Weight isn’t just a matter of physics. It’s a matter of heart.
Anyone with a smattering of physics knows there’s a difference between weight and mass.
Mass is how much of something there is. It doesn’t change. A litre of distilled water masses a kilogram. Here, on the moon, in microgravity. Everywhere.
Weight, though, is something different. We routinely talk about that water “weighing” a kilogram, because here, on this Earth, it’s true. Six trillion trillion kg of planet under our feet make sure of it.
But not elsewhere. On the Moon, the same water “weighs” a sixth as much. A human being “weighs” 10 or 15 kilos. And in space? So little it isn’t worth talking about.
In a way, therefore, “weight” is context-dependent. One could almost say it’s subjective.
I know, I know. “Subjective” doesn’t mean that.
But what I’m trying to do here is lead up to the idea that for us humans, weight is about more than just a collection of molecules. How we feel, what we know, what we don’t – all these can imbue objects with a quality which makes them heavier or lighter, even when gravity stays at 1G.
Lift your work bag on two successive days, with the same contents, and it’ll feel different. A meeting you dread or a lunch you’ll love? A task that counts or drudgery that doesn’t? One day: light. The next: leaden.
But sometimes extra weight isn’t a burden. It’s a sign of how much something matters.
For most of us, there are things which define who we are. There are people, of course, thank goodness: those we love, those who love us. But there are things we do. Actions, activities, obsessions. The things which – if they were taken away from us – would leave us only partially there. Robbed. Even bereft.
I know what these are for me, because I spent years without them. No-one’s fault but my own. They weren’t taken away; I let them slip away from me. Told myself I was too busy. Family, work, no time for anything else.
And I paid. I became a smaller, sadder, sorrier person. More tired. More worn. Worst of all, someone with less of myself to give to others.
One is music. Long-term readers will recall I’m a piano player (never a pianist – nowhere near good enough to say that). I didn’t play for years. I don’t play every day now – but most days I do, and I know that I’m the better for having it back in my life.
The other, though, is capoeira. A martial art suffused with music. Born in Brazil, now worldwide. I first tried it almost 25 years ago. Then I played, solidly, for up to five or six hours a week, for several years around the year 2000. I loved it. It fed me. The physicality, the flexibility, the sense of energy and community and communication. Like nothing on earth. I took gradings. Became a senior student, with a blue belt.
Then, for years, I let it slip. Life. Work. Excuses.
Then, after we moved out of London, I discovered our new home had its own capoeira school, Brazilarte. I started training in 2019. Mestre Biscuim and Contra-mestra Sininha, its founders, became friends. They became family. And through the mad months of Covid, capoeira helped keep me sane. Kept me breathing.
In the two years I trained with Brazilarte – not always regularly, as work and family crises sometimes got in the way – I never wore a belt. It didn’t feel right, wearing one from so long ago. And thanks to the pandemic, there was no chance for a batizado (what we call a grading; literally, a “baptism”) at which I could earn one anew.
Not till last November. The Brazilarte Batizado was a celebration: of capoeira, of survival, of community. It was wonderful.
And at the end, Sininha tied this round my waist. A mark of family. Of belonging. Of faith and love. Of my return to capoeira as though I’d never left. Even of a kind of forgiveness for the times I’d let myself walk away.
And of an obligation – it being an instructor’s belt – to share the love with whoever I could.
And just for a moment, my knees sagged. My mind knew the belt massed a couple of hundred grams. My soul knew it weighed far, far more.
Today’s the first training session of 2022. This evening I hope I’ll feel my belt’s true weight. It may not be what I deserve. But I know it’s what I need.
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