Aren't things just terrible at the moment? All this unemployment and the rising cost of living. Everything's just terrible.
But just cast your mind back to the good times. They were terrible too. It was just work, work, work all the time. Busy ordained Buddhists like me were just rushed off our feet. Everyone was so terribly materialistic. We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", were constantly comparing ourselves with everyone else on the greasy pole, forever trying to outdo others. What you need (and I'll bet you never expected to hear this from a Buddhist) is a bit of meditation.
Me and the NHS have been busy trying to get people to slow down for years. I spend all my time rushing from one hospital to the next, desperately trying to get people to meditate or be mindful. It just never stops. When I'm not at a hospital I'll be at some doctor's surgery, or at a health centre. In between all that, there's Thought for the Day to squeeze in as well. I can't tell you what a relief it is that my Blackberry's gone down and I'm finally getting a bit of free time.
My advice to you is to meditate a bit, then quickly dash off for a walk in the park, look at the sky, watch the pretty birds, then quickly get back for some more meditation. Don't forget to get in at least half and hour of mindfulness before your next meditation session.
I'd love to help you out a bit more but you wouldn't believe the number of therapy sessions I've got lined up for today. The "slow down" business is really booming, even in these gloomy economic times.
And if you're unemployed? Well, just sort of enjoy the free time I suppose. Think of it as an opportunity to not be materialistic.
Children in the UK are the unhappiest in the world and it's all my fault! I should have been spending quality time, playing with my children. Instead, I've been working all hours being a busy Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian. I tried to buy them off with flash gadgets and shiny toys, but there was only so much a 3 year old could achieve with a Blackberry. Now look what's happened, they've turned into materialistic consumers.
If only I'd listened to what I was teaching and theologising about. Hindu teaching definitely says to spent time with your kids. And they grow up so fast, don't they? Gandhi himself pointed out there just weren't enough hours in the day for all the fasting and praying and theologising and spending quality time with your children.
As if spending time with the children weren't enough, we've got to find quality time to spend with the Invisible Magic Friend as well. Now there's someone you really can't buy off with a new xbox.
Don't make the mistake I made. Don't put your busy life as a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian before the well being of your children. Won't someone please think of the children!
The vicars' report has recommended splitting retail from investment banks and raising the level of capital they maintain.
This brings me neatly onto why the Chinese government is so keen on Protestantism. China, the up and coming place to be in the modern world, wants to encourage thrift, hard work and the making of as many material goods as possible that people shouldn't want. That's why China, a fine upstanding, hard working, moral country favours Protestantism.
The West, a lazy, decadent, materialistic society, has turned its back on Protestantism. You only have to look at the very worst debt laden countries: Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece - not a Protestant country among them. We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", have abandoned the sensible path of prudence and frugality, we have lusted after immediate material gratification, purchasing all those clever gadgets manufactured by those noble, industrious, Protestant Chinese.
We won't see a return to the glory days of the West until we return to the one true faith: Protestantism, whether it be in the form of Anglicanism, Lutherism, Calvinism, Baptist, Anabaptist, Methodist - all of which are the one true faith.
Protestantism, the only belief in an Invisible Magic Friend endorsed by the Chinese government.
And that's why the vicars' report is so important.
Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
Isn't the world economic collapse just terrible. Awful. Tut, tut, tut. It really is very bad indeed. Very bad.
Ireland, Greece and Portugal were bad enough, but now Italy, Spain and even the United States. It's like a toothache that just won't go away. As we sit here in the waiting room of sovereign debt, we hear the wizzing drill of economic hardship only a room away. Except, even the dentists are broke and there are no more dentists.
I won't bore you with complicated graphs, sum and percentages. All you need to know is that everyone is now broke. Your pension is worthless. If you're not already unemployed then you soon will be. You and your family are about to become destitute. It's going to be terrible for you, awful, absolutely appalling.
