There is a version of “the dance that one day each and every one of use will dance” -- the actual dance -- that is a shared experience engaged by millions. We all are dancing this week with and for Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou in her life through her voice, her writings and her amazing rise from ashes of racism and poverty changed the lives of many and will continue to do so.
At this time in the days of her passing, we engage in a special way. “The Actual Dance” is experienced as a “guest of the dancer” or from “the gallery watching as someone,” we know or love is dancing. “The Dance” thus becomes part of a larger public experience in the loss of an iconic heroine.
Maya was not someone I knew. Rather, I experienced her as a public figure and author and a symbol of something very powerful. Her life stood for something. She was somebody, as I think my mother might have said in her day.
Given my current interest in the topic of love (See, for example, What Love Really Means, and Space), I looked to see what Maya Angelou had said about the topic and was delighted to find this poem:
Touched by An Angel by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free
So Maya, it seems you too knew “the dance.” The last stanza itself is a metaphor for the metaphor of The Actual Dance. When we are faced with doing “what we know we have to do” and be the dance partner for the “person we love most in the world,” we are weaned from our timidity. In the flush of love’s light we dare to be brave. And while we suddenly see that love costs all we are and will ever be, we come to know that it is only our love that sets us and our partner free.
Be free Maya.