On idle godliness

The problem with God is that He’s not a problem, and more, that He refuses to become one. He can only be a problem for us, and in that case a problem of our making. The denials we attempt create nothing but confusion — for us, and for those who listen to us. We spend whole days fussing with denial, when we could have been doing better things — things that include eating and sleeping. We are to my mind insufficiently Idle, in my preferred sense of this term, which is not to be confused with Sloth, a mortal sin.

Rather I think Idleness is more like Silence.

Sloth is misunderstood, when it is confused with mere laziness. Laziness is venial, though unchecked it will accumulate into mental coma. But few are the slothful who are lazy. They fill their heads with problems, lions in the way. This is among those Proverbs of more than superficial depth: we should more carefully consider the lions. A real lion would be a good excuse; but we fill our road with imaginary lions. These include the composition of unanswerable questions — a hobby for more people than you could shake a stick at.

A fine lady in Australia copied to me this morning a meditation by Simone Weil, which I in my turn copy below. Weil, to my mind, was a great idler, as the quotation will explain. She was also, to my mind, something like that Maid of Orleans, whom I so treasure as a Catholic woman: soft in the heart, not soft in the head.


In my contemplations on the insoluble problem of God, I did not anticipate the possibility of real contact, person-to-person, here below, between a human and God. I had vaguely heard tell of things of this kind, but I never believed them. … Moreover, in Christ’s sudden possession of me, neither my senses nor my imagination had any part. Through my suffering I only felt the presence of a love analogous to that which one reads in the smile of a beloved face.

I had never read any of the mystics, because I had never felt called to read them. In reading, as in other things, I always attempt practical obedience. There is nothing more favourable to intellectual progress, for as far as possible I do not read anything except that for which I am hungry in the moment, when I am hungry for it, and then I do not read, … I eat. God mercifully prevented me from reading the mystics, so that it would be evident to me that I had not fabricated this absolutely unexpected contact.

Yet I still half refused, not my love, but my intelligence. For it seemed certain, and I believe it still today, that we can never wrestle God too much if we do so out of pure concern for the truth. Christ loves that we prefer the truth to him, because before being the Christ, he is the Truth. If someone takes a detour from him to go towards the truth, they will not go a long way without falling into his arms.