Ever wondered what your tears really look like? Rose-Lynn Fisher did. "One day I wondered if my tears of grief would look any different from my tears of happiness - and I set out to explore them up close."
"The Topography of Tears" she says, "is a study of 100 tears photographed through a standard light microscope. The project began in a period of personal change, loss, and copious tears. … Years later, this series comprises a wide range of my own and others’ tears, from elation to onions, as well as sorrow, frustration, rejection, resolution, laughing, yawning, birth and rebirth, and many more, each a tiny history."?
In photographing these various tears, she discovered that they are not unlike snowflakes--each one unique in its composition and design. Tears of joy looked nothing like tears of sorrow. And tears of elation looked nothing like the tears we shed when chopping an onion.
They can be explained, in part, by the chemistry of our tears:
Joseph Stromberg of the Smithsonian’s Collage of Arts and Sciences explained that there are three major types of tears: basal, reflex, and psychic (triggered by emotions). All tears contain organic substances including oils, antibodies, and enzymes and are suspended in salt water. Different types of tears have distinct molecules. Emotional tears have protein-based hormones including the neurotransmitter leucine enkephalin, which is a natural painkiller that is released when we are stressed. Plus, the tears seen under the microscope are crystallized salt and can lead to different shapes and forms. So even psychic tears with the same chemical composition can look very different.
"The random compositions I find in magnified tears often evoke a sense of place," says Fisher, "like aerial views of emotional terrain."*
Although the empirical nature of tears is a chemistry of water, proteins, minerals, hormones, antibodies and enzymes, the topography of tears is a momentary landscape, transient as the fingerprint of someone in a dream. This series is like an ephemeral atlas ….
Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as complex as a rite of passage. They are the evidence of our inner life overflowing its boundaries, spilling over into consciousness. Wordless and spontaneous, they release us to the possibility of realignment, reunion, catharsis: shedding tears, shedding old skin. It’s as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.
*Follow the link to source above to view their "topography" to understand just how personal tears are and how unique they are to our life experience.
It seems our tears are indeed an atlas of our life experience--the hills and valleys, the quiet streams and the raging oceans. As varied and sundry as our tears may be, it is so comforting to know that God tracks every one of them. He sees them. He knows them. He feels them. Whether in joy or sorrow, we are never alone in our tears.
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book" (Psalm 56:8, NLT).
"For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:17, ESV).