Thursday, June 5, 2014

Maya Angelou

It was just 8 days ago that the world received news the great African-American writer Maya Angelou had died at the age of 86, having just celebrated her last birthday on April 4th. Her death struck me cold, and it has bothered me since. It's not because we are both Aries and I think we are kindred souls (I wouldn't dare compare myself to her genius). Nor am I troubled that she had died too young, or because I thought I "knew" her in some way. I'm saddened because the world will no longer be graced with the power of her voice and the power of her words. Her last message on Twitter, dated May 23rd, was as strong a message as any she had ever written and spoken: "Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God." I can still hear in my head her recitation of the inaugural poem "On the Pulse of Morning" in 1993--A Rock. A River. A Tree.--and its final stanza, resonant with hope:

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope--
Good morning.

These past 8 days I have been distressed by her death. I have felt a rivulet of emotion gurgling beneath the surface of my mind and my heart. I have been in mourning, and I only just realized this fact a little while ago. I never had the honor or privilege of meeting Maya Angelou, but there was always something about her voice and her words that have struck me. I am not alone; she has impacted many people's lives. But I realize that I am mourning the loss of a generation and a past and an understanding of the power of words, how when written from the heart and the mind, and spoken from the soul, words have the power to make a difference on a level that transcends basic textuality. Maya Angelou wasn't a perfect woman. She was something better. She was a human being, just like you and me, someone who made mistakes and learned from them, someone who knew that through our creative minds and bodies, one can make a small difference in this world, a difference that can enact positive change, hope, and love. Watch this short video interview with Maya Angelou that Ann Curry did about 12 years ago. You will quickly understand what I mean.

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