Numbers. My wife and I have been watching a television series which actually ended about five or six years ago call “Numbers”. It’s about the FBI and their solving crimes while using a genius mathematician to crunch numbers to weird equations that only he understands. Thus the name: “Numbers.” That is not what I want to write about but it was what got me to thinking on this subject.
Numbers… they are everywhere in our lives. We no longer are people, but entities with a designated number. You go to the bank, and they want your account number. You are a number to the water company, electric company, every charge card company or any place that you must do business. Of course we are all familiar with the fact that our own government, which treats us all with such loving care, as members of this great national family also has a very endearing name for each of its favorite sons… your wonderful Social Security number.
One thing that I like about living in Georgetown is the fact that most of the business people do know their regular clients by name, though I am sure they also have a number stashed somewhere attached to your name. Even the banks here are friendly and attempt to know their clients names and treat you like family. Yes, we do live in a wonderful area. However this too is changing and going the way of everything else because of the rapid influx of new people to the area. Numbers are an inevitable part of our lives.
They shouldn’t have to be though. The original argument was that everyone can have a distinct number while many people may share the same name. So the argument continues that with many sharing the same name, things would get confusing very fast. It happened with the phone companies. For those of you who can remember when, (I am repeating what was told to me years ago, Ha!) that the phone companies use to have two digits for the first part of the phone number and they named these Alpine, Cedar, etc. Growing up in Greenville, I remember that our phone number originally was a Cedar number. Now you know how old I really am! The phone companies evidently suffered an environmental crisis as they ran out of trees to name their codes after, so they went to three digits and finally to area codes.
With the proliferation of people with the same name something had to be done. That was the argument. With the age of computers this is no longer a valid argument. These same companies and businesses can confirm who we are by our name just as easily as with numbers. Most credit card companies confirm that they are talking to the correct person, not by numbers but by other names, such as your mother’s maiden name.
No one wants to be known as 555-55-5555, in the place of their name. We are people, not machines. We are individuals not a set of numbers. Alas, it would seem that we are doomed to become more and more known as number such and such. It seems that our social security number is the number of choice, especially for the government and our employers. They have done this despite the fact that the laws concerning the Social Security numbers specifically stated that this was a private number to be used only between the government and the individual. Now every business you have contact with has your wonderfully ex-private Social Security number.
We are a people entrapped by the numerical system. The old television series “The Bob Newhart Show” had a character on it, whose name escapes me, who was always introducing his
two brothers, “This is my brother Darrell and this is my other brother Darrell.” It always brought laughs. Why? Because we immediately recognized the problem of trying to keep straight which brother was which, if they had the same name within the same family. Multiply this nationally and it is easy to see why numbers were sought out as an answer. It was a great idea, but the side affect was that we, the people, became even more impersonal and dehumanized to the companies, businesses and our own government. The danger in that is, anything can be perpetrated against you if you are just a number and not a person. Look at what the Nazi’s did to the Jews when they dehumanized them and tattooed each man, woman and child with a number that replaced each of their names.
However there is hope where it really matters. The Bible says in Exodus 33:17, “And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”” Matthew 10 29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” We have a God who is very personal and who knows us by name. We will never be just a number to Him.
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at email@example.com. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 13 of which have been for the Georgetown Times.