But cheer up. Look on the bright side. Money isn't everything you know. Look at me, I'm doing all right. During these harsh economic times, we Rev Drs come into our own. Business is booming in the spiritual consolation industry. I can offer you phrases like "spiritual reality" with a perfectly straight face, or even accompanied by a beautifully patronising smile. Everything else has gone belly up. The only thing left is invisible magic stuff.
Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again,
So sing a song of cheer again,
Happy days are here again.
It's impossible to comment on anything else today: the hacking paper, the News of the World is to close. Isn't it great. I mean, I'm sure none of us are gloating or anything - nothing so un-Christian, after all, we all do so love Rupert Murdoch and his son James, who luckily for him, turned out to be the best person in the world to take over from his father.
Of course, no one at News Corporation knew anything about what was going on. The editors, executives, board members are all shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that such underhand tactics were being employed by this paragon of journalistic integrity. Even the hacks who were doing the hacking were astonished to learn that they had done it.
It's very easy to point fingers and to say that this was just a few evil journalists, private investigators and bent cops. But in reality, aren't we all responsible? And by "we", I do of course mean "you". Today Programme listeners, with there well known habit of reading sleazy tabloids, and there voracious appetite for all the outrageous details of celebrities' sex lives, are really what drove these poor, innocent journalists to do it.
If you weren't all so obsessed with all the salacious gossip about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, these sort of rags wouldn't prosper. Honestly, I don't know how you can live with yourselves at night. Aren't you even in the least bit ashamed for poking your noses in like that? Still, that's what you get for living a life of sin. If only you were a bit more like the Invisible Magic Friend, who famously never pays any attention to peoples' private lives, this sort of thing wouldn't happen.
Well I just hope you've all learned your lesson, that's all I can say.
A Chinese teenager has sold a kidney to buy an iPad. I know what you're thinking. That's shocking, especially considering that there are far cheaper Android based equivalents.
But, in a sense, aren't we all (and by "we", I do of course mean "you" ) like the Chinese boy? Aren't you all so superficial that you think having more stuff will make you happy? Yes of course you are.
Many of you will be stuck in boring, tedious, dead end, meaningless jobs. You have to suffer a long, often frustrating commute. You may be undergoing that long, frustrating commute even as I speak. To those of you in your early twenties who have already realised this, I say, don't worry, there's only 40 years or so to go. Then you get to retire.
Of course many of you have to prostitute yourselves to your pointless jobs in order do things like eat. What a shame.
This reminds me of Pentecost, which by a marvellous coincidence just happens to be this Sunday. Those early Christians held all their goods in common. They shared everything and only bought and sold for the common good. We don't do that nowadays. That kind of collective ownership is all a bit suspect and communist and not at all the way that respectable Christians behave, but I think it would be a very admirable way for some of you non-Christians to behave.
I want to talk to you today about the art of Ai Weiwei. Which brings me on to religion. Religion is very much like art. It is subversive, not at all part of the establishment. It asks all the difficult questions and even makes up some answers.
Believe it or not, there are control freaks out there who want to tell you what to think. That is why they are so afraid of religion. When you have a religion you are free to think what you like. Free, FREE, FREE I tell you! You are free to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Free to ask, what if there is more than this world? Eh? Eh? What if? Eh? Makes you think, eh? A famous poet asked that, so there. What a disappointment it would be if this dull, uninteresting universe was all there was.
I am free to have random thoughts rattling around in my Rev Dr brain. That's what makes me so dangerous. That's why "they" want to suppress me, to prevent me from coming on Thought For The Day. But they will not succeed. Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.
And in conclusion, that's what the art of Ai Weiwei is all about.
Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians, and the leaders, churches and organisations that serve them, with the biblical framework, practical resources and models to engage biblically, relevantly and vigorously with the issues they face in today’s world. Hi.
Ed Milliband says we now face the prospect, that for the first time in a hundred years, the next generation will be worse off than their parents.
At this point I'm supposed to wax lyrical about the benefits of a more spiritual lifestyle, how a nice walk in the woods is so much better than more material possessions, how it is better to store up treasure in heaven and all that. It would be such a cliché to do so that obviously I want to avoid doing that at all costs.
