Bob Wilson today is a very ill man, a man whose time on Planet Earth is running out. I'm glad our paths crossed, however briefly. The world will be a less Meaningful Place without him. It's been a Trip while he's been here.
I first read Bob's books — starting with Illuminatus! — in 1979 or 1980, though I'd probably read his work without knowing it even earlier, when he was an editor at Playboy magazine. (Yes, of course I read it for the articles.)
I met Bob only once, but we corresponded via mail regularly for about four years in the early and mid-1990s, back when "penpals" meant you had to handwrite or type your letters to each other, and then put them into envelopes and affix stamps to them, before e-mail made it commonplace to have friends the world over. Bob's letters to me were always printed on a dot-matrix printer, and always bore some humorous, strange, odd fnord or just plain bizarre information or clipart as letterhead. We shared snippets of our lives on those pages, and sometimes mundane, sometimes great, Secrets of the Universe.
It was about a year after Bob and I began our friendship-by-mail that we actually met. I think it was in 1991, maybe early 1992. He was in Atlanta to attend PhenomiCon, a DragonCon wannabe science-fiction / geek / slacker festival. (GrouchoGandhi was there, too, so you know it was a strange weekend.) Bob was sitting alone in the hotel lobby area, at a table eating a sandwich. When I introduced myself, he didn't get up, but reached out to shake my hand... and belched.
We talked for a few minutes — I don't remember what about. Just casual talk, nothing profound or earth-shaking. Maybe five minutes later, GrouchoGandhi happened by, and I introduced he who is known by three initials — RAW — to he who is now known by two, Gg.
Unfortunately (for Bob and me), suddenly everyone (or so it seemed) who was strolling through the hotel wanted to meet Bob, and the fact that Gg, a popular fella in his own right even back then, and I fnord were sitting there with him in broad daylight was apparently a Trigger Signal for every geek and fan in three counties to suddenly congregate around our table, literally sitting at our feet to Hear the Words Drop from Our Lips like Golden Apple Sauce.
Bob wasn't in the mood to Be On.
He had just arrived on a flight from California, and was just beginning his lunch (or dinner) when I sat down. Still tired from the trip, he bid me a good evening and went off to his room to rest.
(GrouchoGandhi remembers this event slightly differently, saying that RAW pontificated on the joyce of Finnegan's Wake. If so, I must have slumbered through that part of the conversation, as I've never gotten past the first ten pages of FW.)
That was the first and last time we spoke, though we continued to exchange letters for another three years or so.
Later that weekend, I was privileged to watch Bob give a rousing and entertaining "sermon" in a SubGenius Devival. It was awesome.
Today, Bob has fallen on hard times. Stricken with polio a young child, he is now suffering from complications from that illness along with other infirmities. At age 74, he is not in good health, and of late he has been in financial difficulties as well.
After Paul Krassner and then Douglas Rushkoff wrote about RAW's deteriorating health and finances, Slashdot and BoingBoing spread the word to a larger audience last week, and Gg's Greatest Week in History updated us yesterday. Thousands of dollars in gifts and donations reportedly have been sent or PayPal'd to an account for Robert Anton Wilson.
Robert Anton Wilson: Thank you for sharing your Thoughts with the rest of us. Thanks for the Cosmic Trigger.
Visit the Robert Anton Wilson website, and be sure to read his books, especially the Historical Illuminatus Trilogy, in which Freemasonry plays a major role.
Click here to hear a sample from the upcoming fnord audio book edition of The Earth Will Shake, the first volume of the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles trilogy.
And if you dare, read Cosmic Trigger. It WILL change Your Life.
"Whenever people are certain they understand our peculiar situation here on this planet, it is because they have accepted a religious Faith or a secular Ideology and just stopped thinking." — Robert Anton Wilson
Image: Robert Anton Wilson
UPDATE, October 11: Douglas Rushkoff's blog of Oct. 9 reports that over $80,000 has been donated in the last week to Robert Anton Wilson, and requests that fans and readers stop already! "Save your pennies and pence, give yourselves and each other a hearty 'job well done,' and get back to the good work of helping people think smarter and act kinder," Rushkoff writes.
Back on October 6, three days after the first appeal went out, RAW's daughter Christina:
I just received a very sweet email from Robert Anton Wilson's daughter, Christina. Here's an excerpt from what she wrote to me, along with a message for all of you that Bob dictated to her.Robert Anton Wilson also wrote a short note, saying:
...We are all overjoyed as it now means that we can continue to celebrate this phase of his life in the comfort of his own home, with all the care he needs, until his passing, honored by the loving support of so, so many wondrous folks. Just last week I was sick with heartache as we were faced with giving his notice and now, the world has simply and completely — transformed. Last night, he dictated a note that he wanted me to forward to you — below is the text. He is very weak, cannot sit up or eat on his own, and as he struggled with a whispery voice to express his gratitude, he broke into tears several times. How my heart swelled as I gazed at this man who has been both one of the most frustrating — and incredible — beings I have ever known. I would not be who I am today, had I not grown up with him.
Dear Friends, my God, what can I say. I am dumbfounded, flabbergasted, and totally stunned by the charity and compassion that has poured in here the last three days.Robert Anton Wilson | Illuminatus! | Cosmic Trigger | Freemasonry | BurningTaper.com | Burning Taper
To steal from Jack Benny, "I do not deserve this, but I also have severe leg problems and I don't deserve them either."
Because he was a kind man as well as a funny one, Benny was beloved. I find it hard to believe that I am equally beloved and especially that I deserve such love.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, know that my love is with you.
You have all reminded me that despite George W. Bush and all his cohorts, there is still a lot of beautiful kindness in the world.
Robert Anton WIlson