A Duck in a Chicken Coop

In The Sign of Jonas, Thomas Merton wrote: “An author in a Trappist monastery is like a duck in a chicken coop. And he would give anything in the world to be a chicken instead of a duck.” [page 89] Being both a writer and monk was hard. I doubt Merton could have been a monk instead of a writer. He had to be both, even if that made his life more difficult. I think being a monk made Merton a better writer.

I think there are lots of ordinary people who feel out of place, or misplaced, or even displaced, who feel like a duck in a chicken coop. This feeling, often unexpressed, speaks to our inner longing…for something beyond what we know or have experienced. It speaks to our need to belong, to be loved and accepted. I never feel at home anywhere. I have this deep longing within me that I can’t seem to satisfy. Oddly enough, I feel somewhat at home writing this book, while simultaneously feeling I have no right to write it because I am so woefully unqualified to say anything of substance about Merton or prayer. However, I’m so powerfully drawn to Merton the searcher that I am able to muster the confidence to use my pen in order to try to understand not only the monk but his relentless search for a deeper meaning.

When Merton writes about the true or real self and the false or illusionary self, I am now better able to recognize and feel those two dimensions within me. He speaks to the deepest yearnings of my spirit, while at the same time boldly confronting the complex problems within society. Merton writes from his inner experience, and in the process helps me connect with and verbalize my own inner experience, my own inner conflicts and confusions. His individual search for God became symbolic of the universal search for God, which is why his writing touched a wide range of people, including non-Christians, on their own individual journeys.

Allow God to turn your life upside-down and inside-out. Allow God to topple your expectations. Journey beyond your comfort zone. Pursue true knowledge.

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3 Responses to “A Duck in a Chicken Coop”


  1. 1 Elizabeth Graham July 20, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    What a great analogy! I have spent most of my life feeling like a duck in a chicken coup…both with my family and with others. I have hope!

  2. 2 Peter Davis July 21, 2015 at 5:33 am

    Thank you Gerry. Awesome blog.

    Peter S. Davis Simon Consulting, LLC Direct 602 279 7503 Cell 602 295 6068 pdavis@simonconsulting.net


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