Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: So many fresh disciples putting faith in Yoda

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

The BBC's online news website has investigated the Jedi "religion". Jedi, peace-keeping monks of the Star Wars empire, share with Shaolin Buddhists the idea that the best way to practise pacifism is to batter anyone who threatens it.

The BBC asks if the new Jediism, growing exponentially by means of yonder internet, is a proper religion. Before I pronounce authoritatively on this question, a few words first on the Star Wars films.

I'm late to the party, having as usual missed the popular phenomenon at the time. Thirty-odd years later, I thought I'd better take a look. The first three films (vols 4, 5 and 6 - it's complicated) are described by fans as the best. Yet they're risible beyond comprehension.

How could anyone take seriously a movie in which a tribe of woodland teddy bears helps save the day? And as for that ruddy Wookie and his neverending wailing, please, someone from the Dark Side give him a smack with your light sabre. He can't even walk properly. By contrast, Attack Of The Clones, volume 2 of the much derided second trilogy, was excellent, mainly through using CGI instead of flippin' puppets. I haven't seen volume 3 yet.

What has this to do with religion? Well, the Jedi heroes of the films cleave to the Force, a notion like the chi of Taoism and prana of Buddhism.

They meditate. Their master is a wee pumpkin called Yoda, who says things like: "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

Inspired by this sort of thing, several organisations, such as the Temple Of The Jedi Order, have sprung up online. They don't have an actual temple. They have an online discussion forum.

They don't believe in the films, only in ideas. Like Taoism and Buddhism, they're more philosophy than monotheistic religion. Yet already they have felt the weight of intolerance. One adherent was thrown out of a Tesco store in Wales for refusing to remove his Jedi hood.

Philosopher Julian Baggini has dismissed Jedi wisdom as "tea-towel philosophy" but had the smirk wiped from his face when the Anglican Bishop of Manchester, Rt Rev David Walker, acknowledged the new spiritual force was about altruism and a code for living. The last thing the world needs is another religion. However, you can't get enough philosophy, so we welcome the Jedi unreservedly. Just lose the Wookie, guys.

Monday: Jamie's original love scenes shade too weak

One feels for Jamie Dornan, the Fifty Shades Of Grey actor, who has been asked to reshoot love scenes with Dakota Johnson. Apparently, the chemistry just wasn't there. I'm surprised it ever is. Actors have to make scenes realistic, and sometimes it looks like they're really going for it when snogging, which must be a bit much for their real-life partners to take. But how much of it is kid-on? If I were in Fifty Shades Of Grey, they'd have to do the love scenes with a body-double and CGI special effects. At least Jamie does his own.

Tuesday: Cheek-kissing etiquette has me gob-smacked

What to do? The question arises daily. Sometimes it's important - should I dye my nasal hairs? Sometimes it's trivial - will I ever vote again? Often it's a matter of etiquette. What is the socially acceptable thing to do?

Debrett's is the bible for this sort of bilge, which ought never to arise. We live in a free society, but you can't eat chips in the street. Outrageous.

I pooh-pooh such intolerance unreservedly. That said, I perused the latest announcement from Debrett's in the hope of establishing the rules on cheek-kissing. Some women expect two, some one, and some call for the police. Sadly, Debrett's doesn't lay down any rules, merely noting that the double-kiss is more popular among young persons.

However, it must be the right cheek first. Glad we got that straight. And you should only kiss people you know. Damn. Knew I was going wrong somewhere.

Wednesday: It's war as canny Cheryl mashes Mr Potato Head

Fearlessly, this column has drawn attention to the peculiar shape of Simon Cowell's head. Now we find ourselves supported by the nation's leading Cheryl. Ms Fernandez-Versini (eh, when did that happen?) of that ilk has compared the controversial cranium to a potato.

At a hastily convened Press conference to discuss the issue, she described her fellow Factorite as "a Mr Potato Head".

Hearing the sharp intake of breath from hundreds of journalists present, she explained: "Do you remember you used to water the potato until the hair grew?" Er, no. "That's what he looks like."

As the pressmen hurried away to find payphones, Cowell smirked in his invisible helicopter hovering over the scene and raised one eyebrow in a marked manner.

Recently, he compared Ms Fernando-Wotsit to Kermit the frog, on account of her wearing a green dress. Many top diplomats believe the situation could deteriorate into outright war. Again.

Friday: Tweet surrender

Her Majesty, a queen, has tweeted. She wrote: "It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition… and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R."

I've abbreviated her words as she was waffling on just a little bit. And that "Elizabeth R" sounded common.

Still, at least she didn't add "LOL".

Saturday: 3mph limit a woolly idea

I  have lived among sheep and cannot recommend the experience. This news just in: they are not bright.

Their only purpose in life is to eat grass and I get the impression that they do not find it fulfilling. Actually, there's one other part of their job description: being terrified of everything. I was surprised, therefore, to find a High Court judge imposing a 3mph speed limit on all-terrain vehicles at a mountain wind farm project in Co Tyrone - to stop the sheep getting scared.

Good luck with that. Might as well grant an injunction stopping them from eating grass.

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