Helen Nearing wrote: “We made serious and various attempts to live at five levels: with nature; by doing our daily stint of bread labor; by carrying on our professional activities; by constant association with our fellow citizens; and by unremitting efforts to cultivate the life of the mind and spirit.” These five levels of living were contained in what they came to call their “four-four-four formula.” Four hours of each day were directed toward “bread labor,” the work that grows food or shovels out the outhouse Four hours a day were devoted to “professional activity,” according to one’s skills, loves, and special competencies, whether that be playing the violin or writing books. Four hours a day were “dedicated to fulfilling our obligations and responsibilities as members of the human race and as participants in various local, regional, national, and world civic activities.”
Linnea Johnson, Nearing Enough in Less is More
There’s a lot of other things i can do that I speck God likes.
Like what? I ast.
Oh, she say. I can lay back and just admire stuff. Be happy. Have a good time.
Well, this sound like blasphemy sure nuff.
She say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think al the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.
Then she tell me this old white man is the same God she used to see when she prayed. If you wait to find God in church, Celie, she say, that’s who is bound to show up, cause that’s where he live.
Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. 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.
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 a 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 around the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it. Sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh.
Shug! I say.
Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ‘em you enjoys ‘em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.
God don’t think it dirty? I ast.
Naw, she say. God made it. Listen. God love everything you love - and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.
You saying God vain? I ast.
Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.
What it do when it pissed off? I ast.
Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.
Yeah? I say.
Yeah, she say. It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.
You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.
Yes, Celie, she say. Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?
Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. i been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?), not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing.
Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool. Next to any little scrub of a bush in my yard, Mr. _____’s evil sort of shrink. But not altogether. Still, it is like Shug say, You have to git a man off your eyeball, before you can see anything a’tall.
Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain’t. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lose, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock.
But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don’t want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods, and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it.
- Alice Walker, The Color Purple
having one of those days where sweetness overflows and the psalms we chant echo in my head and make sense: you crown the year with a rich harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.