By Blessings Phumisa:
Our society’s expectation of what a man can do or not has led to inner suffering amongst men but if you were to ask around, a lot of men could have loved to cry the loudest as that alone will have a cathartic effect of releasing the pain.
Whether men can cry in public is perhaps a subject that is usually avoided and whenever a man cries, the society looks at that as a weakness. But in real life, is crying a weakness?
Musician Lawi puts this thinking in perception. His recent song Timalira (We all cry) is worth listening. He sings:
Kodi wa nyonga ndiye uti? (Who is the strongest?)
Osakumana ndi mikwingwilima (Yet to be stretched by life’s vicissitudes?)
Njira yomwe onse a moyo ayesedwa kulimba mtima (The only way the universe tests our levels of fortitude)
Zochititsa mantha ena, zilimbitsa mtima ena (What scares others, hardens the hearts of others)
Tifanana ndi kusiyana muzotipangitsa kulira (We are only different in what triggers tears from our eyes)
Timalira mumtima mong’ung’udza ndi modandaula (Our hearts sometimes cry in the private confines of our souls)
Ululu okasefukila timaliranso mwa mkuwe (Sometimes we cry out loud when we are hurt and overburdened)
Kulira kulibe mlingo (There is no limit to shedding a tear)
Champweteka ndiye ayamba (The one who is hurt most initiates expression of grief)
Sikuwona nkhope kulira mayo maso ndiye mboni (The eyes can bear witness, crying does not discriminate)
These are opening lines to Timalira. This is Lawi’s recent outstanding and compelling creation from his sophomore studio album Sunset in the Sky. No recent song delves deep into the abyss of human emotions as this composition.
Here is a song that attempts to counter the narrative that men don’t cry or shouldn’t cry. It exposes the vulnerable side of men’s expression of pain, disappointment and anguish.
It is the mark of any great artist to make pertinent commentary on social issues that swifts us to make positive change. In Timalira, Lawi makes a very poignant observation on a contemporary issue that seems to be glossed over. Situated on the confluence of society’s definition of manliness and its prescriptions on men’s expression of vulnerability, Timalira chastises the enormous psychological pressure society places on men.
We live in very stressful times. The world is going through a very tumultuous period in our political, economic, social and geographic spheres. Challenges at work, problems at home or apprehension about the future, today’s men confront many challenges that continuously wear them out.
But not many men are talking about it choosing to hide behind the façade of stoicism. As Lawi observes, hurt is something that needs not to be bottled inside. As any psychologist would say, suppressing emotions is not good for the mental health of anyone. Men need to be man enough to cry. It is a human trait after all.
We have seen iconic images of our heroes crying. From images of Barack Obama wiping tears from his eyes after innocent kindergarten kids were killed by a gunman in America to the picture of Bishop Desmond Tutu sobbing as he led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in healing the wounds of a broken South Africa. Yet, there still seems to be a rule in our cultural constellation about the expression of grief among men. Shedding of tears among men in response to an emotional state is frowned upon. Young boys are told to be brave and not “display any signs of weakness by crying”. These are attitudes that result in male introversion.
However, suppression of emotions doesn’t help anyone. Crying, says Lawi, is an essential cog in the wheel of human life. It helps us to shed off the excess emotional, mental and physical burdens that weigh us down. Lawi questions the wisdom that describes people that don’t cry as being brave.
Crying by any means, Lawi tells us, is crying. Even if it is just our hearts wallowing in a fountain of tears in the private confines of our inner souls, away from the glaring eye of the world. However, Lawi admits that tears shed in the recess of our hearts are the hardest to wipe.
Mitima ili nayo misonzi (Our hearts have imperceptible tears)
Yosawoneka yongothela mkati (The kind of tears that form and recede from within)
Ndi misonzi yosapuputika amayo (The hardest type of tears to wipe)
This is an acknowledgement of the hardest type of grief – the one that is buried in the inner chambers of our being. It is the kind of suppression that eats at the heart of our souls. But sharing is caring, so they say. Men could do a lot to the caring of their mental health if they shared their burdens. As Lawi says in Timalira, don’t be like a tree that hides its shaking in the sun only to be dazed by the turbulence of the wind. It’s OK to cry.
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