An Interview with Alice Walker

April 3, 2010

This morning — well, morning for me — I am reading this interview with Alice Walker. It is, quite simply, amazing. I am going to post some pertinent quotes here, while trying not to quote the whole article!

“There is a sense of sinking back, with gratitude, into the vegetation. A call from the soul that wants a quiet so deep, a mental space so clear and empty, that I can inhabit it almost solely as spirit. And surely this is part of what aging is for: to prepare us for the slow absorption into the all, which I perceive to be a radiant and positive destination.”

“Whenever I encounter people who love their olive and fruit trees, their tomatoes, vegetables, and land, the farmer in me joins hands with them. I need no other, more political connection. But this is because of my paganism, no doubt. My belief that nature and we and “God/Goddess” are one and the same. My devotion to this intuitively arrived-at understanding.”

“What many people don’t realize is that the soul can benefit from instruction just as the mind can, and that this instruction is readily available. We just have to look, sometimes vigorously. It is a good thing to have a nourishing church experience every Sunday, for instance, but that is like going to a dinner where only a certain kind of food is likely to appear on the table. The soul may take a nibble, but it’s quite likely that what it really wants isn’t there. Unfettering the soul and letting it roam after its own peculiar nourishment is part of what assures spiritual development. We live in a time rich in all kinds of soul food, not just chops and overcooked greens, but organic produce and pure water, one might say.”

“As long as the world is dominated by racial ideology that places whites above people of color, the angle of vision of the womanist, coming from a culture of color, will be of a deeper, more radical penetration. This is only logical. Generally speaking, for instance, white feminists are dealing with the oppression they receive from white men, while women of color are oppressed by men of color as well as white men, as well as by many white women. But on the joyful side, which we must insist on honoring, the womanist is, like the creator of the word, intent on connecting with the earth and cosmos, with dance and song. With roundness. With thankfulness and joy. Given a fighting chance at living her own life, under oppression that she resists, the womanist has no or few complaints. Her history has been so rough—captured from her home, centuries of enslavement, apartheid, etc.—she honors Harriet Tubman by daily choosing freedom over the fetters of any internalized slavery she might find still lurking within herself. Whatever women’s liberation is called, it is about freedom. This she knows. Having said this, I have no problem being called “feminist” or “womanist.” In coining the term, I was simply trying myself to see more clearly what sets women of color apart in the rainbow that is a world movement of women who’ve had enough of being second- and third-class citizens of the earth. One day, if earth and our species survive, we will again be called sacred and free. Our proper names.”

“Meditation has been a mainstay in my life. It has helped me more than I could have imagined prior to learning how to meditate. I don’t meditate the same way I did earlier in my life, when the pressure to write, to mother, to travel, to be an activist, and to pay the bills was intense. Now I just live more meditatively, and it is very helpful that, understanding my nature and its needs for flourishing, I’ve created retreat spaces that help me keep my sanity and, quite often, my serenity. I discovered Mexico while I was pregnant with my daughter; we went there during my second trimester. I loved it and have gone there to rest in the sweetness of the Mexican people, in the kindness and courtesy of friends, every year for over twenty-five years. I also fell in love years ago with a Hawaiian musician who had the most delightful house on a beach in Molokai. The relationship ended, but we share the house still. I can go there when I’m dragging in spirit and sit and look at the moonlight on the water until I know all is well. That whether this small being is at peace or not, the tides will still do their thing: rise and fall and bring some boats to shore and refuse to let others land. With a complete and splendid indifference.”

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