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Maya Angelou

"Always laugh"



Bad news is not news. We've had bad news as a species for a long time. We've had slavery and human sacrifice and the Holocaust, and we've had brutalities of such measure that in truth today, sitting in Seattle, Washington, in 1995, we can't imagine what Attila the Hun did; we can't imagine the cruelties of the Inquisition. We can't imagine it.


Today we say "Ahhh, how horrible!" But the truth is we have had bad news a long time. Somehow we have survived, amazingly. While on the one hand we have the brutes, the bigots, the bullies, and at the same time we have had men and women who dreamed great dreams. We've had Galileo and Aesop, Paul Laurence Dunbar and W.E.B. Du Bois; we've had Sholem Asch, and Shalom Aleichem - great dreamers. We've had women who stood alone, whether it was Harriet Tubman or Mother Jones. We've had Margaret Sanger. We've had women who have stood in the gap and said, "I'm here to try to save the world."


So I would say - not to the young people, but to you and to other adults - bad news is not news. Somehow, miraculously, we've survived and had a chance to laugh at each other and with each other, and fall in love and honor each other, and make dinners for each other.


This is what young women and men should know. They should know that we are carnivorous yet we have decided somehow not only not to eat our brothers and sisters, who may be delicious, but to accord them some rights and to try to love them and look after them. Look at that. That's amazing!


I don't want young men and women looking around at this little lonely planet and saying, "Oh my God! Mea Culpa. It's so awful." It's bad, but it's also good, and it's up to each one of us to make it better - everyone of us. We deserve our future.


Always laugh; it is the sweetest thing one can do for oneself and one's fellow human being. When people see the laughing face, even if they're jealous of it, their burden is lightened. But do it first for yourself.


Laugh and dare to try to love somebody, starting with yourself. You must love yourself first, of course, and you must protect yourself when you can. You say, "Just a minute! I'm worth everything, dear."


If you really realize that, you realize everybody else is worth everything. Everybody, fat and thin and plain and pretty, white and black, rich and poor, thick and slow and brilliant, everybody is worth everything. Start with yourself though.


I think we have to start to love life. Again, I didn't think about that 'til this moment, but Thomas Wolfe said in A Web and a Rock, "And in loving life, hate death".  We have got to start loving life and the living.  We have to respect that thing which we cannot create, which is life and stop taking it from people and stop taking it from things.  Stop taking it.  We can't make it. We can't reproduce one single person.  Stop minimizing people's lives by our ignorance, at our whim, for our own personal convenience.  You see, I can minimize your life.  I can keep you from getting that job.  I can keep you from having respect for yourself.   I can keep you from being able to support your children.  I can keep you from that.  I can minimize your life. Yes, I can.  So I can live fuller.


Well, we've got to get beyond that.  And it is passed aloof stars. I mean, we are living on this mote of matter. That's exactly what it is. And we live about that long. (Snaps fingers.)  I mean, to realize that the reptiles were on this little blob of spit and sand for 200 million years and here we are, moths of time.  And so -- and even so in this little brief interlude, we can pinch out somebody's life. We have to force ourselves to be more intelligent. I don't mean intellectually agile either, but really intelligent.



Taken from the Winter 1995/96 edition of Generation Next.