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Friday, October 9, 2009


Andy was the family parrot, and I mean all the family. He lived with us when I was a kid, but he had lived with my dad's family before that, and with my aunt after. So he didn't just belong to the family, but was a part of it.

Andy spoke, but had his own vocabulary and syntax. For example, when the garage door was open and the sun shone in his eyes, he yelled, "Shut up!" meaning "Shut the door."

The one that sticks in my mind, though, was this: when one of us was crying (usually me, the "little brother") and got near his cage, he'd croon, "Why cry? Why cry?"

Why indeed, Andy, why indeed?

The fact is, no one knows why we cry. One theory says it's relationship-building: we cry to elicit sympathy from others, which builds bonds. Another theory says the blurring of vision was an evolutionary adaptation to prevent aggressive reaction to bad news.

My favorite, though, is the idea that crying releases excess "stress hormones" that build up at times of crisis. This fits Aristotle's theory of catharsis, the "cleansing" emotional release that comes at the climax of a drama. (That explains why we cry in movies.)

Whatever the true reason for crying, there's no doubt that a healthy cry can provide release.

So if you’re sad, let it out. If you’re not, watch Terms of Endearment again. (Or Texas Chainsaw Massacre if that's what does it for you.) Whatever primes the pump and helps you achieve catharsis.

You'll be happier.

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