We all are attracted to the stories. This story begins with a kid who was keying symphonic melodies on the piano only at the age of 3. He studied plane geometry in the second grade. He started playing the violin at 6 years old. By age 11 he was studying the Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. This incredible solo violin musical work was a product of another accomplished young person, Felix Mendelssohn. In early adolescence Mendelssohn wrote for the violin then produced this work in his late twenties through his early thirties. Anyone who studies this major musical accomplishment is on track for world class violin performances.
I am enthralled as I listen to Bob Buschine telling me about his early life, ready now to witness about his new found faith. He says, “I studied privately under the Autrian master Josef Walton. Mr. Walton lived in Sunnyvale, as did we when I was a child. He was a friend of one of our neighbors. He was retired, and his daughter had taken over the teaching. However, when he heard my audition, I recall him saying “I will teach this boy to play the violin.” He was truly a great man and a wonderful mentor. I met with him once a week for about five years, at his house.”
What Went Wrong?
Bob Buschine lived as a young person during a tumultuous period of American life and in an influential part of America. The San Francisco Bay Area, as it is known, encompasses familiar sounding places like San Jose, Marin County, Oakland, Berkley and his home Sunnyvale near San Jose. In this part of Northern California Berkley is the home of the University of California and along with San Francisco State and other universities and colleges became a show place of 1960’s counter-culture for the West Coast. This was the age when people like Timothy Leary were promoting drug use and slogans like turn on, tune in, drop out that became popular.
What about Bob? Funding dried up for advanced studies at school for the violin. This left a void for a young person who had only associated with adults for 11 years. The Beatles hit it big during the early 60’s and excited him so, that he switched to the guitar and started making friends and hanging out with kids his own age. As he said, ” I just quit (the violin) and started guitar. It broke the master’s heart, truly. I was entering junior high school, playing guitar was cool, especially lead. Also, my father didn’t support me the way I needed to be. So, summer of ’64, I started learning folk guitar, which was really popular at the time. I got into Bob Dylan right before he went electric. He became my new mentor. I learned so much about literature and such from his songs. At one point I had all of his songs memorized. Along with Donovan, the Carter family, etc; I would play them with my guitar, using a harmonica rack to play harmonica at the same time, entertaining my family and friends. Before, I was never a child, my best friends were the classical composers. I found kids my age to be boring.”
This new musical discovery, a politically liberal upbringing, and exposure to the counter-culture by his peers excited him and changed his life.
Lots of Lives Were Changed.
The social “revolution” that was taking place was characterized by popular music, drugs, sexual activity free from restraint. If it feels good it must be good. Young people with various personalities adopted this culture in unique ways. Bob turned to LSD, the drug that psychologist Leary promoted so well. Bob used it to try and find answers to the meaning of life. Others used it for the pleasurable experience, and as I was once told it, would enhance my artistic ability.
Timothy Leary was a great influence on Bob. He recalls seeing Leary on PBS holding two glasses and saying that he held in his hands the two basis of all life, one the physical and the other the spiritual. He held up one with water and the other with pure LSD-25. Leary was at Harvard University at the time (later fired) and along with Richard Alpert was among the many intellectuals teaching American youth that the meaning to life cannot be found by seeking God, but CAN be found through the spiritual object or the spiritual study of your choice – or both at the same time. Western religion was for the ignorant, introspective thought or Eastern thought was for those who wanted to find their way in life.
Has society really changed from that time or are the Hippies of yesterday just a little older and better dressed?
A Turning Point.
Bob took LSD for about 3 years in the 1960’s, got into the Tibetian Book of the Dead, but by the 70’s the whole thing became just a party. “We were no longer brothers and sisters” he recalls. I asked him, “Did you change or did the times change?” He remembers, “Both. 1966 to 1968 was beautiful, people were full of love. In 1969 things started to get ugly. People started using Heroin instead of psychedelics, wine was o.k. but if you drank beer or hard liquor you were looked down on, then came cocaine.”
In ’69, after the rock band that I was lead guitar with had finished a gig at a local high school, that we were approached by the manager of the Jefferson Airplane. Since some of us were underage, he gave us his card and told us to keep in touch. Those were heady times of bright prospects. Young we were, and full of hope! My big decision was made actually somewhat later, in ’72 or so, when I was in a Blues band with my friend from high school, Wayne Kelley. He went professional, and is now in France, pretty well known there as a jazz bassman. He asked me to go with him into the ocean of professional musicianship, and it was then that, as a new Christian, and deeply in love with a woman both beautiful and wonderful, I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to family life. Touring and such is really a hardship, and believe me, I have friends who chased the dream, and I know that I made the right decision.”
