This morning Maya Angelou passed away at age 86. The world knows her as a poet, a novelist, an actress, and an activist who gave us words and dance and a life of invaluable teachings. She was a writer with her life, and also, a writer of the soul.
In another life I wish I were a writer. Not a typer or a word-conductor, but a writer.
Writers — the thoughtful, carefully considered, deep, and sometimes simply but extraordinarily stated words of writers — have a way to my soul. A direct path. Good words are a necessity of my soul, which sounds ridiculously melodramatic. It is also true. Words have this ability, to me, to be both the fragments of beautiful, broken, stained glass with its sharp edges and soft glimmer, a conduit of hued light where there otherwise would be nothing but shades of black and white; And also these words can be the mend and cure to the brokenness of your spirit, your heart, and your soul which often feels as fragile as glass.
always wanted to be still want to be that — someone whose words may be but few but are more powerful than a billboard-sized picture on any regular ol’ typical Tuesday.
I haven’t blogged in quite a long time. Mainly I’ve been thinking more than I have been writing. I want my words to echo positivity and depth and challenge. Not criticism and accusation and abuse of privilege, which is sometimes impossibly hard when it’s my only reaction to the overwhelming misuse of freedom, opportunity, influence and authority that consumes our media, our news feeds, our laws and policy that deny equality and rights to so many. But what I find humbling in the life of Maya Angelou and others I hold in her same regard is that:
They overcame unbeatable odds by a dedication to equality, justice, and peace.
They didn’t strive for positions of influence but were given them anyway.
They used their influence, their words, and their life to spread love, kindness, and peace.
There are too many words in this universe; I need not be a contributor to the confusion clutter. Perhaps for the same reasons I believe we all strive to find purpose and identity in this world, I’m striving for the same of my words.
Ms. Maya, maybe she did the same. I like that she was a woman, a woman of character, a woman of strength and courage, a deep soul of words that reach far past her own life and circumstances. She was nothing anybody can define or confine in a box, and yet she is everything we hope represents society and kindness and wisdom. She’s an example of what the human race can be — a light and a force for kindness and good.
Maya’s life and life works will be the kind that won’t fade in memory as time goes on, but will grow in inspiration, wisdom, and necessity for the soul to know. For today (and forever) let her words soothe and warm and bring peace to every fragile soul.
“Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence — neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish — it is an imponderably valuable gift.”
“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”
“Love recognizes no barriers, it jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
“You may encounter many defeats. But you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
“Stand up straight and realize who you are. That you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.”
“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay.”
“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surely at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.”
(For every little girl and every woman, and lots of lots of men:) “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size. But when I start to tell them, they think I’m telling lies. I say, it’s in the reach of my arms, the span of my hips, the stride of my step, the curl of my lips. I’m a woman phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”
“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach for hearts is wise.”
“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”
“…let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”
“Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”
(For all of us) “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”
(And if, like me, you need a nudge encouragement to write and tell and share:)
April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014