Continuing on with this series about some of my non-literary influences, I would like to talk about someone who was a profound influence on me at one time, and that is Bill Hicks.
I say one time because as I explained in the last post, I try not to get too influenced by anything or anyone these days.
It is possible to be influenced too deeply by certain things, ideas or people. Going from past experience, I don’t think it is a good idea to go so deep into something or someone (oh er…) that you end up getting lost, or worse, end up losing your judgement and critical facilities when it comes to that particular influence.
I have let myself be led in the past by ideas and people and what have you, to the point where I lost perspective. I almost became my influence, which isn’t good when your success in the world depends on your ability to be authentic and true to yourself. You can’t do that when you are busy being true to other people or other things, what ever they may be.
Maybe it’s just an age thing. I’m forty now, and perhaps getting a bit long in the tooth to be getting too sucked in by anybody or anything. That’s a good thing. I’m finding it easier-and more and more necessary-to be myself and tread my own path.
In my teens and twenties, I was my influences. They defined who I was. In my teens, metal music defined me, mostly anyway. In my twenties, music still defined me, but less so than ideas and philosophy about the world, and my unending quest to find a meaning and purpose to my life (more on that in this article I wrote for my combatives blog).
These days, I still carry many of those ideas around, but I no longer search for purpose and meaning, because I have now found both, in the form of writing, and in the form of the family I now have, my wife and children. That’s meaning enough for me, at least enough to quell the existential void that existed in me for a long time before.
I’m digressing slightly here though. What I mean to say is that I still carry with me certain attitudes, ideas and beliefs about the world, and that many of those things were put there by Bill Hicks. Others as well of course, but Bill Hicks opened my eyes to aspects of the world that I have never forgotten.
More than that, Bill Hicks helped me to cultivate a healthy skepticism-perhaps even cynicism (which by the way, gets a bad rap in these days of positive thinking and self help)-towards the world and life in general. For that, I will always be grateful to him.
Who Was Bill Hicks Anyway?
Bill Hicks was a stand up comedian, but more than that, he was also a satirist and social commentator of great insight and skill.
He was best known for his unapologetic and scathing attacks on the things that he saw wrong in the world-the lies, the deception from on high, the fear mongering, the corrupt governments and politicians, the brainwashing mass media, the hypocritical celebrities, religion, basically everything in mainstream culture and society that has a negative effect on the people.
After Lenny Bruce in the sixties and Richard Prior in the seventies, Bill Hicks was one of the only comedians in the eighties and early nineties to tackle heavy weight and controversial subjects that many thought had no business being talked about by anyone, let alone on stage in front of live audiences as part of an entertainment show.
Nothing was off limits to Bill Hicks when it came to his act. In fact, during the first Iraq war, he was perhaps the only comedian at the time to talk about it in his act, and not just talk about it, but brilliantly and insightfully show the war up for what it was-an excuse for the ruling elite to make money and grab more power.
If you have never heard Bill Hicks before, you might now be thinking that this guy sounds like a raving nutjob conspiracy theorist. And he was, to an extent. He did rant and rave, unashamedly.
But the thing about Bill Hicks was that he was also one of the funniest comedians on the planet.
The guy was just fucking funny.
Hilarious in fact.
You watched his act and you laughed your goddamned ass off.
And while you were laughing, you were also hearing all this brilliant insight into the world around you.
Bill Hicks had a huge talent for taking very murky, very complicated issues, and summing them up in just a few words or sentences, in a way that not only made you laugh, but also made you realize how fucked up and often stupid those issues were, despite how seriously they were taken in the world. Like this skit about the first Irag War…
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He made you realize how ridiculous many of those issues were. Controversial subjects at the time like drugs, religion, abortion law and war in the Middle East were stripped naked by Bill on stage for all to see. The lies and untruths were peeled away to expose the truthful core within.
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Alas, Bill Hicks Was Not God
At the time, in my late teens and early twenties, Bill Hicks made everything sound so simple and straight forward. Being an angry young guy at the time, I believed him, and I raged at the world right along with him.
By my late twenties, I had begun to realize that the things Bill talked about in such simplistic terms were not quite so simple or uncomplicated. What Bill said was still true, but there is always more to these things. Even if they are that simple, the issues of the day are just a part of a larger and much more complex context.
Of course, Bill talked about the bigger picture as well, again brilliantly, but also very idealistically.
More than anything else, Bill was an idealist.
I have since learned that being an idealist gets you nowhere. It just leads to inevitable disappointment when things don’t turn out the way you want them to.
I prefer to be a pragmatist these days. Less disappointing and it allows me to live a more purposeful life.
All the bad shit that Bill Hicks used to rant and rave at still exists today (more so even) but frankly, I just ignore it.
The world is what it is.
The best thing I can do is be true to my purpose as I see it. To bring meaning to my life and make it count for something. To leave a legacy.
Despite his failings, Bill Hicks lived with more purpose than most in his short life. He also left behind an amazing legacy.
Bill Hicks made me see things differently. In his words, he “squeegeed my third eye”. He made me aware of deeper meanings in the universe and the power of awakened consciousness.
There is no doubt that Bill Hicks and his teachings helped shape the person I am today.
As a consequence of that, he has also shaped the books I write as well. Many of the characters in my books have a healthy distrust of authority and a very skeptical worldview. I have no doubt Bill Hicks would be happy if he knew how profound and far reaching his influence on some people has been.
Bill Hicks was the greatest stand up comedian to ever grace a stage.
The man was a true legend in a world of fake celebrities and talent-less wannabes. If he were still here, he would have only one thing to say to the fakes and wannabes of the world today, and that is: SUCK SATAN’S COOOOOOOOOOCK!
If you want a more in-depth look at the life of this great comedian, go here and watch this documentary.
In the meantime, watch this video clip. To me, it sums Bill Hicks up as a comedian and what he stood for:
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And remember…it’s just a ride.