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Autobillography Paperback – September 16, 2011
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About the Author
Bill Robinson was born to a musical family in Denton, Texas in 1955. He started piano lessons at age three and violin at ten, and moved to Massachusetts in 1961. Composition started in 1972 while a student at Phillips Academy Andover. After that came a year at Eastman School of Music, then many years at NTSU in Denton (now UNT). He earned a BM in composition there in 1984. After the Rainbow Gathering in the North Carolina mountains in 1987, Bill moved to the Charlotte area and has been in North Carolina ever since, except for two years on the road in the Southwest. Bill came to Raleigh in 2001 to study physics at NCSU, and earned a BS in 2004. He graduated with a PhD in May 2010, and has joined the physics faculty at NCSU. He has constructed a novel plasma confinement experiment investigating ball lightning. He is active in the study and practice of yoga, Hinduism, Dances of Universal Peace, and mystical practices of many kinds, and is a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba. This strongly influences his music, most of which is devotional in nature even if not explicitly indicated. His compositions include woodwind, brass, string, piano, and synthesizer quintets; a recorder and a string quartet; songs, sacred and satirical; Mantra Cantata for chorus and orchestra; eleven sonatas for solo violin or viola; two pieces for jazz band; a piano sonata; sonatas for cello, flute, and violin with piano accompaniment; a duet for violin and cello; a trio for violin, oboe and piano, another for clarinet, cello and piano, and another for soprano, violin and piano; a quartet for violin, clarinet, cello and piano; concertos for violin, piano, and string quartet with orchestra; a song for nonet or chamber orchestra and baritone; and a sextet for clarinet and strings. Playing violin had to stop in 1981 due to arthritis. Despite a couple of attempts to start again, he is unable to perform and is limited to synthesis and submitting scores to other musicians. The music is intended for the general audience that goes to classical music concerts; it is not designed to be enjoyed only by new music specialists. Since 2006, Eric Pritchard has introduced the music to some of the best musicians in the Raleigh and Durham area, and concerts are starting to result. Beginning in 2004 Bill has produced nine CDs independently, and has a website at billrobinsonmusic.com that has all his scores and recordings, as well as more biographical information and his activities in physics.
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Being in sympathy with the large number of prisoners in the US who are enduring excessive penalties for minor or niggling offenses, I wrote letters to a few back in the 1990s. Before long I got caught up in other matters, and let my good intentions slide. One evening last year I received an email from an unknown person claiming that I had written him while he was doing time, and now he was sharing his website with me. I wondered, is this some odd spam, some con by an ex-con? There was no plea for my social security number or bank records, so I gathered courage and checked out the site (...), and immediately recognized a fellow wacky soul. It's quite a coincidence that I had chosen him "randomly" for contact, because we have a number of things in common, most prominently spirituality with a strong appreciation of the Bhagavad Gita, classical music, and LSD.
Recently, when I told him about my upcoming book, he mentioned that he had self-published his autobiography last September. Though he's posted it on his website, alongside many of his extant compositions and some very funny material (click spirituality and then A Possible Cure for War?), I ordered an actual copy. When it arrived I was immediately diverted from all other reading until I had surfed through to the end. It's really a fun read. Bill seems to have met every ne'er-do-well and screwup in the entire USA, and had a run in with half the crazed cults that sprouted like mushrooms during the psychedelic era. It's astonishing that such a bright guy could be drawn into such bizarre tangents, but he is in very good company. At least in retrospect, he evinces a clear-headed attitude about all the strange fish swimming in the ocean of samsara that he has rubbed elbows with. And it's a strange fish indeed that has elbows!
Recalling all those well-intentioned souls led into blind alleys by profiteers renewed my gratitude for having "accidentally" met an honest guru--Nitya--who could spot a charlatan a mile away. Thank Grid, he saved me from wasting a lot of time and energy on all those tempting but ultimately ridiculous fantasies that our culture continues to attract and inspire.
