I was watching a lecture given by physicist Brian Cox when he mentioned light cones, which are basically the path that light takes from an event and would make outwards through spacetime. Lives can be mapped on light cones and every event that has ever influenced you would show up in your light cone because although you may not have been alive at the time, you were influenced by that event and remnants of that specific event had appeared in your lifetime.
As I have grown older, I see so many points back into the past become a part of my light cone. And I ask myself if it could be mapped three-dimensionally right now, would it still be a spotty triangle or would it be a solid cone?
I was 11 when MTV played a video. I had only seen it once but it was enough to make me search years for it and rejoice at a beat-up VHS rental copy when I was college. The song was “Sun City” and it was by a group called Artists United Against Apartheid.
That was when I first heard of Nelson Mandela.
When I was a sophomore in college, Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa, an act that my dear roommate at the time, Gwen and I celebrated by blasting the South African national anthem, “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (God Bless Africa) from our dorm room, much to the annoyance of our RA.
And at 95 years of age, he has passed on.
I write this with tears in my eyes as I realize with painful clarity that this was a man who had shaped my life in such a way that his influence passed with invisible ease before my very eyes. I did not know that the depth of a man with a heart like his, through his death, could reach back into my past and tell me that I do not need to get up for I am already standing. That the profound power of his silent dignity would cause even the most angry of men to put aside the hate to find a common ground because anger is not proper ground to build peace upon.
Communicate and be heard for your words have created paths to all South Africans to celebrate that which makes them one.
President Mandela: I have never met you and I have never been to your country but in my light cone, you appear. Through time and space, I have met you because I, like many others, celebrate your life and what you have meant to us. I hope then, in my own way, I can carry a flicker of your torch in my single candle, if only to keep you alive through me. Perhaps my light cone is still spotty but it is that much brighter because of you.
Goodbye Madiba. You shall be missed.