[FOUNTAIN]Tears of rage or of pityWhen the Joseon-era scholar Park Ji-won saw the Manchurian plains for the first time on a journey to Beijing, he exclaimed, “What a great wailing ground it is! It is worthwhile to cry out loud here.”
As he looked at the wide plain, stretched out over 3,000 miles (4,828kilometers) without a sign of a hill, he was talking about crying. When a perplexed companion asked why he was thinking of wailing, he explained his “wailing ground theory.”
“Although legendary heroes and beauties are said to cry a lot, they only quietly shed a few teardrops. They must have thought that people cried only when they were sad and did not know we can cry over any feeling ― out of happiness, anger, pleasure, love or greed. There is no faster relief for discontent and depression than shouting out loud, so a thunderous wailing is the best cure in the world.”
As if a roar of thunder had freed a frustrated soul stuck between heaven and earth, Mr. Park vented himself with a good cry: tears of jubilation and rage. He rejoiced in his escape from political strife and his encounter with a spectacle where the “end of heaven and the tip of the earth met,” but lamented the situation that he was traveling a land where his ancestors had ridden horses towards the horizon as guests to celebrate the 70th birthday of the Qing emperor.
Although he probably did not realize it, tears of emotion are different from tears produced ordinarily. All but 1 percent of a tear is water, and the rest is made up of sodium, potassium and proteins such as albumin and globulin. But the emotional tear contains 25 percent more protein than ordinary tears. By relieving tension, giving comfort and easing antagonisms, such tears reinforce the immune system. That is one of the reasons why women, who cry five times more often than men, live longer than men.
Tears taste briny because of the sodium, but tears of anger are the saltiest of all. As a person gets angry, the sympathetic nerve becomes excited and produces more sodium.
On his visit to the country of his birth, Hines Ward, the 2006 Super Bowl most valuable player, cried when Seoul’s mayor made him an honorary citizen.
As the Washington Post wrote about him earlier, his tears were a valuable chance for introspection about the deep-rooted social prejudice against biracial children. While Korean society heats up easily and cools down just as easily, I hope Cicero’s warning that tears dry up quicker than anything doesn’t hold true this time. If we cool down quickly now, more and more people will be crying briny tears.
by Lee Hoon-beom
The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.