. The women worked like slaves turning freshly-killed buffalo hides into soft robes and teepee coverings. And worked like slaves feeding their families. It wasn’t for nothing that every Indian woman wanted a white man as a husband.

Maybe that brought all their tears.

Or was it the constant movement of villages to greener grass and better water? Any time a chief had his squaw level his lodge, every other woman in camp followed.

The rootlessness of Indian life could have brought the tears.

Or was it the result of Indian tradition that women mourn the loss of husbands, sons and village warriors in battle? Or even for favorite horses who died?

The habit of mourning for other losses could have made tears for one’s own life easy to shed.

Or was it the verbal, mental and physical abuse they experienced. True, as Parkman noted, when among themselves the women joked, laughed, and exchanged good-natured quips with each other. And when in the presence of the warriors they heard their salacious sexual talk—even the American trappers were shocked by the unblushing vulgarity of sexual references by Indian men. Whenever the women heard them, they never failed to laugh. But I wonder: women of any culture being natural objects of gentleness, could their laughter have been a self-mechanism? Knowing they could do nothing to raise their status? Laughing to keep from crying?

That could have surfaced tears.

Whatever may be said about that, tears are as natural in women as foreign to men. I’ve always said my wife Judy is a tear waiting to cry. Nevertheless I wouldn’t want her to be any less the gentle, gracious, amiable lady I’ve loved since 1956.

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Emotion – by osmosis

In any atmosphere—of sorrow and grief, joy and delight, defeat and despair, or victory and euphoria—whatever pervades the whole contagiously affects the parts.  I remember Professor Charles Mills recount his Holy Land trip in 1961.  He and his companions motored through the Continent.  He noted a feeling of oppression overcoming them on entering then communist-controlled Yugoslavia, only to be lifted when they crossed the frontier into Greece.

I write today of grief since Judy and I experienced it recently during two successive weekends.  Good friends, and we with them, lost both a beloved wife, mother and sister and, four days later, her mother.

The sensation of loss particularly impacted me at the committal for the mother.  One of her daughters, like a daughter to Judy and me, embodied the family’s grief, of which plenty existed and was expressed.  Everyone’s sorrow seemed to be expressed in her sudden, convulsive  onslaught of tears and weeping.  On the way to the car I noticed tears in my eyes.  I hadn’t cried.  But Debbie had, and plenty of others, if less noticeably.  The entire atmosphere of mourning in the family created the sense of loss and grief in the entire group.  Tears came easy, gladness hard.

I wonder if that could help explain the Master’s reaction in John 11:35:  “Jesus wept”.  Tears flowed everywhere that day, accompanied by groaning and moaning and screams.  Sensing it all, as one who identified with the people he came to help, Jesus expressed their sorrow in his own tears.  (I consider it only a partial, but helpful, explanation.)

One difference existed.  Where others could only weep, Jesus would banish tears.  Where they could only mourn the loss of Lazarus, he would call him back from the dead.  Which reminds us.  There’s always enough sorrow in life to imperil our sense of JOY.  But there’s always more than enough JOY in Jesus to overcome any sense of sorrow.