The human body is amazing. Things we take for granted or try to explain in simple ways turn out to be incredibly complex when we fully understand how they work. Tears are a classic example. Most of us don’t realize why we need tears and that we have three different kinds.
Basal tears lubricate our eyes. They are generated in the lacrimal gland, which sits just above the eye and just under the eyebrow. The word “lacrimal” comes from the Latin word for tear, which is “lacrima.”
Reflex tears form in response to irritants. You are most familiar with them when you cut an onion or are exposed to smoke or dirt. These tears have a complex mix of saltwater mixed with antibodies, oils, and enzymes that are not present in basal tears.
Emotional tears carry protein-based hormones, including leucine-enkephalin, which is a natural pain killer released when the body is under stress. Crying causes the release of oxytocin and endorphins, which are chemicals that help us feel better. Crying also may generate social support, depending on the situation.
Interestingly, babies don’t produce tears until they are seven or eight months old. The average human produces 15 to 30 gallons of tears a year. It is incredible that such a simple thing as tears has such a complex design and serves so many different purposes. It is easy to see why we need tears.
The more I learn about God’s design of my body, the more I appreciate the statement of David: “I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works” (Psalms 139:14).
— John N. Clayton © 2020
Reference: Reader’s Digest, February 2020, page 34-36.