Bill was not so lucky, after his eyes and mind were opened wide by acid at a tender age. For instance, he nearly killed himself following the macrobiotic lifestyle for many years, and describes some fellow travelers as looking like refugees from Auschwitz. At the first Portland Gurukula we had a couple of "macro-idiotics," as Nitya called them. I always thought their yin-yang theories seemed plausible, but never got serious about it. After reading the Autobillography, I'm really glad I didn't. Here's a relevant excerpt from Nitya's own autobiography about them:
When I saw Steve reading his macrobiotic book, I told him that going mad even for the best cause cannot be appreciated. He tried to defend himself, which made me recall last night's Hare Krishna record in which boys and girls were hysterically shouting "Hare Krishna" at the top of their voices as if Krishna were far off in India and they wanted to reach him from America, or as if maybe he were deaf. These kinds of exaggerations are difficult to categorize as spiritual expressions. I told Steve that he is like a matchstick, one end having fire and the other end remaining very cold. (Love and Blessings, p. 321)
Macrobiotic theory was quite popular in those days. Nitya wrote a lot more about it, including:
Unfortunately I'm not a macrobiotic. I like things that can be quickly made, easily purchased and are tasty to eat. This goes against the new fads and fanaticisms that are raging in this country among a few crazy bigots to whom food is everything, who spend all day thinking and speaking of nothing else. Selfishness and ego blind them so much that they become worse than religious fanatics. I think someday I may have to raise my voice against this stupidity being taken to the extreme in this house. (L&B 334)
Anyway, Dr. Bill's engrossing tale of woe bumps up against quite a number of cults. He has done us the favor of relating the denouement of the principle characters, many that I never followed up on myself, but I have to admit it's highly satisfying to discover that many of those fakers fell on their face after they slunk off the public platform. Karma has its day, sooner or later. And I admire Bill for having a core of good sense that helped him resist getting permanently derailed. He opens his book with an inviting sentence: "There's a lot of blaspheming to get done, so might as well get started." And he lives up to the proposition. His blasphemy is cogent if not always provably true, and is equally dispensed in all directions, including toward himself. Undoubtedly there is too much blasphemy here for a timid publisher to take a chance on, since the dingbats skewered include a big chunk of what remains of the book buying public. Too bad. There is a lot of positive good sense to be imbibed here.
Bill knows whereof he speaks when he asserts on the second page that "People are far more willing to accept and become passionately devoted to the wildest, most absurd, and obviously fabricated tales, than they would to more mundane stories that just might be true." His wandering in Wonderland--or better yet, Dunderland--has at last led him to an assistant professorship in physics at a respectable university, along with some performances of his quite exceptional musical compositions, which are too unusual to be popular, but terrific for serious meditation (I've only listened to a couple so far, but am optimistic). I hesitate to use the much-abused G-word, but his is undoubtedly an extraordinary intellect, fearlessly probing the lurid and inventive terrain flanking the borderlines of sanity.
I don't think I'm giving away the punch line by adding Bill's last word along with his first: "If through all these hard experiences I've come out with less judgement and more compassion, less sarcasm and more kindness, fewer lectures and more patience, less attachment and more love for all beings, less egotesticle and with more identification with pure loving awareness, then it's been worth it. As long as judgement, sarcasm, lectures, ego and attachment are so much fun, though, I may have to wait yet for [my promotion]."
Jay Stevens, in his superb history of LSD, Storming Heaven, reprises Aldous Huxley's argument that psychedelics should be selectively administered to humanity's elite, and not made ubiquitously available as Tim Leary advocated. Dr. Robinson's Autobillography makes us feel that Huxley may have been right, even though his position is less appealing to the egalitarian mind. All those damaged souls who sought relief in substances that actually expanded their consciousness instead of annihilating it experienced an inflation of their difficulties rather than their resolution. Psychedelics provide psychotherapy primarily for the sane, and are no more a panacea than anything else, I'm sorry to admit. Our world bristles with deranged people desperately seeking surcease of sorrow and being led astray by conniving evangelists with their vacuous promises, and for them, psychedelics are just another way to magnify their delusions. Relatively few are able to absorb the supernal message and retain their inner stability, while rocketing through endless dimensions.
I don't want to end on a sour note, because despite its manifold tragedies, Bill's book is overarchingly funny. And not just with the humor of watching people step on their dicks and slip on dope-laced banana peels. Bill has the compassionate humor of the centered visionary who knows from personal chagrin what fools we mortals be. I think we can agree with Shakespeare that that is an excellent starting place for a search for something better.
My own humble book:
Krishna in the Sky with Diamonds: The Bhagavad Gita as Psychedelic Guide