Maya Angelou on creativity and a well-lived life
Few of us would contest Maya Angelou’s recipe for a life well-lived.
It’s safe to assume most of us would like to be thought of as intelligent, courageous and loving.
While these virtues hold a lot of gravity and are complex, the ways to apply them to daily life are generally clear.
But what about “teaches by being”?
How does teaching by being apply in the amped up world, where everyone is distracted – overwhelmed – and the art of observation has diminished like other old arts such as hand lettering and manual photography. So if no-one’s watching, how to teach by example?
The answer, I think, lies in creativity. Angelou could say she wanted to teach by being only because her life actions were threaded and layered with creative engagement.
She was a poet, a writer, a singer. She used words to express the inexpressible in a captivating way and with a captivating presence, to challenge norms, to celebrate the beauty of language and to rise above, as her poem And Still I Rise shows.
Images of her evoke the sense that she was not psychically or physically oppressed, but triumphant and emancipated in arresting ways. Her face and her smile show a woman who is sparked by a curious engagement with the world, she steps broadly, smiles widely and is open to sharing herself and her wisdom.
Perhaps this is why she managed to influence so many leading figures, such as Oprah Winfrey. Her creativity permitted her the type of transcendence over mediocrity that only makers know, but that others want to emulate.
Our reputations – the ways we’d like to be known – go to our legacies: how we want to be remembered.
Angelou reminds us of the importance of living with virtues like love, courage and intelligence.
But she also reminds us to apply those virtues in creative ways to transcend the noise, captivate attention and teach through being.