He continues, “I reached a very low point in 1970. LSD was pure in those days, not cut with anything. When you were on it you didn’t feel your body at all, you were just a color floating in space, you always have been and always will be. I was out hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains when I stopped to rest. I felt the presence of someone sitting next to me but could not see anyone. A voice said to me, “It’s your fault, it’s always your fault. You know what you have to do. I followed the presence down the mountain and when I stopped he said to me, “You know what you have to do – do it.”
I pulled out my hunting knife, luckily it was very dull, and started hacking at my wrists. I felt a fire, an entity, above me saying, “Come to me. I am God come to me, come home. You know how it is when you are at a campfire on a cold night and someone walks in front of you and you feel the cold all of a sudden….somebody walked in front of that sun. I immediately came down from the LSD. I should have been on it for another 13 hours!
I became aware of myself and saw the blood. I heard a gasp of breath as I was discovered by a couple who took me to town to get cleaned up.” Bob then said that his thoughts turned to ponder the question What do we do now? He said, “The revolution has failed.” I asked him why he felt this social revolution was a failure. He said, “It wasn’t of God. It was spiritual but it was humanism.” Did you realize that consciously I asked? “I felt that it didn’t quite take off like it should. Something went wrong somewhere, I wasn’t exactly sure of what it was. This was my last year in High School.”
A Better Direction.
“That year I found my future wife and we shared the experience of an altar call at a First Assembly church. I dropped LSD completely, attended bible college, became a deacon and for the next 10 years lived an involved church life. After intense bible reading and study I became disillusioned because there was no way to live the Gospel in the context of the church culture. It always came down to the pastor’s personality. That is his church, it’s not Christ’s Church. When the pastor leaves, the church is over. I returned to drugs and alcohol. We lost our house and ended up living in our car, homeless. I was so stressed that I had a heart attack and then a mini stroke.”
Does This Get Worse, I Ask?
He answers after we both laugh, “That’s the worst of it yeah. This is why it is such a testament to God’s glory. We were living poorly not able to find much work. I cleaned cabins to earn rent . One day the owner asked me if I wanted a book he had found in one of the empty cabins. It was a St. Joseph Missal from 1939. I started to read this and was surprised to learn that Mass was not what I thought it was. I read the prayers. This is what they do at Mass! My goodness. I turned on EWTN TV one day. There was this group of people in church singing this beautiful melody over and over again. They sang, “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world (Divine Mercy Chaplet).” I never thought in those terms as a Protestant. Who am I to pray for the whole world? What a concept!”
We Should Go To a Mass.
“I was taught as a Protestant that the Catholic church is the anti-Christ, when Jesus left there was a flowering tree with all the gifts of the spirit, it was stripped bare by the Catholic church. First a leaf came back, Martin Luther, then we got a little fruit, Wesley, then more fruit, Calvin, then everything came back at the Azusa Street Revival. Saying Hail Mary full of grace is considered blasphemy. ”
“I wanted to try the rosary so I followed along on EWTN. I said the Lords Prayer, that’s cool, the creed and the Glory Be, that’s good stuff. When it came to saying “Hail Mary” I just said it! It felt like this warm blanket of love came over me. I knew then that She was real. Ever since then She has been an integral part of my life.”
Where We Are Now.
“It is interesting because I am very intellectual. I would normally have to think things through. But, we were so broken and so shattered. Our parents were gone and I had been rejected by my family. I didn’t go to God on my terms. I said just give it to me, whatever. That’s how I got through the Mary thing, it was just Her awesome presence.”
“I have always had a respect for the Catholic Church. If you really want to be serious you become a Catholic, I’m not ever going to, but that is what you have to do. I always felt that we were like children putting on adult clothes and playing church. I was never firm in my salvation. We entered the Church in 2008 after going through R.C.I.A. classes. I could not play an instrument after my stroke so I sing as a cantor. The Lord as given me a music ministry. We became Secular Franciscians as well.”
How does one end a story, an adventure, that has really only begun? We can all pray for Bob and his wife. We can understand life a little better because he was willing to tell his story. We can repeat this story to our young so that hopefully they will learn from it.
Photography: See our Photographers page.