Skip to main content

Summoning The Courage To Write About Dr. Maya Angelou (The Greatesst Lesson I Learned From Her)

A friend of one of my Facebook friends posted that he saw no sizable difference in the number of comments from African-Americans and whites about the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou and concluded that, based on the number of comments, she meant no more to African-Americans than she did to whites.

What the person failed to take into account was that maybe we African-Americans were just stunned into silence.  Perhaps we could not find the words to express how we felt.

I know I couldn't.

What can any writer write about one of the most gifted writers of our generation?  What could any one writer say that hasn't already been said by the obituary writers, friends, family, and luminaries? 

With that in mind, I wrote nothing.  That is, until I summoned the courage to write this entry and share the greatest lesson Dr. Maya Angelou taught me and perhaps others.

Dr. Angelou's quote about courage being the most important virtue because, without it, you cannot practice the other virtues consistently, has been repeated a lot lately, as well as some of her other memorable lessons:  "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time," and "People may forget what you said or what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

However, the most important lesson I think Dr. Angelou imparted upon all of us is one that she didn't speak, but instead lived:  You don't have to be just one thing in this life.  You can be many things.

How often do we limit ourselves, or allow ourselves to be limited, thinking trite aphorisms like, "Jack of all trades, master of none," or walking away from something we love because we don't have the requisite 10,000 hours supposedly needed to master it?

What if Dr. Angelou had settled on being only a cable car conductor?  Think of all the other gifts she possessed and bestowed upon the world -- writing, dancing, singing, acting, directing, writing music, teaching, and being a civil rights activist and friend to the likes of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, James Baldwin AND Oprah Winfrey!  And she could cook, too!  Oh my, what a life!  She lived many lifetimes within one lifetime.  Why?  Because she didn't limit herself to being just one thing.

I've always had a penchant for doing many things and, combined with being a Gemini, that has caused me to be branded as uncommitted, flighty, indecisive, and a "master of none."  But Dr. Angelou was writing music and working very late in her life.  She did not let her age limit her creativity and curiosity.  Even at an age when, statistically speaking, she probably didn't have 10,000 hours to master one more thing, she never stopped doing the many things about which she was passionate.  Her refusal to recognize limits on what she could be is the greatest lesson to me and, in my view, to the world.

So summon up the courage to do all the things that interest you, that fuel passion within you.  Don't care what people think.  So what if you don't master any -- you're not being graded!  Dr. Angelou believed that courage is the greatest virtue because you could not practice the other virtues consistently without it.  I believe that courage is the greatest virtue because you cannot be your most complete and realized self without it.

Thank you and Godspeed, Dr. Angelou.  And thank you, Stanford University, my alma mater, for providing me the opportunity to meet Dr. Angelou.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Retired Man Walking: Too Young to Retire, Too Old to Take Shit

A while back I ran into a friend and fellow professional employed by the State of California, and he offered me his perspective on State employment as a tail-end Baby Boomer like myself -- someone who can't retire because he lacks the requisite age or years of service, but, unlike myself, is tired of taking shit from superiors who don't know what to do with you.

Although my friend gave his permission for me to use his name in this blog entry, I decline to do so because what he does is so specialized that it would not be hard for anyone to identify him as one of the few African American men, if not the only African-American man, in California state civil service who does what he does. For purposes of this blog entry, I will refer to him as he now refers to himself:  Retired Man Walking.

Retired Man Walking, or RMW, has an interesting philosophy he applies to working for the State as a professional who isn't old enough to retire but has been around long enough to know the s…

My Prayer and Mantra for 2017 -- Do Not Waste Time on People and Things That Don't Matter

In this era of fake news, fake political candidates, and fake people all around, my prayer and mantra for 2017 is simple:  Do not waste time on people and things that don't matter.

In 2016, I spent too much time and money on things and people who didn't matter.  I allowed myself to become distracted by stuff that, for me and Black Man Not Blogging, didn't really matter for our happiness.  These distractions not only didn't improve the quality of our life together; they decreased it with additional and unnecessary stress.

The good news is that, for the most part, we're okay.  Yeah, Trump and his ilk really suck, but instead of a lot of hand wringing and commiserating, I'm going to do the one thing my late mother She Who  Is Exalted (SWIE) did better than anyone I know:  Play the hand you've been dealt.  My mother was a black female without a college education and with six kids, so playing the hand she was dealt was her survival skill.  Now it will be mine.

S…

Hillary Clinton Can Stop Trump -- If She Releases Her Electors

Hillary Clinton isn't going to be President of the United States.  At least not yet.  And not in 2017.

But she can possibly stop Donald Trump from being President by releasing her pledged electors  in the Electoral College to vote for a compromise Republican candidate.

This is part of the strategy of the Hamilton Electors, members of the Electoral College who see that Donald Trump is not qualified to be President.  They argue that the Electoral College's role is not to rubber-stamp the popular vote -- which, in this case, would belong to Clinton -- but to serve as a check on the popular vote to make sure that no one who is unfit assumes the office of President.

According to the Hamilton Electors, named for Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (Yes, he of the very popular musical for which I can't get tickets) Hamilton stated that the Electoral College's test for fitness to be the President was as follows (and I'm quoting):

Election of a Qualified Person: As Hamilton s…