Last week I trudged through Terminal C at Dallas Fort Worth airport. Our plane broke down. We were headed to DC. We sat in a 95-degree airplane on the tarmac, for three hours. They returned us to the gate. I rushed to see if I could grab another flight; I had an important meeting on Friday morning. The lady at the gate — head down, typing — mumbled, “Go to American Airlines Customer Service at C25.” 

I am rushing to C25. I’m zig-zagging through hundreds of other stranded travelers. I looked up and I saw this woman, crying. Not just kinda crying — like, crying. I first noticed her when she was about 15 feet in front of me, walking in my direction. She had dishwater blonde hair. Shoulder length. Wearing a black blouse, she looked to be in her 40’s. 

I got that “I wonder what’s wrong?” thought in my head. You start feeling sad inside; it always happens when you see a person crying in public. If a baby is crying it can agitate you. But when an adult cries, you just immediately feel for them. You know what I’m talking about.  

It would have been completely awkward to ask her what’s wrong. Especially given that we are all rushing around a hot airport. We were all going somewhere. It’s not like she was alone on a park bench or something. Even then, it would still be weird for a 54-year-old man to interrupt some woman, crying alone on a park bench. But not as weird as it would be in a crowded airport, while she’s rushing to get somewhere.  

After I passed the crying lady, and while I was feeling that “I wonder what’s wrong?” feeling, I thought about this yoga class I took a few years ago. At my studio, after class ends, you lie in savasana. You are instructed to be quiet. You are instructed to lie still for a least a few minutes. (I always stay longer than anyone else, for at least 10 minutes, because when else do you ever get to lie on your back in a public place in total silence without people think you are a freak, unless you are at the park or the beach or something?) First I heard just sniffles. Then you could hear really soft crying. Then, that sound of someone holding back tears — it’s kind of a gasping holding your breath sound. Deep breaths. Clandestinely, I peered out of the corner of my right eye. I saw her. She was on her knees, in an upright position, facing the front mirror. I watched the whole thing. Then, she started this slow, pathetic sob. I don’t mean that she was pathetic; I just mean that deep sobs are such a sad sound that it can leave you feeling pathetically hopeless. Especially if you’re in the same room alone with heartbroken woman, but you are a 50-something male and it would be awkward to interrupt and try to help.

I passed the crying lady in the Dallas airport, and then I just prayed a little prayer for her.

Physicalists would like to reduce crying to a physiological state of affairs, in the same way they do with pain. “No such thing as pain” — there is only the firing of c-fibers. To the physicalist, everything reduces to the physical: only atoms exist.

But crying and pain must be more than mere physical activity.  Maybe physicalists want to reduce all human emotion to physics because they are afraid (another phenomenon they reduce to physics lol) of the powerful reality of human emotions. 

We all feel sadness. We all feel pain. So, sometimes, we cry. That subjective experience of ours — itself — cannot be explained, scientifically.  You can’t view the experience of feeling sadness under a microscope. 

My flight to DC was canceled. I arrived the next day. Took 27 hours to get from LA to DC. I missed my Friday morning meeting. I went for a run.  I ended up standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. 

And I cried. 

I cried because he stood for truth and justice. I cried because our nation today doesn’t seem like it stands for truth and justice. 

I’ve been told that I seem aloof or hard on the inside. But I’m a crier. My mom was a crier. Her father was a crier.  

My father seems hard on the inside. He is a crier.  

I don’t know why crying should be embarrassing.  

You don’t really ever see men crying in public. You really don’t really ever see men cry at all.