The Man, The Myth, The Mentor.

We do not lose heart.

Because the river of greatness that flows down through human generations is real.

Because the wisdom of ancestors can be passed down and interface with the creativity of the young.

Because the most respectable qualities of humankind are always growing, no matter how dire the world may sometimes seem.

It is possible to affect others’ lives, to deflect their trajectory and change their life path.  It is possible to change the world.

 

This is Beauty.  This is Brian Hendricks.

“The goal in life is to discover that you’ve always been where you were supposed to be.” ― Aldous Huxley

Brian Hendricks was my film professor at Uvic.  He taught classes that changed my life and directly influenced who I am today.  His approach to education was so incredibly unique that the approach itself was a revelation.  He was a genius in the most unlikely way, just how you always hoped a genius would be. Somewhere in his DNA was a key to unlocking human potential.  Somewhere in him was a serious and momentous gift to humanity.  But he was also kid who never grew up, a laugher, a partier, a joker, a dreamer, a humble and self-deprecating human, and a kind and caring friend.  He genuinely respected and appreciated life. And he spent his time relishing in every aspect of it.  In knowing him outside school, I came to realize just how fun he really is, and how his unique combination of personality traits might just represent the alchemy of humanity’s progression.

“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.” ― Douglas Adams

When I discovered that Brian Hendricks had passed away from cancer at 3:10pm that afternoon, I wasn’t as sad as I thought I’d be. Of course, Hendricks wouldn’t have wanted me to feel sad. But still, it was shocking to me that his wish came true in that moment.  He wanted us to be grateful for our lives, to feel happiness, to live everyday to the fullest, to laugh with one another, to embrace one another, and charge full steam into the darkness with Zeppelin blasting.  I thought back to a few hours before—to where I was at 3:10pm that day—and laughed at the trick Hendricks had played on me.

It was Sunday afternoon and I was wandering alone through Stanley Park, looking for my car.  I’d been to that same spot with Hendricks before, and I couldn’t help but reminisce about him holding up his dog Sophie in her harness and laughing, saying how she was really taking us our for a walk.  Anyways, I passed through a west-coast native exhibit called Klayhowa Village. But in my typically rushed state of mind, I didn’t have time to soak it all in and I continued on towards my car.  I found myself on a beautiful woodchip path that was flanked by two VERY long fences that curved almost indiscernibly inwards and to the right. With nary an exit to be seen, I was trapped.  Eventually, the mysterious path took me right back to the Klayhowa Village, the place that I’d been too rushed to give my proper attention to before. I accepted it as a sign and sat down, just in time to see a live cultural performance: a dance of the raven, “voices of our past and of our future”.  They told their stories with hand-drummed rhythms. They danced in handmade costumes and shared the lessons and myths of their ancestors in spoken word and song.  I can picture Hendricks sitting there with me, taking it all in, looking forward to the inevitably delicious pint where we would chat it all over.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”    Albert Einstein 

Myths – Hendricks loved them, studied them and propagated their wisdoms.  Myths are more than just stories. And like all the great films of history that Hendricks introduced me to at UVic, each one houses symbols, underlying philosophies and truths.  They are works of art that communicate to us in ways that words fail to achieve.  They are vessels that carry ancestral wisdom for 1000’s of years into the future.  They are patterns that connect the dots of humankind’s unanswered questions.

Also, Giant Circles…Hendricks liked these too.  How appropriate.

One reason: Joseph Cambell’s revolutionary book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” was Hendricks’ bible.  And in that book, you’ll find the circular “Hero’s Journey” narrative, also known as the “Monomyth”, a basic storyline pattern found in narratives all over the world.  In classic form, Hendricks would offer an A+ to anyone who could find a film that didn’t fit into Campbell’s framework.  This is just the kind of challenge that gets a classroom thinking outside the box.  And so began the process of Hendricks opening my eyes to the depths of the world’s greatest storytellers and history’s great filmmakers.  His classes taught me about the art of great cinema, a gift I would never have gotten anywhere else.

“I am here to absorb, grow, learn and love and have been provided with enough fodder for an infinite amount of lifetimes.”   Brian Hendricks

Hendricks understood that there are great sweeping powerful undercurrents in this life.  At the core of human nature are the great questions: Who are we? Why are we here? What are we truly capable of? What happens after we die?  These questions lead us to the forefront of human discovery, to where answers lurk unseen in the darkness.  These questions are the fuel of artists, scientists, philosophers, priests, and dreamers alike. The great thinkers and filmmakers of history have immersed themselves in these undercurrents, and from it they have realized humanity’s most powerful revelations, philosophies, technologies, and works of art.

