"Claudia said, 'But, Mrs. Frankweiler, you should want to learn one new thing every day. We did even at the museum.'
'No,' (Mrs. Frankweiler) answered, 'I don't agree with that. I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It's hollow'" (p. 153).
This short passage comes from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg, a great little book written for preteens. In this book, Claudia is a young preteen who had run away from home in search of an adventure. Mrs. Frankweiler is the wise 82 year-old woman who holds many of life secrets. It is a meaningful book that is worthy of a read.
As I was reading this book with my twelve year-old daughter, this passage stopped me cold in my tracks. I almost had to put the book down. Instead, I nonchalantly dogeared the page to come back to it later. Well, it is later now. And here I am.
I would never advocate for a cessation of learning. I love to learn. I actually enjoy the entire process of discovery. I find a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the "Ah-ha" moment. However, I must confess that I often get so wrapped up in the process that I forget to allow that which I have learned to walk around inside me for a while. I get lost in learning the next thing. And sometimes it is too uncomfortable to give the space and the breathing room for the discovery to gain a life of its own. It is just so much easier to "accumulate facts."
Jesus often spoke in parables. According to the authors of the Gospels, the people who were gathered around Jesus often had difficulty understanding what it was that he was saying. Apparently this was especially true of those who were supposed to be closest to Jesus - his disciples. In order to explain this, Jesus says, “This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand” (Matthew 13:13, Common English Bible).
As long as I only seek to gather the facts, I will be one that sees without seeing and hears without hearing. I can fill my head, but unless I allow it "to swell up inside of (me)until it touches everything" I will not feel it inside of me.
True transformation comes not with the simple accumulation of facts, but in the change that comes when these bits of information take up residence inside and begin to grow together touching everything. I long to be more than just a knowledgeable noisemaker. I long to be transformed.
May we all have eyes to see and ears to hear. May we all have the courage to "allow what is already in (us) to swell up inside...until it touches everything."