“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they become capable of believing in anything.” This aphorism of GK Chesterton came to mind last week while I was attempting to discuss the matter of a lost mobile phone with the phone company. Since the phone in question was not the one I use, I was able to be more detached than those of you who have followed the psycho-drama of my relations with our provider of mobile telephony might expect. But I was struck by the degree to which my simple quest of identifying a problem (a lost phone) and a solution to that problem (how to get a replacement) seemed not quite so important to the gentleman I was speaking to. To be fair to him, he was most sympathetic; indeed sympathy was his strong suit. He asked me how I was (fine), how I was feeling (fine, after all, I wasn’t the phoneless one). Then we talked about pets and the identity of a black cat owned by the Shipperlee family in the 1960’s (blast! Have I given my security code away to the North Koreans? I must change it to something more secure, like EALING). I learnt about his dog, which he was given when he was in First Grade and when it died and mutual concern was exchanged, all of which was heart warming (genuinely) and human, but which did not materially advance my quest, but by this time he was understandably under pressure to move on to other telephonically bereaved customers, so I came away comforted, but sadly unaided.
We are often told that in the modern world we are at risk of becoming depersonalized, mere cogs or numbers, objects at the service of economic forces. This may be true, but it seems to me that it is also true that whatever it is in us that seeks a connectedness and meaning will find a way of expressing itself, however oddly. What Chesterton meant was that we cannot take God, or our need for God, out of our lives and that the more we try the more he, or some less helpful substitute, will pop back up again, because we pray and worship because we need to.
Meanwhile, does anyone know how to replace a lost phone!
Yours in Christ