What Makes You Weep?

January 3, 2010

I am a movie whore. I will crawl into bed with just about any offering. While I don’t always enjoy what I’m watching, I’m definitely not picky. As the oldest of five children, I took my brothers and sisters to the movie to get them out of the house most Saturdays. Once I was old enough to drive, I took them to the drive-in to see movies our parents didn’t approve of, swearing them to secrecy and bribing them with drugstore candy bars. I married another oldest child who spent his Saturdays the same way I did, babysitting brothers and sister at the weekend matinee. We still love to go to the theatre although we love our Netflix and our Roku and our movies on demand. I find it comforting to know that Fred Astaire is trapped in a box just waiting to dance for me.

Although I’ll go see almost anything, there are lots of film genres I don’t especially enjoy, heist films, for example. I don’t understand expending mental energy and risking your life to try to get a big bunch of money or jewels or whatever. Who cares? You’re an idiot. Put your skills to better use. I also dislike splatter/gore movies like the Saw series, quite different from films like Halloween. I saw Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs!, two of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s sixties grossouts, and others like them at the M&T Drive In in Warner Robins, Georgia, where they were billed many years ago as adult fare and alternated on weekend evenings with Scandinavian nudist films that drew crowds hoping for much more than the barebottomed volleyball they got.

But as much as I have an aversion to these genres, there’s another that I find even more objectionable: the tearjerker. I know that every moviemaker hopes to manipulate me in some way or another, but I don’t like having my tender feelings toyed with. Make me laugh. Make me cringe. Make me cower in terror and grip the armrests as the suspense becomes unbearable. Tease me with tenderness. Get me angry. But don’t make me cry. You’ll just tick me off.

This is not to say that there aren’t movies out there that make me cry because they are genuinely cry-worthy. There are. Compelling stories that illuminate some aspect of humanness that I need to be reminded of. Movies that inspire me. These are not the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about the often-written-for-“girls”-date-night-worst-of-the-chick-flicks that play with my emotions. When I see one of these and find myself crying, I feel cheap and used. I want to cry about things that matter.

I am reminded of this because I just picked up a copy of Max DePree’s (1989) book, Leadership Is an Art, at the Salvation Army. I’ve given several copies of this book away, so I always buy a copy when I see it cheap (75 cents this time). I find DePree’s leadership vision inspiring, and this is a book that I like to reread. Inspiration, a good friend once told me, is like taking a shower. You get inspired/clean, but you get out into the world and you get dirty/distracted from your mission, and thus you need regular inspiration. I think this is part of why I collect quotations; they are little bits of inspiration that remind me of who I am and who I want to be.

On pages 138-139 of DePree’s book, there is a list of things “we probably ought to weep about.” Here it is:

• superficiality
• a lack of dignity
• injustice, the flaw that prevents equity
• great news!
• tenderness
• a word of thanks
• separation
• arrogance
• betrayal of ideas, of principles, of quality
• jargon, because it confuses rather than clarifies
• looking at customers as interruptions
• leaders who watch bottom lines without watching behavior
• the inability of folks to tell the difference between heroes and celebrities
• confusing pleasure with meaning
• leaders who never say “Thank you”
• having to work in a job where you are not free to do your best
• good people trying to follow leaders who depend on politics and hierarchy rather than on trust and competence
• people who are gifts to the spirit.

What are some things that make me weep? Recognition. Appreciation. Generosity. Gentle spirits. Kindness. Caring. The courage of idiosyncracy. Quality work. Unexpected moments of connection. Reading or hearing or seeing something—anything—that lets me know I am not alone. This is what any communicative medium can accomplish; it can let us know that who we are is okay, that there are kindred spirits out there somewhere, and that we can connect with them if only through their work. This is why you need to put whoever you are out there into the world. Someone just might be waiting.

How about you? What’s on your list of things that make you weep?

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
• Steve Jobs



  1. Hi Zinn, Thanks for sharing this post last Friday. I too love Fred Astaire movies particularly the ones with Ginger Rogers. I don’t know if you have noticed but in the tearjerker movies when they want to make you cry they cue high-pitched violins. I consider this gross manipulation and that ticks me off. Jim

  2. Hi, Jim,

    Glad to know there’s another Astaire and Rogers fan out there.

    I’d never thought about this aspect of manipulation before, but it’s probably why I don’t particularly like those high-pitched violins!


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