Maya Angelou died Wednesday at 86. Truth to tell, I know very little about her and yet what I know makes me love her as if I knew a thing or two. As with others, I make her up based on almost nothing ... black woman poet, activist, writer, actress and a good deal more perhaps. I make her up and am drawn to what I make up.
Six autobiographies?! For that alone I would honor her honesty.
But otherwise my made-up Maya Angelou is a spare branch, a creation I somehow insist on making because I love what I have made up. A woman of courage and sass and laughter. A black woman who did not play the "black" card. A woman who seemed unencumbered by her accomplishments. A person I imagine I would like to know and am glad I did not.
A ... person ... of ... substance ....
And God how I love people of substance! Just being on the same planet with them lightens my day. No need to play at substance when substance is the substance of the substance.
I know there are many people who knew her better and might yank my inventive chain and bring this person into a more even-tempered focus. An egotist, perhaps, or a preen-er, or some other facts and figures that would be less adoring than what I have made up and adore.
Like a patient waiting in the dentist's office, I have read a half of some old article and then it is my turn -- time to set the magazine aside and allow the accumulated but incomplete information to wisp away like some coitus interruptus ... what need to remember the joke without a punch line, an article without a "the end?"
Would I like Maya Angelou more or less if I knew her better? Probably less, which is why I am content to know less ... and adore.
What does it mean to be a person of substance? I know it is gets wild applause on my applause-meter, but what is it? Is it perhaps like the menu in some effete upscale restaurant: "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it."? Is it like the Supreme Court justice's alleged assessment of pornography: "I may not know what it is, but I know it when I see it"?
No, I do not know who Maya Angelou is or was. I acknowledge the flimsy nature of my appreciation and adoration.
But I cannot imagine I am much different from others ... adoration feels too good to deny. And at my age, objects of adoration, like people of substance, are few and far between.