How did we get to this point? Is life a crap shoot? Who is in charge? Do we get any smarter as we get older? Does anyone know what they are doing?
Ruby Wax is addressing some serious questions in her new show, Losing It. An odd move, possibly, for someone best known as a wise-cracking comedian, but these days Wax is more interested in serious matters, particularly concerning mental health, than easy laughs.
There is a moment in The King's Speech, the multi-Oscar-nominated British film, when Queen Elizabeth, played by an icy Helena Bonham Carter, meets speech therapist Lionel Logue for the first time to discuss her husband's chronic stammer - before Logue realises his future patient is a royal. She explains: "My husband's job requires a lot of public speaking." Geoffrey Rush's Logue retorts: "Then he should change job."
But the future King George VI, played by Colin Firth, cannot change job. His job is to be the voice of the nation on the eve of the Second World War.
Esther Oliver's house backs on to a creek in Brisbane, Australia's third-largest city and the capital of the beleaguered state of Queensland. Last Wednesday, Ms Oliver, a former teacher at a Jewish school in Melbourne who sits on the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, looked on anxiously as the flood waters began inching towards her house. When it started flooding her garden, she began to panic.
"I was watching it coming. It was seeping. I fully expected it to flood the house. I expected snakes. I was scared."
Alexandra Domingue & Adam Payne, married for two years
Since ALexandra Domingue met her husband, Adam Payne, eight years ago, she has studied Judaism, learnt Hebrew, and attended synagogue in an effort to understand his Jewish roots and share his religion. But, as a church-going Presbyterian, there is a line she will not cross.
Pilots, they say in the Israel Defence Forces, are the most cautious of men. They will check something repeatedly, and then go back to check it again.
So it is not really a surprise to find the ex-fighter pilot and former head of Israel's military, Dan Halutz, is treating his first foreign media interview since entering politics with the utmost care.
There might be no such thing as a free lunch, but there may well be such a thing as a free falafel. I say that only because when I would get chatting to falafel stall-holders the subject would invariably turn to what I was up to in Israel, and the conversation would go something like this.
"Where do you come from, then? England, America?" the stall-holder would say as he took my order.
"South Africa - but I live in France," I would reply.
"And why have you come to Israel. Tell me, you are Jewish?" he would say as he began to prepare my falafel.
On December 16 1910 a gang of robbers attempted to dig their way into the premises of a jewellers' shop at Houndsditch, in the City of London. Armed, it turned out, with an assortment of pistols and large quantities of ammunition, the gang was disturbed, the police (who were unarmed, of course) were called, and in the ensuing confrontation three officers were killed and a further two severely disabled.
Imagine sitting down to dinner with guests from the Zionist Federation, Jews For Justice For Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices and the Board of Deputies. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Yet over the last couple of years this is precisely what my wife Deborah and I have been doing - organising dinners in our home in which Jewish leaders and opinion formers from all sides of the Israel debate come together, with surprisingly convivial results.
If there is anyone who understands the agony of being berated by the X Factor judges, it is Brian Friedman.
As creative director of the show that has unified the nation in a TV ritual which ends this weekend with its grand final, Friedman knows what it's like to be panned as well as any of the contestants - only in his case, it is his staging and choreography that is the target. For that reason he felt enormous empathy with Katie Waissel, who was voted off the show two weeks ago, and puts a lot of his concern for her down to that "Jewish thing".
It began in 1980 when a group of 70 British Jews who did not have much on over the Christmas period decided they wanted to inject some excitement into the ailing world of Jewish adult education. Thirty years on, Limmud attracts more than 35,000 people per year across 55 communities around the Jewish world.