Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

Penguin Sex and Faith

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This winter I read through Donald Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz” and I wanted to share a humorous excerpt about penguin sex and faith to give you your chuckle for the day:

Tony and I were talking about Laura at the Horse Brass the other day; we were talking about belief, what it takes to believe, and he asked me h ow I believed in God.

I felt silly trying to explain it, even though Tony is a Christian. I felt as if I were saying I believed in Peter Pan or the Tooth Fairy, and yet I don’t believe in Peter Pan or the Tooth Fairy. I believe in God, and as I said before it feels so much more like something is causing me to believe than that I am stirring up belief. In fact, I would even say that when I started in faith I didn’t want to believe; my intellect wanted to disbelieve, but my soul, that deeper instinct, could no more stop believing in God than Tony could, on a dime, stop being in love with his wife. There are things you choose to believe, and the beliefs that choose you.

“You know what really helped me to understand why I believe in Jesus, Tony?”

“What’s that?”

“Penguins,” I told him.


“Penguins,” I clarified. “Do you know very much about penguins?”

“Nope.” Tony smiled. “Tell me about penguins.”

“I watched a nature show on OPB the other night about penguins. They travel in enormous groups, perhaps five hundred of them, and they swim north in the coldest winter, so far north they hit ice. They look like cartoon, like something out of the movie Fantasia. All five hundred of them swim till they hit ice then they jump out of the water, one by one, and start sliding on their bellies. They sort of create ruts as they slide, and they follow each other in a line. They do this for days, I think.”

“They slide on their bellies for days?” Tony asked.

“Days,” I told him,


“I don’t know,” I confessed. “But after awhile they stop sliding, and they get around in a big circle and start making noises. And what they are doing is looking for a mate. It’s crazy. It’s like a penguin nightclub or something – like a disco. They waddle around on the dance floor until they find a mate.’”

“Then what?” Tony asked, sort of laughing.

“Penguin sex,” I said.

“Penguin sex?”

“Yes. Penguin sex. Right there on television. I felt like I was watching animal porn.”

“What was it like?” he asked.

“Less than exciting,” I told him. “Sort of a letdown.”

“So what does penguins having sex have to do with their belief in God?” Tony asked.

“Well, I’m getting to that. But let me tell you what else they do. First, the females lay eggs. They do that standing up. The eggs fall down between their legs, which are about an inch or something long, and the females rest the eggs on their feet. Then, the males go over to the females and the females give the males the eggs. Then, and this is the cool part, the females leave. They travel for days back to the ocean and jump in and go fishing.”

“The females just take off and leave the men with the eggs?” Tony asked.

“Yes. The males take care of the eggs. They sit on them. They have this little pocket between their legs where the egg goes. They gather around in an enormous circle to keep each other warm. The penguins on the inside of the circle very slowly move to the outside, and then back to the inside. They do this to take turns on the outside because it is really cold. They do this for an entire month.”

“A month!”

“Yes. The males sit out there on the eggs for a month. They don’t even eat. They just watch the eggs. Then the females come back, and right when they do, almost to the day, the eggs are hatched. The females somehow know, even though they have never had babies before, the exact day to go back to the males. And that is how baby penguins are made.”

“Very interesting.” Tony clapped for me.” So what in the analogy here?”

“I don’t know, really. It’s just that I identified with them. I know it sounds crazy, but as I watched I felt like I was one of those penguins. They have this radar inside them that told them when and where to go and none of it made any sense, but they show up on the very day thier babies are being born, and the radar always turns out to be right. I have a radar inside me that says to believe in Jesus. Somehow, penguin radar leads them perfectly to me. Maybe it isnt so foolish that I follow the radar that is inside of me.”

Tony smiled at my answer. He lifted his glass of beer. “Here’s to penguins,” he said.


Written by Ryan

July 31, 2007 at 8:45 am

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