A Ride

About a week or so ago, I came across the above kinetic typography. Now, I’ve been a fan of Bill Hicks since early high school – I can’t remember which I came across first: Hicks’ own stand-up comedy, or the references to him via Tool’s Ænima album. But in my memory the two are inextricably intertwined: a chicken and an egg. I’ll be the first to admit, Hicks was exceedingly misanthropic and angry at times (e.g. – the infamous “heckler” video – warning: VERY NSFW), but there were times – like in the above speech about Life, the Universe, and Everything – where he was almost transcendentally optimistic.

As I was listening to “the Ride” – for the first time in a good long while – on that day a week or so back, I began thinking about the implications of Hicks’ proposition. The idea that the world isn’t as “real”  is, of course, nothing new – probably the most commonly known one is the Hindu doctrine of maya. Mahayana Buddhist sects are rife with the idea that phenomenal reality is akin to a dream, and Western philosophy from Plato forward has constantly gone back and forth on whether or not the things we experience are real or just shadows on a cave wall. But even if the world wasn’t technically an illusion or a dream, would  Hicks’ “Ride” still be a tenable way of approaching existence?

Should the simple mindset of the “Ride” be used, we learn to roll with the punches, not take anything personally, look out for others more often (since, after all, it’s only a Ride and we needn’t be overly concerned with our own wealth and status), etc. Whether or not the “Ride” is an existential truth is secondary, really – a fact that is at the heart of the philosophies of religions like Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. To simply take that paradigm as a set of operant principles (to “fake it ’til you make it” as the chaotes would say) is what truly matters.

Some might say that such a thing would lead to anarchy or something reminiscent of a 60s hippie love-fest, where nothing would get done and society would collapse. But that’s not the point. The thrust is not not caring about order and stability and responsibility, it’s about no longer worshipping the false idols of wealth and status, about no longer identifying who you are with what you do or what you own or who you know. Those things are Incidentals, they come and go at fate’s whim – and just like one shouldn’t build their house on sand, they shouldn’t found their sense of self on something that can just as easily be gone tomorrow.

Hicks talks about taking the money we spend on our military and instead using it to feed, clothe, and educate the world’s poor. And the plain fact of the matter is that we could do that – and we wouldn’t have to become pure pacificists or give up all of our weaponry. We, as the United States of America, literally spend so much on our military budget that we could probably take less than a quarter of that budget and make significant strides toward realizing the work that Hicks envisioned. Sure, there will always be assholes in the world who think that the best ways for them to get the things they desire is through intimidation and violence. But, becoming paranoid, hiding behind locked doors, and arming ourselves to the teeth only cedes them victory. It says that even on some small level, their thought process is correct. It’s not. And we should patiently teach them the error of their ways, using violence only as a last – though, sadly, a sometimes necessary – resort (see: Osama bin Laden).

Ultimately, Hicks’ Ride is a call to look beyond ourselves and remember that life isn’t near as serious as we like to pretend it is. We tell ourselves stories about who we are, about the people around us, about the world in which we live – and most of us are desperately afraid that those stories will turn out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. That we’ll turn out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

But, it’s just a Ride. We’re just Riders. And while the Ride is fun and interesting, eventually it ends. And we should learn to enjoy it – and try to make it as enjoyable for the other Riders, as well – while we can.  Because, when the Ride ends, it won’t matter what we had or didn’t have during the Ride, but how we treated our fellow Riders and contributed to making the Ride better.

Making the Ride better for those who come after us. There is no better legacy – no plot of land, no amount of money, no empire (whether corporate or political), no flash in the pan high-tech trinket – than that. And all it takes is a choice.


~ by crow365 on May 4, 2011.

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