“One day Rumi was teaching by a fountain in a small square in Konya. Books were open on the fountain’s ledge. Shams walked quickly through the students and pushed the books into the water.
“Who are you and what are you doing?” Rumi asked.
“You must now live what you have been reading about.”
Rumi turned to the books in the fountain, one of them his father’s precious spiritual diary, the Maarif.
Shams said, “We can retrieve them. They will be as dry as they ever were.” He lifted out the Maarif to show him. Dry.
“Leave them,” said Rumi.
With that relinquishment of books and borrowed awareness, Rumi’s real life began, and his real poetry too.” — Coleman Barks, From the introduction of Rumi: The Big Red Book
There’s a creeping awareness that comes over you when you read a lot of books. A realization that you’re simply borrowing knowledge but not living it. It’s the equivalent of being all talk and no action. Being well-read is only a starting point, the rest is up to us.
Humanity is filled with people who are formally educated but not fully realized. We each have an opportunity to meet our potential, but most of us hide from it in books. Our development doesn’t stop when we finish the book—really, we’ve only just begun. The universe shows us the way and nothing more. This is where we pick up and carry ourselves forward into who we will become.
There’s nothing wrong with reading books, but we must get out of the covers. We’re far better for having borrowed the knowledge, we just can’t stop with that, satisfied and on to the next. We must stand up on those books, and from that higher plane, reach for something that might have been out of our grasp otherwise.