Monday, 5 March, 2012, 07:53 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)
No parody of this, just listen to the warmth of Rabbi Lionel Blue's spirit.
Then compare it to the dogmatic frigidness of Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Even John Humphrys sounds lost for words. As Chris points out in the comments, I wasn't the only one struck by the contrast in their views.
Good morning Justin, good morning John and good morning to you all.
I am a poor old man. My sight is poor, my legs are old and bent. The fresh faced youngsters at my college tell me science is the only tested form of knowledge. So I've read the popular science books by Dawkins and Hawking and watched every TV programme with Brian Cox in it.
My eyes are dim, I cannot see and all this science was very interesting but it didn't help me with my bus pass application. It told me about the what and the how but not the why? What's it all for? Why are we here? Why am I telling you this? Why are you listening to me telling you this? Why am I asking you why you are listening to me telling you this? It's very important that there be some external reference to define why, otherwise we might just make up our own why and think how terrible that would be.
I am just a poor old man. My legs are grey, my ears are nulled, my eyes are old, and bent. That's why Jewish mysticism helps. In the beginning there was Nothing. It likes to spell itself with a capital N due to it being the only nothing around at the time. Then, out of nothing, came the spark of divine thingness, which explains how we came about and why.
My legs are old and bend, my ears are grizzled. Jewish mysticism may be a myth but it's a true myth and is much more useful when filling in my bus pass application. And so we see that helping the poor, spreading laughter and just generally being nice puts Humpty Dumpty together again.
I'm just a poor old man, my eyes are poor, my nose is knackered.
Good morning Evan, good morning Jim and good morning to you all.
Well here we are in another crisis. It doesn't really matter what it is because there's always a crisis of some sort, this is just the latest one. It's mostly our own fault, whatever it is, for not learning lessons from the past and being too short sighted about the consequences of our actions.
Many crises ago, back in the last century, people sought scapegoats for their crises, and for once that really is how Nazi Germany started.
We were poor but happy back then. We left our front doors unlocked, because quite frankly, there was nothing worth stealing.
So here are some of my personal tips on how to deal with the latest crisis.
Don't worry about things that might never happen. There are much worse things that probably will happen and that you haven't even thought of yet.
Now some jokes.
How many Jews does it take to change a light-bulb?
Two, one to change the bulb and another to tell him how to do it better.
How many psychoanalysts does it take to change a light-bulb?
One, provided the light-bulb really wants to change.
How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light-bulb?
None, don't worry about me, I'll sit alone in the dark.
Don't be afraid to ask for help or courage. The best things in life really are free: friendship, kindness, complements and kisses. This isn't shmaltz but personally tested.
WAKEY WAKEY LIONEL!
What? Oh yes.
In the good old days, when I were a lad and life had not yet emerged onto land, I wanted to grow up to be a Marxist revolutionary. But it turned out Marxist revolutions were all rubbish so I gave up on that.
So I decided to become more spiritual. Spirituality without materialism is just some bloke waffling piously on the radio. Conversely, materialism without spirituality is just materialism. We need more spirituality.
Capitalism is very good at producing wealth - just not very good at spreading it out. That's where spirituality comes in to it. It, whatever "it" is, is very good at spreading it out.
Wealth does not bring happiness. Just look how miserable all those wealthy people are. Just ask yourself, have you ever seen a happy rich person? I think that says it all.
We don't just have an economic problem, we have a spiritual problem. If only people had been more spiritual we wouldn't be in this mess.
There are still some spiritual people about though, even among bankers. They give us all hope.
Well it's time to have a nice hot cup of hot chocolate and snuggle down under the sheets.
Night night everyone.
Night night Invisible Magic Friend.
NIGHT NIGHT LIONEL.
Good morning Justin, good morning John and good morning to you all.
Well, back in the good old days of World War II, I was evacuated from my cosy East End flat to the countryside. The countryside was horrible. It had all these big wide open, spaces covered in green stuff and it was full of animals. I can't tell you what a relief it was to get back home to The Blitz.
I learned all I need to know in the University of Life, on Whitechapel High Street. Have I ever mentioned that it feels better to give than to receive? I don't think I have, so I'll mention it now: it feels better to give than to receive. You don't believe me? Honestly it does. If you've never given anything before, give it a go, you'll be amazed how good it feels.
In the good old days, when hot buttered scones could be bought at a dozen for a farthing, my granny used to tell me that you're never closer to the Invisible Magic Friend than when you meet a beggar. Who would have thought that the Invisible Magic Friend would be accompanied by such a distinctive aroma? In the good old days there were rather a lot of beggars on Whitechapel High Street. I believe they still have them in the more godly parts of eastern Europe.
You should never pass a beggar without giving them a penny. In the good old days this consumed all my pocket money, but I felt better for giving it away. Have I ever mentioned that it feels better to give than to receive?
Anyway, let's end with a little joke. A woman meets a beggar and the beggar tells her he hasn't eaten in three days. "Force yourself," she tells him. "Force yourself."
Monday, 22 August, 2011, 08:30 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Good morning Justin, good morning Evan and good morning to you all.
