Jesus Man of Bradford
Sunday, October 11th, 2015
‘Jesus Man’ as he has come to be known recently passed away in Bradford West Yorkshire. A condolences book was placed in Bradford City Hall and there have been calls for having a street named after him as well as having a statue commissioned in his memory. So why was he so fondly received by people of all backgrounds?
In hot summer, autumns fall and coldest winter’s days one would see Jesus Man walking in his sandals with a single habit that just hovered below his knees. Around his neck hung a small black leather pouch. He was always well groomed shaven with hair combed and when it became slightly longer it became dishevelled from being exposed to the elements. He would walk along the main arterial routes that lead into the city of Bradford going through some of its major towns like Shipley, Keighley and others.
Geoffrey Brindley, an ordinary man at the age of 33, abandoned work as a machinist for the company International Harvesters and went to live in a cave. He meditated for 12 days in a cave near Settle, North Yorkshire, and one can imagine that in those days it must have been remote and isolated. This was not as remote as the Mount of Temptation in ancient Jericho where Jesus lived in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil.
No one really knows how Geoffrey meditated or what his message was. He never really spoke much. He would be seen throughout Bradford walking and waving at people with a warm and vibrant smile. Occasionally he would be seen talking to people but usually he remained to himself.
He was Christian and evangelical in nature, this comes out from the stories one reads of him standing outside a Beatles concert objecting. Recently at the inquest into his death some intriguing revelations have emerged but it is nevertheless important from the Muslim perspective to remember someone through the good that they have done. Regrettably I never had the opportunity to talk to him at any length however I overheard him during a Palestinian rally airing his views in support of Israel.
As a religious person he no doubt had his views about the world and it seems that he was hesitant towards modernity or the new cultural norms that were and are sweeping through Bradford. As Muslims we are reminded to be in the world as a traveller, that a smile is charity and to have good character and these were all, it would seem, embodied within the person of Mr Brindle.
Reading through the stories, a picture emerges of little acts of kindness. A smile, a wave, a momentary stop to say hello or sometimes even sharing a meal with people. The other thing that comes out is his presence: he became, so to speak, like a grandfather figure in Bradford. You would always long to see him despite his idiosyncrasies and perhaps ‘radical’ views which were readily brushed aside.
I’m reminded of The Lord of the Rings when Gandalf says “…I don’t know. Saruman believes it is only great power that holds evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love …”
Perhaps Geoffrey Brindle dressed in his habit epitomised best the small kindnesses of a wave, a smile and asking after one’s welfare and well-being. It is these small kindnesses of a bygone era that perhaps was his reminder to us. So as Muslims, and people of Bradford more widely, we fondly remember this eccentric man who led a very austere life yet who brought so much joy to people. So perhaps his message to us all was to encourage us to share simple acts of love and kindness.