Letters to Tom — Eggs in the Marketplace

Dear Tom:

Thomas Merton, the renowned monk and writer, used your Sufi wisdom to make a point. In responding to the inquiry, “ why do monks live in seclusion,” he replied, “ An apt saying of the Muslim Sufis comes to mind here, ‘The hen does not lay eggs in the marketplace.”

I sit quietly right now in my new study. Our new home shields me from most of the urban noises that I experienced in DC. Yet there is part of me that misses the occasional siren, trash truck, screeching tires and hum of traffic on Wisconsin Avenue. Merton went through a long period where solitude exhausted him and he felt miserable, sinful, guilty, and without any prospects. At the depth of his despair he again found God and solidarity with other human beings. His heavy darkness appeared to be a purification that prepared him for a new task.

Like Jonas who God called to go to the people, but instead Jonas fled until God led him back through the whale to his true calling. Merton became spiritual director for the students at his monastery. He found that the silence and solitude had buried themselves so deeply he was in a position to take on a very deep and intimate relation with other persons. He had learned to feel and respect silence in the life of another. His Sign of Jonas caused him to discover something new in his desert. He said, “ There is no wilderness so terrible, so beautiful, so arid and so fruitful as the wilderness of compassion. It is the only desert that shall truly flourish like the lily. “

In my new surroundings hopefully I too can transfer my solitude to compassion, where curiosity turns into admiration, direction turns into guidance, and silence becomes a place where no one has to ask questions, but all can be really together in God.

Your friend, Webb

About the author

Webb Hubbell, former Associate Attorney General of The United States, is an author and speaker. His novels, When Men Betray, Ginger Snaps, A Game of Inches, The Eighteenth Green, and The East End are published by Beaufort Books and are available online or at your local bookstore. When Men Betray won one of the IndieFab awards for best novel in 2014. Ginger Snaps and The Eighteenth Green won the IPPY Awards Gold Medal for best suspense/thriller.

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