“Above all you have to know what brought you into cinema rather than some other branch of art, and what you want to say by means of its poetics.”   Andrei Tarkovsky

Hendricks introduced me to this powerful world, and in particular its legacy in film.   He taught me the language of cinema:  how great directors use visual symbols, juxtaposition, mise en scene, phrasing, rhythm and countless other techniques to achieve a higher level of communication.

Looking back, I now realize just how influential Brian was in our first two features “The Fine Line” and “All.I.Can.”  And how in many ways “Into the Mind” is a tribute to Hendricks himself. These films were made using the cinematic language that Hendricks taught us.  They were also made in the spirit of artistic exploration that Hendricks instilled so beautifully in his students.

“Awe is what moves us forward”  – Joseph Campbell

I’ve come to learn that inspiration is a two-way street and that mentorship flows in all directions, spreading guidance and energy to everyone involved.  It was a true gift to see not only the influence Hendricks had on the Sherpas, but also the affirmation that Hendricks experienced from All.I.Can’s overwhelmingly warm reception in 2011.  After that, Hendricks joined the tribe and became an honourary Sherpa, joining us on shoots…sometimes for weeks at a time. He took up a short residence on my couch, skied up a storm, helped with logistics, storyboards, and even “stunted” for ITM’s inbounds segment…all the while pounding dark pints at apres’, bestowing wisdoms upon our ski-bum buddies, feeding pot brownies to my roomates and generally living life in the fullest way possible.  Despite being 20+ years ahead, it was like he’d been here all along, emanating awesome vibes and cranking up the chairlift humour to a preposterous level.  When we made a Tarkovsky-esque music video in 2012, Hendricks was our spiritual leader – a falconer dressed in a dreamcatcher, sleeping on-set at the barn in the hay under the stars, breathing in every moment, already knowing too well, perhaps, that they would be some of his last.

The man truly loved the act of creating art.

“I’ve added more gratitude to my attitude.” – Brian Hendricks

As an absolute encyclopedia of striking quotes, Hendricks maintained the ability to blow your mind at any given moment.  If he wasn’t reciting a perfectly timed quote from memory, he might suggest that you “just read some more Tarkovsky, Dostoyevsky, Jung, Huxley, or Kubrick…just hang out with them.”  Hang out with them…that’s what Hendricks did in this life, either by reading their books or masterfully capturing their character in writing.  As the senior editor of the stylish art magazine “HoBO”, he interviewed and became friends with many of the greats of our time:  Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe, Noam Chomsky, Ethan Hawke, Christopher Walken, Tom Robbins and more.  Whenever he wasn’t hanging out with us, he was hanging in the realm of greatness. And in my mind he became one of the boys, his name now listed comfortably in the same breath.

Hendrick’s had unquestionably the most out-of-the-box teaching method any of us at UVic had ever seen.  For those of you who never took one of his classes, they were basically a mindbending journey to into Backwards Land.  He turned classic education models on their ass.  The assignments left totally open to you, so you could achieve whatever you wanted to achieve.

“Anyone can achieve their fullest potential, who we are might be predetermined, but the path we follow is always of our own choosing. We should never allow our fears or the expectations of others to set the frontiers of our destiny.” ― Martin Heidegger

Out of the dozens of teachers I have encountered in my lifetime, Hendricks was the only one that really understood how to catalyze individual potential.  His genius lay in his realization that everyone has an inner voice that wants to come out.   He masterfully applied his presence in a way that set the stage for people to follow their own dreams.

“A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls. The mark of a true writer is their ability to mystify the familiar and familiarize the strange. To have great poets, there must be great audiences.” ― Walt Whitman

He lived and taught by inspiring, not telling us what to do, but leading by example, seeing his own oddities as opportunities and always encouraging us to do the same.  By creating a space where failure was impossible, we were set free.  Hendricks wasn’t nearly as concerned with assigning grades as he was just celebrating the value of human diversity, originality and uniqueness within each individual and the art they created.  This is a revelation.

