Lesson 50

This is it.
Lesson 50.
The time has come to discuss:
And my God is…
Mark Rylance.

You might think I mean that he’s my idol.
Not quite in a “You shall have no other Gods before me” kind of way, but an idol nonetheless…
And maybe he is.
As far as actors go, he is God.
He is King.
He is everything.


Those of us who do tread the boards from time to time, wish we were as disciplined, talented and engaging as this thespian.
I’m speaking for a lot of other people here, but I stand by this claim.

Last week, I got to watch the deity onstage.
For the first time in my life.
And I was in heaven.
If you watched the first two clips I embedded in today’s post, you’ll have a sense of the show that I saw.
Nice Fish is a play that he has co-written with the prose-poet Louis Jenkins and if you had no idea what was happening in those Tony acceptance speeches (which were also written by Jenkins), you’re likely to be as equally befuddled in the Harold Pinter theatre.
Even if you are completely lost and confounded by the whole experience, the one thing that is clear is that Mark Rylance is a breath of fresh, frosty, ice-fishing air.

Lesson 50

Bruce Springsteen has been in Australia lately.
I know this because a couple of friends who idolise him have been posting pictures and videos and comments after having seen him live.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say “after having experienced him live”.
It seems like he’s worth every bit of adoration – the man knows how to entertain!

We’re very lucky – those friends and I – that we’ve had the opportunity to watch and learn from our idols.
And that they haven’t disappointed.
We’ve enjoyed the performances they’ve delivered, we’ve learnt from them and we’ve watched in awe as they deliver the kind of power that we’d expect from each of them.

But we do know how lucky we are.
Firstly, for any number of reasons, many others are without the same opportunities – through distance or cost or merely because their idol is no longer living.
We are also lucky because our idols did not disappoint.
How common is the story of a less than stellar performance from one you’d expect better of?
Or the story of a hero who disgraces themselves?
The disappointment is one that leaves you, the worshipper, at a loss.
Were you wrong to have ever held this person in high esteem?
Does their deceit taint your adoration?
Are you still able to find, in some aspect of their life, or work, or whatever you valued about them, something to value?

For all my talking around the notion of G-d though, I think it may actually be most relevant here.
What is G-d?
At the Shul of Tash, I believe that the notion of a “God” is actually about a spiritual faith.
Some people find it within – introspectively.
Some people find it without – as G-d.
I think it’s the same thing.
We just call it something different.
When I watched Mark Rylance, live, for the first time, I struggled to focus on anything much more.
I was with my Messiah.
I had been so ready for this experience – anticipating it for months, readying myself for the excitement, preparing myself for the reality – that entering the theatre was like walking into a shul.
Nothing actually happens when you enter a shul (or a church, or a mosque, or a temple, or any other holy building), but it can feel like there’s a shift in the air.
And all my energy focussed on one figure.
One thing – Rylance.
His every word, his every action, his every movement, held my attention and captivated my imagination.

I do want to make one thing clear though –
Just as I believe that organised religion can actually be as dangerous as it can be wonderful, I also believe that holding people so high above oneself can be.
Because if you believe that they can do no wrong, then they have no accountability…
But, on the flipside, if you can find things within other people to admire so deeply that it inspires you to achieve things with your life, or even just to further yourself in some small way, then that is a positive that should be celebrated.

You don’t have to believe that Rylance is a God.
Or is G-d.
You don’t have to idolise anyone.
You don’t have to believe in G-d, or spiritualism or meditation.
But here, at the Shul of Tash, we value the betterment of ourselves and of other people.
If you need to hyperventilate with excitement about the prospect of seeing Mark Rylance in Nice Fish or experiencing Bruce Springsteen on tour or watching Usain Bolt run, then do it.
Just don’t forget how to open your mind to other people’s views too.
If they tell you that Mark Rylance isn’t the best actor in the world, challenge your internal desire to decry “Witchcraft!” and take in their perspective.
You don’t have to agree with everyone, but we owe each other’s views equal airing.

After all, there is no one true G-d… *

*No other Rabbi is going to 100% agree with that statement, which is why I maintain that I am Rabbit Ash, not Rabbi Tash.




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