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Monday, June 30, 2014

The X Factor In Maya Angelou's Career

Now this post is a good example of a blind analysis of a life, following publicity about that person's recent death. I had never heard of the name Maya Angelou before. I can't be accused of deliberately selecting this profile; it was simply in the news and as I've previously said, I'm a bit of a haphazard researcher. However, I believe that's also the best way to get a true cross-section of data.

Maya Angelou, I've come to realize, was a much-loved figure within the civil rights movement, as well as a prominent author, with much material drawn from her own colorful life. This post will now contain a rather different mode as I'd like you to PRESS HERE and read a small, but significant, opening section from Chapter 3 of The Life Cycles Revolution. I want you to appreciate just how I study events in 'Years Of Revolution'.

Yes, they can simply be defined as new directions and important achievements, but what really underpins this, is my conclusion from the evidence I study, that it is often so special, as to amount to a form of symbolic re-birth. Not just like the Eastern religions, who teach reincarnations of lives, but a form of reincarnation within all lives. Totally new idea in the history of thought and philosophy about life cycles. That's what makes it 'Life Cycles' and not just a copy of something else.

We are now going to examine together, events in Maya's important age 36 'Year of Revolution', to see if it reasonably fits this model of personal re-invention, like it does with so many other people I study. Does she :- "bumble and stumble her way down to the bottom of the dark cellar only to eventually climb back into the warmth of a sunny day"?

Maya turned 36 on 4th. April, 1964. What was her life like then? It was actually quite different to what you might expect. For a start she was living in Accra, capital city of Ghana, and she had had a settled life there for the last three years. She had left the US because she felt unwanted by white America and in Ghana she said she thought she was home. She was an administrator at the University of Ghana and a journalist and editor with Ghanaian Times and broadcaster on Radio Ghana. Her son was at college and she was in a relationship with a man from Mali, but had refused an offer of marriage, because it would mean relocating to Mali. She lived as a native Ghanaian and it would be safe to say she had no plans for change anytime soon.

That was all about to change however, when the prominent spokesman Malcolm Little (known as Malcolm X), visited the country as part of his African Tour to raise support for the "Organisation For Afro-American Unity", in both May and July, 1964. Here he met with Maya and encouraged her to become active in this cause, which espoused human rights for blacks; along with involvement in a raft of boycotts, strikes and social programs run by blacks. He wanted her to return with him to the US and help build this new organization. They discussed addressing the United Nations with a charter of proposals, in a similar vein to what South Africa's freedom fighters had done with apartheid.

What he promised was little short of a 'brave new world' vision of achieving real political and moral influence and he stated to her :- "The country needs you. Our people need you. You have seen Africa, bring it home and teach our people about our homeland." Maya was persuaded and she eventually arrived in the US on 19th. February, 1965. Now this represents a dramatic shift in her life, a new direction and some, but not all, of the elements of the definition of a 'Year of Revolution'. Was that all there was? What about "one-way tunnels" and "dark moments"?

She didn't have to wait long. Her world came crashing down two days later, when Malcolm X was gunned down by members of a rival Muslim sect. With him gone the Organisation and its lofty aims quickly fell apart. Devastated, Maya moves to Hawaii to be near her brother. In a very depressed state she decides to give away her writing and journalism and reverts to her earlier career as a singer/entertainer. She is now :- "in the one-way tunnel and stumbling about". However, she realizes after seeing Della Reese perform, that she lacks both the desire and talent to be a singer. She is effectively:- "at the bottom of the cellar right now".

She then decides to return to her writing career, but this time in Los Angeles, where her family are. Then, most probably before her next birthday in April 1965, her former lover, whom she described as a controlling and powerful West African man, arrives to take her back to Accra. More drama and upheaval. Maya asks her mother and brother to help and they manage to divert the man, first to Mexico and then back to Accra. So, with him gone and with resumption of her real career as a writer and spokesperson for civil rights, she has now effectively :- "emerged into the warmth of a sunny day".

This really begins to 'fit the spec' of the full gamut of upheaval of an age 36 'Year of Revolution'. Without Malcolm X, who came storming into her life with a grand vision of Afro-American Unity, she would have probably remained in Ghana as a respected voice on African issues. The man she simply refers to as "the African" would have put on as much pressure for marriage as he could. She would still have been a writer and spokesperson, but in a different way. No, I think it could be fairly argued that Malcolm Little was to be the 'X Factor' in her life. He brought her back to her home in the US. He was what I have come to refer to as :- "the agent of the Revolution", because I have seen many other examples like this.

Now for the $64,000 question. The last part of the excerpt referred to the whole process in this way :- "as unreasonable as it may sound, the 'The Miracle Of The Revolution'". Is it? Aren't miracles just the province of religion and meta-physics? Can someone like me, who just mundanely studies biographies, say that lives can contain seemingly miraculous or, if you prefer, just highly improbable, life-defining moments and equally; at an almost predetermined schedule? Does destiny indeed have a calendar and fate have a timeline? Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."