But what if we could teach our children to live better lives with fewer resources, which they'll have to now that we've consumed them all. In a way, we'd be leaving them a great legacy.
"My son, I leave you a world with less oil, less fresh water and food per person and a dearth of other non renewable resources. Everything for you will be more expensive and there are many things you will never have at all. What a great opportunity this is for you to learn to be frugal, to consume more responsibly and lead a simpler, yet spiritually more fulfilling life."
What is the point of accumulating wealth in this life, when we should be storing up treasure in heaven? As Ecclesiastes (one of the nice books of the Big Book of Magic Stuff that we do so like to quote here on Thought For The Day) says, in the end you're all going to rot.
You can't take your vast accumulation of possessions or your hard earned fortune with you. Be contented with what you have accumulated in the next life, which will be so much better than this one.
Rejoice, oh next generation, for you will be able to live better for less.
(Thank the Invisible Magic Friend I managed to avoid all those tiresome clichés.)
Has anyone mentioned Egypt yet? Vast crowds of people are meeting in the streets, calling with one voice for jobs, fuel, hope, fairness, free speech.
Something similar happened to me recently. There was a power cut when I was shopping in Waitrose and everyone left the shop to meet in the streets. We met people who had left Marks & Spencer's for the same reason. We were all anxious and afraid, confronted by uncertainty. What was the meaning of this sudden break in the electricity supply? Fortunately the lights came back on an hour later. The crowds dispersed and I was able to finish my shopping list in Waitrose. This frightening, potentially life changing event, was over.
Not so for the demonstrators in Egypt. Their protests continue. As we see Egyptians demand democracy like we have, an impartial justice system like we have, freedom of speech like we have, healthcare for all like we have, we are reminded that there is more to life than the western obsession with comfort, safety and security. We, and by we I mean you, sleepwalk through life, with no ambition other than to enjoy yourselves. You have no conception of anything beyond your own selfish, pointless little lives, thinking about nothing other than your own material satisfaction.
The only thing you can aspire to, beyond the purely material, is to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Having an Invisible Magic Friend who is infinitely everything, allows you to put the finiteness of your own life into perspective. The Invisible Magic Friend lays down absolute rules about what is good, like stoning to death someone who collects firewood on the day reserved for worshipping him.
Without the Invisible Magic Friend you can't have any standards of goodness and you think about nothing other than your own appetites and egos. If you have any morals at all they're very loose morals.
That's why the demonstrators in Egypt are so inspirational. They're thinking beyond the mundane and fighting for spiritual abstractions like food, justice and democracy.
Would you get out onto the streets to demand all the things that you already have?
Everything's just me, me, me nowadays isn't it? Children want all the latest gadgets, games and fashions. Every single one of them is just totally selfish and self-absorbed.
I'll tell you where they get it from, they get it from their parents. Recently we've seen grown ups throw tantrums over not getting the World Cup or not being guaranteed to win the Ashes (whatever they are). Now we hear people complaining about the snow.
People go out, selfishly trying to get to work and making a fuss when the "authorities" fail to keep the roads clear. Doctors, nurses, midwives, bakers, truck drivers, gritters, shop assistants - you name it, they're all driving around and getting stuck in the snow, instead of leaving the roads clear for really important people, like TFTD presenters getting to the BBC studio in Glasgow.
Well I've got news for you, you're not omnipotent, you weak, mortal, foolish nothing you. Only the invisible Magic Friend is omnipotent, and you know what, he's having a good laugh at you all just now. If you're digging the car out to do some shopping for the old lady next door, or desperately trying to get to the hospital because your mum's slipped and broke her ankle, he thinks it's hilarious.
Whether you're a believer in Darwin or seven day creation, both of these equally valid theories say that you're a nobody that got added in after the rest of creation. You're not in control, there's nothing you can do about the weather, so just accept it.
And as if your own personal selfishness was not enough, you've all ruined the planet with global warming and none of you care.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.