“When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.”   Bertrand Russell 

This teaching technique indirectly forces students to think for themselves and to bring their own character into question.  Of course a student could probably take advantage of Hendricks’ good nature and hand in a haiku scribbled on a napkin the night before the final essay was due. But as Hendricks would say, “they would have to live with that”.  But most people rose to the challenge and handed in pieces of original music, essays written in experimental formats and mocumentaries that would have the whole class laughing.

When you’re about to graduate, after a lifetime of being spoon-fed information at school, you realize you’re about to enter the real world and nobody’s holding your hand. It’s all up to you.  Nobody prepared me for that reality like Hendricks did.

“If the universe is indeed 12.5 billion years old and the most you as an individual can hope for is 100 years, and there’s more billions of years to come, the only victory is to live fully and completely, to be totally alive every moment you’re here. Do whatever you can to make this planet less brutal and squalid. Ask questions that make a difference, work for justice. Make your short burst of life count.”  ― Carl Sagan

Hendricks delighted in unfinished thoughts.  Often his own sentences would just trail off…they would just end in a laugh.  In the middle of lectures, Hendricks would often interrupt his own rambling tangent to say “where the hell is this coming from and where are you gonna go from here, Hendricks?”  Of course, his infectious laugh would follow. And more than a few of the students in the classroom would assume that their professor was out to lunch. But to me, this was always an indicator of his greatness.  If you picture the outermost fringe of humanity’s knowledge, there are frayed ends of unfinished thoughts, phenomena not yet fully understood.  Hendricks was comfortable hanging out at the fringe of the known and the unknown, occasionally testing to see if today might be the day that an answer would present itself from the darkness.  Most people are too scared or self-conscious to live on this fringe, but Brian embraced the uncertain terrain. And with great humility he came to manifest the exploration of these (potentially) unanswerable questions, living at ease in the realm of discovery, always inviting more to join him.

“I scrounged around for the next couple of years, trying to get the scam on the human race and just where the hell I fitted in – I discovered there were no openings.” ― Steve McQueen

There exist greater and deeper things in life.  Things like integrity, character, and humbleness.   Being the linguistic mastermind he was, Hendricks would use the word “probity”…

Indeed he lived with probity…100%, even through the hardest battle a human can endure: Cancer.

“So, in the very thick of battle and as we know, victory has long been declared, it’s now a matter of absorbing every moment and ramping up the appreciation of all and everything” ― Brian Hendricks

At the end of an eight year battle, Hendricks walked head-on into the flames with absolute grace, unrivalled optimism, and child-like curiosity.  To say his perspective on life and death was inspiring would be a tragic understatement.  What the great thinkers of our time had dreamed, Hendricks channeled, Hendricks shared and Hendricks lived.

His probity was steadfast.  His impact was immense.

“Dostoevski said once, “There is only one thing I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”   Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

What is evolution?  What makes up that mysterious alchemy that leads to human progress?  What lessons can we learn from Brian Hendricks’ life?  Where the hell is this coming from, and where are you gonna go from here?

Okay, full circle. Back to the smile on my face that could so easily have been a frown, back to the Klayhowa village, back to Joseph Campbell.  Like a great film, like a myth… Hendricks has become, and has always been, part of the unseen river of greatness that flows through us all.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  ― Corinthians 4:16-18

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Article by Dave Mossop

All quotes in this article are pulled from Hendricks’ archives, a wealth of wonderful knowledge easily perused on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/brian.hendricks.92372?fref=ts

Below you can find an incredible series of short films created by Brian’s good friend and film director Brick Blair entitled “The Beauty Of Certainty”, shot during the final year of Hendricks’ life.  If you didn’t know Brian, there’s no better way to experience the essence of his awesomeness.

And if you did know Brian, be prepared to shed a few tears…

www.beautyofcertainty.com

Thank you Brian.

  • Jeff

    Holy Frick. What a great tribute Dave….The kind of writing that left me wishing I had the priviedge to meet the man. Jeff

  • Loughran

    This searing tribute to a wise and wily mentor is exactly what I needed to read before stepping into the classroom with 25 Grade 7 students tomorrow. Thank you.
    Have you read Derrick Jensen’s ‘Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution’ ? Worth a read, common threads…
    And, if you ever come to Cumberland, please come and visit my class! Your work totally speaks to them and they need to meet real people who are doing extraordinary things in the world.