Well, whatever the news is, I'm sure it's terrible. There'll be wars, financial collapse, riots in the streets. Although congratulations to the people of Libya, but apart from that, everything is just depressing and hopeless and thoroughly miserable.
Let's think of things like our bed and snuggling under the duvet, or maybe a nice hot cup of cocoa. Think of how much better off we are than victims of the Nazis. Alternatively, in these harsh, desperate, unfortunate times, why not give something to charity. Helping a starving child will make you feel so much better in this relentlessly grim world.
And now, so as not to leave you in a forlorn, pessimistic, wretched mood, here is a short humorous tale to alleviate the otherwise uncompromising awfulness of it all.
One woman asks another, "How is you son the professor?"
"Oh he got the sack, but now he's a brilliant suit salesman. He made an amazing sale to a widow for her husband's funeral."
"What's so brilliant about that? You have to look good for your husband's funeral."
"Sure, but with two pairs of trousers?"
I'm getting on a bit and have to visit hospitals and clinics rather a lot. I'm learning things that I never appreciated when I used to visit as a hospital chaplain. It's little things that make the experience more human. The volunteers who sell goods from a trolley provide an opportunity to socialise. The nurse who gave me some knitting needles gave me not only a new hobby, but a distraction. The staff at the Parkinson's clinic remain patient when we bump into things or each other. It's kindness that distinguishes a hellish ward from a heavenly one.
Good morning Sarah, good morning Justin, and good morning to you all.
University students are beginning to celebrate the end of their exams. For some, the result will not be all they had hoped for. I can sympathise with that. Sixty years ago, a mental breakdown took me from anticipating a first to barely scraping through. Being gay, any relationship was a criminal offence. As a Marxist, I had no Invisible Magic Friend to turn to. Even my parents had threatened suicide.
It's only when you've experienced failure, what it's like to be at rock bottom, when your pride has been stripped and revealed as false, that you learn mercy and compassion. You have to make mistakes in order to learn how to do things right. Sometimes this involves many false starts. It took my first two relationships to learn that you must love people as they are, rather than as you would want them to be.
And to the students with a first class degree in politics and economics who still can't get a job - well at least you're clever enough to know why you can't get a job.
Monday, 21 February, 2011, 08:31 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)
Good morning John, good morning Jim and good morning to you all.
Well isn't the news just terrible, whatever it is. I don't pretend to know how it all happened or how it should all be solved, but I do want to point out that it's all happened before.
Long, long ago, when I was a lad and woolly mammoths still roamed the great icy plains, we had an economic downturn too. People moaned about the lack of crumpets to toast while sitting at their mammy's knee. At times like these, people become angered and embittered, they turn to scapegoats. Well let me tell you this is precisely how Nazi Germany started.
My friend, Baroness Vera von der Heydt, she was a baroness you know, lost everything to the Nazis when she came to Britain. She didn't remain all bitter and twisted. Instead, she prayed to the Invisible Magic Friend and he told her to become a psychoanalyst.
I too wandered from chapel to chapel, being bitter and muttering bitterly.
"What should I do?", I asked the Invisible Magic Friend.
"WELL, YOU'RE IN A CHAPEL, WHY NOT BECOME A RABBI?"
"What a good idea," I said.
Laughter is also a good way of not being bitter, so here's a joke that I learned long, long ago, in the distant past, from my grandfather, who was married to my grandmother, that being the accepted fashion at the time.
A Jewish beggar finds a £5 note, but being the Sabbath doesn't want to pick it up.
"What will I do, oh Invisible Magic Friend?" he cried.
The LORD understood his problem, and in his divine mercy, waived the death penalty for gathering fuel on the Sabbath.
"LET IT BE WEDNESDAY WHERE YOU ARE," said the Invisible Magic Friend.
Well, time for bed. Good night John, good night Jim and good night to you all. Good night Invisible Magic Friend.
"GOOD NIGHT LIONEL."
Monday, 14 February, 2011, 09:05 AM - Rabbi Lionel BlueRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
Good morning John, good morning Justin and good morning to you all.
I've known many atheists you know. Many have been very nice people indeed. In fact, some of my best friends are atheists. Just because they haven't got an Invisible Magic Friend, there is no reason why they can't do good. I've known atheists who took an active interest in politics, in charity and even in helping strangers.
Why, we are bound to ask, did the Invisible Magic Friend make atheists? Well, to be truly moral, you have to act as if there wasn't an Invisible Magic Friend. There is one of course but just act as if there wasn't. Atheists are also very good at doubting things. They doubt the existence of the Invisible Magic Friend for instance. In particular, they don't worship an Invisible Magic Friend stuck in a bronze age mentality. Worshipping no Invisible Magic Friend is better than worshipping a false one.
Our prayers can be so fervent that the Invisible Magic Friend is moved to do what we want, but better the prayers that move us to do the Invisible Magic Friend's will, although I'll just remind you that you should do it as if he didn't exist, even though he does.
There are many militant people out there, militantly giving their point of view and militantly not listening to what others have to say. They're so shrill. But they're not the nice atheists. The truly wise ones learn from everyone.