Monday, 9-Jan. 02:56. Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
Thoroughly thrashed and spent after hiking Volcano Santa Maria, I came home to my big swank private $5 room at Casa Argentina (go figure), and, too tired to cook, I showered and curled up in my sleeping bag to watch the first half of a beautifully made documentary called American: The Bill Hicks Story. I had originally been introduced to Hicks by Rachel and Danny in Bolivia, who fanatically declared him a tragic genius. The story of his untimely death came with a conspiracy theory: that he was rubbed-out (by those who knew he threatened their power) at the height of his career and influence, only 33 years-old, because he was too smart, poignant, and fearless, speaking a criticism and truth that our culture desperately needed to hear (and still does), using comedy as a platform to help America see what’s really going-on.
I noted from the start of the film that it was lovingly crafted, and that almost every scene except for archival footage of his stand-up bits, usually one joke at a time, were animated. The style is delicious eye-candy for me, composited scenes placing cut-out still images of Hicks, his friends, family and fellow budding-comedians over richly layered backgrounds, the ‘camera’ panning with lifelike movements, each 5-second scene popping with subtle yet ultra-cute embellishments… I was impressed. Not only by the craftsmanship, but with the endearing way by which the story was told by those closest to him.
What really got me is when he found out that he was dying of cancer. I cried throughout the last 20 minutes of the movie, because he impressed me so, and it’s truly a shame to see genius fleeting. Thirty-three years old. Working hard at stand-up since he was 15, struggling to deliver his passion to the world, and share his voice of dissent. Even though I didn’t know him until today, save for listening to a few stand-up routines that I downloaded, I cried because his vision was so pure, one I could understand so well.
He worked hard and found his voice.
33, and what have I done? All the fucked-up things about America that I struggled with knowing growing up. My awareness drove me away, so I could find beauty, something else. Apathy; I never wanted to try and save us, as I thought we have already gone too far.
In detachment I found my breath. This is the first step.
Burning Man introduced me to the concept of detachment, being in the most blissful place I have ever known, enjoying the fruits of a massive and communal outpour of loving gifts, and then letting it all go up in flame together, feeling the heat, and creation of something beautiful dissolving into thin air, an inverted mountain of wispy spirals passing into the next world.
I cried because I hate to see him go, but also in happiness because I’m so thankful to discover that he existed, and to feel awe in the presence of greatness. Flesh, funny, human, flawed, harsh, clever, insightful, prophetic, angry, terrible, wonderful, universal, beautiful.
It made me want to be someone great. Thank you, Bill.