The Colour Purple

colourpurpleI’ve just read Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple for the first time. Yeah, I know: I’m so culturally impoverished and all that…

But my excuse is that I was in the remedial class for English at school and we didn’t actually read books (though we watched a few film adaptations), so I missed out on the usual introduction to some classics. True story! But that’s a different story, and not one that belongs here…

The thing that struck me in this book (aside from the sexism and racism of course) was the exploration of the divine.

For example this reminded me of explanations of Brahman:

God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.
It? I ast.
Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It.
But what do it look like? I ast.
Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found it.
Shug a beautiful something, let me tell you. She frown a little, look out cross the yard, lean back in her chair, look like a big rose. She say, My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and I cried and I run all round the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it.

And this:

Pretty soon Sofia say, That funny, I never heard that humming before.
What humming? Harpo ast.
Listen, she say.
Us git real quiet and listen. Sure enough, us hear ummmmmmmm.
What it coming from? ast Sofia. She git up and go look out the door. Nothing there. Sound git louder Ummmmmmm.
Harpo go look out the window. Nothing out there, he say.
Humming say UMMMMMMM.
I think I know what it is, I say.
They say, What?
I say, Everything.
Yeah, they say. That make a lots of sense.

UM? Like OM?

Which leads to Celie’s final letter to God, no longer the white bearded patriarch she originally imagined but more an omnipresent numinosity:

Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God.

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