What adults really cry about – and why

(…) We feel this is how life should be, this is what love looks like and what we should be giving to one another. But at the same time, we know it’s not easy; we’re pained by an acute sense that our lives are not usually like this. We may ache for all the lost innocence of the world (and of our own lives). Loveliness and goodness in art (at the Louvre, or in a children’s book, or on a screen) can make the actual ugliness of existence all the more vivid. And that’s precisely why we cry at this poignant reminder of an elusive paradise.

That’s also why, if we were to consider the unusual project of creating a robot that could cry in films, with books or at the museum, we should have to do something apparently rather cruel: we would have to ensure that this robot knew about suffering, that it was able to hate itself, to feel confused and frustrated, to ache and hope that it didn’t have to ache; for it is against this kind of background of pain and sober maturity that beautiful scenes in films or works of art become deeply important, rather than merely nice. Our tears are telling us something key: that our lives are tougher than they used to be when we were little, and that our longing for uncomplicated niceness and goodness is correspondingly all the more intense.

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