Here's the text of this morning's Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2. The guests on the show today were Chas n Dave, Keane's Tom Chaplin and Darcey Bussell. Rather cheaply I called the script 'Mustn't grumble' – an early song title by the Rockney duo – and I smuggled in a title by Keane. Not very adventurous, I know, but I ran out of inspiration.

A couple of weeks ago we had the Bishop of Khartoum in Sudan staying with us. On my day off I agreed to take him – Ezekiel – to Liverpool for the day because he wanted to see Anfield. No, really, he did. So, when we got there I took a photo of him standing next to the statue of the great Bill Shankly. On the plinth beneath Bill it says: “He made the people happy.” Ezekiel said to me: “He obviously wasn't a bishop, then!”

Ha! Well, he was right, wasn't he? The job of a bishop is not primarily to keep people happy and being happy isn't always the best thing to aim for, either. Especially if my happiness is achieved at the expense of someone else's misery. Ezekiel had left behind him tens of thousands of people whose homes in Khartoum had been washed away when the Nile flooded recently – and most of these people had fled from violence in Darfur and elsewhere in the first place. He needed to know that they aren't forgotten by those who live in safety elsewhere – like being “silenced by the night”.

People suffering this week from violence in Syria, Pakistan and Kenya need the assurance that their plight is not being ignored by an apathetic world that cares only about its own satisfaction.

But, happiness need not be simply selfish or self-indulgent. What if it is about opening people's eyes to joy, awakening curiosity and teasing the imagination, offering hope of a new start and forgiveness and reconciliation and love… and helping people hear – amid the cacophony of the present – the music of the future? What if making people happy has to do with enabling them to know that they are infinitely valuable and eternally loved – that whatever the world throws at them, they matter? Or, that however dark life gets, the light cannot be extinguished? That they are loved to death and beyond?

Well, they'll never put up a statue to me – in Liverpool or Bradford or anywhere else. But, I think there are worse epitaphs than Bill Shankly's: “He made the people happy.”


Is it possible any longer to live without electronic media? I write this on my laptop with my mobile phone next to me on my desk (I am expecting a call) and a load of tweets telling me to watch Sherlock on iPlayer.

The Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD), as part of its ten-year Reform Process, identifies every month a ‘Project of the Month’. (Which reminds me of when I read about the American funeral directors who were trying to improve ‘the bereavement experience’ by nominating a ‘Crem de Month’ award…) This is seen as an imaginative way to disseminate good practice, creative ideas and good stories. Today I got the EKD Newsletter (email and was struck by this month’s winner.

One week – no media involved getting groups of young people in Württemberg to hand over their mobile phones, not watch television and not use a computer for one whole week. If you read German, follow the link. Basically, each person kept a daily diary, recording their experiences – what was hard and what they discovered positively from the experience. Daily meetings and activities were run in order to keep the kids motivated. At the end of the week there was an evaluation of all that had been experienced and learned, and the phones, consoles, laptops, etc. were ritually returned. (The kids were probably dribbling with anticipation by this time…)

What is interesting is that many of the young people discovered new creativity, spent more time with their families and communicated more and better with them. You know – talking and old stuff like that.

Yes, some failed to make the week – often (interestingly) because the parents couldn’t bear missing their diet of television.

And the point of it all? To question the nature and volume of media consumption and to improve media literacy among the young people so that they are in more control of their media consumption rather than being controlled by it. One teacher commented of his class: “For one week we gave the children their childhood back.”

Apart from the imaginative nature of the project itself, it does touch on issues being raised in England: the way the media shape our minds, the nature of childhood, and how to measure the well-being or happiness of our children – given that British children appear to be some of the unhappiest in Europe.