THERE ARE SUCH THINGS, but by comparison they are rare. Beauty can bring tears, too. The important thing about tears is the relief we feel after they have been shed. Like the earth after a hard rain, we feel refreshed. Tears are the circuit-breaker of the soul, a fuse that keeps us from overloading.

Simple physical pain brings tears, though our first tears are attempts at communication. You can't talk, but you have needs, and the only way to tell people of them is to holler until you get what you want. This sets the pattern: we weep when we have no words for what we need to express. Tears of frustration and anger are likely the next we experience in terms of emotion. These are tears of weakness, and make us even angrier.

Men, in particular, don't like to be caught crying. It is an admission of defeat before an emotion, to confess that you are overwhelmed by something beyond your control. Tears of sorrow, these are the longest lasting, deepest and most common.

Grownups learn to grin despite pain and bear it, and rarely give vent to rage by weeping. But no dam behind the eyes is high enough to stop the spill of tears pumped up from a broken heart. Last of all, when death takes a loved one, we spill tears of bereavement, and then not for the empty husk, but for ourselves. At every death, we are mourners at our own funeral.

March 4