What It Means To Matter

Unarmed, Light Extinguished, Killed by Police. https://atlantablackstar.com/2016/01/04/report-1200-people-killed-by-police-last-year-black-men-nine-times-more-likely-to-be-killed-than-anyone-else/

There is a book called What Love Would Say, written by Connie Munde. It is a sweet book, a children’s book for all ages that I, immediately upon reading, wanted to buy for nearly everyone that I care for — and I care for a lot of people. It opens, “You are light slowed down enough to matter… so the hand of the Creator may touch you… and you may touch back.”

There is a specificity to that language, “slowed down enough to matter.” It is intended for contemplation. I have been contemplating it.

I consider it in the context of the idea of light. Light is fast. We know because we determine that if something is super fast, it is faster than the speed of light. It also lacks heaviness, and it spreads, filling rooms, crossing land and oceans. It is insight, represented by the phrase, I have seen the light. It is the truth.

What would it mean for this to be slowed down? What I see when I imagine light slowed down is light taking on weight, taking on substance, filling a particular, singular space, being a particular, specific truth. That truth and space and particularity is the matter it is slowed down enough to become. And it is slowed down enough, also, to matter in a specific way.

All light may not be slowed down the same, but it is all slowed down enough. Enough speaks of intention. Slowed down just. Enough. To matter.

What would it mean if we could see that we are all beams of light, and that we are all beams of the same light, and that we are all created to have purpose; that we all support our purpose by supporting the purpose of all others because we are all beams of the same light? Might we hurt less? Might we love more?

I was recently hurt. A man misled me and pressured me in order to experience my matter. I didn’t want to and was in physical pain, but I allowed myself to be influenced by both the loneliness I’d been carrying and compassion for his disappointment. After, when the things that transpired left me feeling used and immature, I thought of various ways to hurt him. I thought to tell him that I found better sex elsewhere when he suggested that I visit him again. I thought to tell him I couldn’t get his low hanging ball sack out of my mind and I didn’t want to see it again. But I chose not to spread my hurt any further.

It was his previous hurts, someone else’s previous unkindness or neglect that had pressured instead of held and comforted me. And the hurt, had I given it, wouldn’t have stayed with him. It would have spread to wherever his light went, hitching itself — a dark spot in his shine. But what if he’d been taught, directly and through his experiences, to see me as a matter of light, a light that matters, and we decided to be what would make us the brightest light while we were together, and leave no shadows in each other?

When we are blinded to the light in each other, being told that the difference in our matter is what’s real, we are being filled with shadows. As we dim the light of others, we dim also the light of ourselves. When we create narratives that generate fear of each other, and that give permission to harm each other, we are darkening everything in the universe. We are, every one of us, darker, shadowed, through the extinguishing of Philando Castile, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Jemel Roberson, Charleena Lyles.

The shadows within us feel like shadows around us. There are shadows in each of us. The shadows are falseness. They are unknown and unfamiliar because we are truth. That is why they bring fear. We must overcome the fear generated by our shadows — the falseness placed within us that we experience as shadows around us. We must also focus past the shadows we see in each other. When we do these things, we succeed in seeing the bright truth of the matter of the other. The light we see in each other gives us the courage to protect it. When Toronto police officer Ken Lam arrested Alek Minassian without killing him, in spite of his provocations, it was because Lam saw with his light, and he saw Minassian’s shadows in the context of Minassian’s light.

If we fail to see that light, we give ourselves permission to do harm, generating more shadows, more darkness in each other, ourselves, the world. That is what happened when officer Timothy Loehmann encountered Tamir Rice. He saw him through his shadows. He filled himself with more shadows. He replaced Tamir’s light with darkness. He spread that darkness everywhere.

We must always stand as light, and recognize the shadows. To deny the truth of Loehmann’s dark act is to extend permission to do more harm to each other, passing gloom on like a virus.

There is an exercise I do in workshops. I place a cup filled with water to the brim on a table. In front of the group I smack the cup so the water spills out onto the table. I ask, “Why is there water on the table?”

“Because you hit the cup!” is the common response.

“But what if there was milk in the cup?”

“Well, then there’d be milk on the table.”

“Ok. So again I ask, why is there water on the table?”

“Because there is water in the cup.”

It is not possible for something to come out of a vessel without that thing first being inside of that vessel. We, people, are receiving and giving and exchanging within — as vessels, from conception. When love comes out, it was first placed within us. But also, when hate comes out, it was first placed within us. This is important, because when we realize that, than in any moment, when we are receiving someone’s love or their hate, we can remember that that is not about this moment, it is a reflection of a previous moment when they were receiving someone else’s love or hate. We can neutralize any darkness being shared and stay in light because we understand, it’s not personal, it’s universal. We can also chose to respond without regard to what they have given. We can respond to their hate with love. We can pour love into a hate filled cup.

What we do in those moments affects everything. If we pour love into every cup that is full of pain and rejection and abuse, we give that vessel something else to offer — compassion, healing, understanding — as they continue to move forward in the world. The person’s worthiness needn’t mater, only the worthiness of a light filled world. It is in the darkest moments that we can be our brightest, and spread love the furthest, and change the world.

By seeing past the shadows we exchange light. It is our light that sees the light in others, and it enters them. We open to the light by seeing it, and it enters us. The love you give can overtake any shadows. It can spread, rich and luminous.

Every time we chose kindness, every time we take the risk of seeing past the shadows to focus on the light before us, we are healing darkness from our matter and restoring light to everything. For our light spreads and fills. Let there be less shadows. Let there be light.