sequences are often used to set up the most emotionally powerful
moments. The metaphysics of dreams make it understandably difficult
for the characters to speak directly to each other. Instead, would-be
lovers drift-dance toward a meeting that is yearned for but congeals
in the viewer's tears long before it appears on the screen.
situations provoke crying by stimulating understandings that,
if transformed into spoken words, would be intolerably counterproductive.
"As my great-grandmother said grace," recalls a young woman about
a family Thanksgiving dinner when she was a child, "I remember
tears coming to my eyes and not being sure why." She recalls her
mother's elaborate preparations and the huge family guest list.
Even years later, she could articulate what she gathered everyone
around the table had assumed. As her great-grandmother's health
was very quickly fading, "we were afraid that it would be her
last Thanksgiving with the family." Of course, no one could speak
that understanding, and there was a collective silence at the
end of the prayer. The embarrassing moment was broken when it
was noted by the ancient lady herself, who remarked to the effect,
"Cat got everyone's tongue?" Crying here emerges to carry the
imagination of what must not be said.
some instances, a person by crying effectively conveys to one
part of an audience what cannot be expressed directly to another
part. When the principal of a public school addressed a meeting
of parents, teachers, and staff about an upcoming strike called
by the L.A. teachers' union, she and several members of her audience
shook with emotion and became teary eyed. The local administration,
the teachers, and many parents who had been active in the school's
planning all wanted to keep the school open and to encourage children
to attend so that the school would receive state reimbursement.
But in order not to undermine the teachers' union, they did not
wish to create a substitute curriculum, even as a temporary measure.
Without anyone announcing the plan directly, the meeting, which
was not visibly led by either the principal or the teachers, appeared
to be drifting toward this outcome.
a father stood up and began talking in the thinking-out-loud spirit
that the meeting's crisis atmosphere seemed to invite. He stressed
how precious the children were and how all in the community must
be committed to providing children with uninterrupted education.
Perhaps parents could come in and develop curriculum, sue the
state to provide an alternate staff, pool resources to hire temporary
teachers, set up minischools in parents' houses.
this point the principal rose, taking the microphone for the first
time. Jaw rigid with emotion, voice wavering, gaze steady but
thick with tears, her torso shook as she announced, "There will
be no scabs here!" and delivered a stirring defense of the union
principle. Several parents were moved to tears.
asked what had so moved them, they indicated an understanding
that the principal was responding to "this dumb man" who himself
did not understand the subtext of the meeting. What they sensed
at stake was the survival of a 20-year-old set of collective arrangements
among parents, teachers, and the principal, a woman of almost
mythic reputation who had founded the school. The strike had been
discussed elaborately for months. Now the "bright ideas" of a
casual participant threatened the collective understanding. The
moved parents also saw reflections in the director's rhetorical
dilemma of their own struggles, in their own work worlds, to remain
polite when dealing with destructively insensitive troublemakers.
was moving about the director's speech was what it did not say
directly. In content her speech was directed toward the community
of solidarity, but her talk was implicitly directed at the "dumb
man." The response of crying carried an appreciation of just how
what was explicitly said reverberated with heavy meanings of what
could not at the moment be stated.