The answer is not to be found in books

240px-awen_symbol_final.svg_A month ago when serious quarantine measures started to be required here in the U.S., Scribd announced they were giving a free 30-day trial of their service: e-books, audiobooks, and access to podcasts, documents, articles, and other such entertainment. I’ve never not been interested when someone waves a book at me–like a dog is never not interested in a strip of bacon in front of its nose–so I signed up.

After three weeks, I dropped my subscription to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, and today, I paid for my first month of Scribd, for $8.99. I’m still paying for Netflix, but I’ve made far more use of Scribd in the past month, let me tell you. You can legally read all sorts of books, even very recently published ones, even books from niche publishers like Llewellyn and Weiser and the like. I have a reading list of probably a hundred titles saved, at least, sorted into topic lists. I have marked thirty books on Druidry alone for my reading pleasure.

I haven’t read any of them.

I’ve read and listened to a book on Celtic (Christian) spirituality, The Soul’s Slow Ripening by Christine Valters Paintner (which I recommend). I’m reading and listening to my gwersi, the lessons of the OBOD course; I decided to get them in dual format, booklet and CD. I’ve rearranged my shrine with more druidic ideas in mind (though Antinous still has a corner and a lotus candle-holder). And I indulged in an Awen pendant from OBOD, a beautiful silver item I will be happy to show off when it arrives. (It just seems so… English to me that the OBOD office takes things to the post for shipping once a week, on Thursdays. Only on Thursdays.)

Today, after faffing around online with Tumblr and Facebook for far too long, I suddenly got up out of my chair, clapped my hands, and shouted, or at least declared, “The answer is not to be found in books!” And immediately thereafter muttered, “I can’t believe I just said that.” Because for 99% of my life, the answer has always been found in books. In school, the answer was in the textbook, and my mother once went to bat for me because my social studies teacher did not accept my answer to the test question, “Who was the founder of Buddhism?” I wrote “Siddhartha Gautama”, having at that point read half a dozen books on world religions. The textbook, however, said “Gautama Buddha”, so the teacher took off points. Except for that question, I would have had a perfect score. Yes, I am still mad about this.

At church, the answers were in the Bible, but also in the Prayerbook and the Hymnal. In college, the answers were in the textbooks. When I was curious about something, when I was bored, when I was anxious or frightened, the answer was pretty much always to be found in a book. You just had to find the right book–and holy gods, have I spent a lot of my time and money looking for that One Right Book. One time when I didn’t do that so much was when I started taking yoga classes. I found that I liked it; I had a wise, gentle teacher who taught modifications for those of us who couldn’t do the postures perfectly already, like the models in yoga calendars. And it felt right in my body, in a way that no other form of exercise ever had. I think I had a sense that books would only take away the great gift I had found in yoga, of getting out of my head and into my body. I didn’t want to think about yoga; I just wanted to go to class and sweat. A lot.

I do want to read about Druidry, to learn more than I already know, but to tell the truth, I’ve already read so much. I know a great deal about Druidry, about various forms of the Craft, about Christianity, Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, and other traditions. I don’t really need more intellectual knowledge. What I need is practice, something embodied, something that brings knowledge down into the heart and the gut. And while my first thought is often to make a plan, compose a rule of life, write a liturgy, I know from experience that the best practice often results from wading in, splashing around, and eventually finding a rhythm.

Which is why, once I post this offering to my blog, I’m going to pour clean water, light an candle and incense, and sit to meditate in front of my shrine. And see who or what comes to me, and where I go.