IT’S A funny old world, I was thinking to myself on the way home from coffee with a friend. Except, it wasn’t coffee, it was decaff, and, to add insult, instant. During which she’d helped me to a generous serving of the state of the universe as she saw it.

I tread warily around her because I have often heard her talking about her time spent meditating and her devotion to one Sigh BarBar, who has the answers to absolutely everything. At home I got the Internet Consultant (husband David) to search out information on Mr Barbar, and now we’ve got lovely pics of him on our computer screen, obviously palming an object he’s supposed to be materialising.

For the record, his real name is Satyanarayana Raju, born in 1926 and now going by the name of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He is believed to be divine by himself and his followers. He claims to have paranormal powers and works miracles. Two of his favourite “miracles” are to make ashes materialise for poor folk and jewelry materialise for rich people — doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? For more detail, you can go to the Indian Skeptics’ website at

Not a week after this, I had a call from a friend who was distressed at finding a friend of hers going down the Sigh Barba road — it seems to sucker gullible folk in completely. This person was in the process of arranging a trip to India to bask in his presence, and leaving her young children with their dad while she did it.

Back to my friend with the coffee problem — one of her favourite theories is reincarnation, that wonderful little idea where we all get to come back and back and back.

Talking to anyone who is into it, and looking at various accounts, an awful lot of people were Egyptian princesses and strapping young conquerors. What about all the millions of debt collectors and chimney mucker-outers? But never mind. There are some obvious flaws with the theory, least of all the mathematics of it. A couple of thousand years ago there were only a few hundred million people in the world, today it’s pushing six billion, so where have all these modern souls come from? Perhaps they’re just being recycled faster and faster.

Then we have the fuss over Glenn Hoddle and his much reported comments on the subject. Until this came out, I’d never heard of the man, not being up to speed with my world netball — it was netball he was the coach of, wasn’t it?

Anyway – everyone knows the story – shock horror, English coach Hoddle says disabled people are being punished for their sins from a previous life. “You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and a half-decent brain. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime.”

Many would argue the above statement is clearly not the result of a half-decent brain, and who would argue with them? Inane philosophies aside, should Hoddle have been chucked out as a result? If he’d been responsible for the team failing to sink enough baskets, maybe yes. This incident did seem to be the straw that broke the camel’s back — Hoddle had been huddling with a faith healer woman and forcing his players to take her medicine, and frustration with the pair had been growing for some time.

But while it’s a relief to see these ideas are regarded as silly, the incident is a reminder they still carry enough emotional weight for people to be upset by them. In the end, Hoddle was sacked for expressing an opinion on something which had nothing to do with his ability to do his job, and however much we may disagree with him, the free expression and exchange of ideas are vital to the health of a free society.

Recommended Posts