Possibilities–Grab Them Like Herbie Has
I read and reviewed Herbie Hancock’s book last year. I post this review now because it is ineluctably linked to my own writing goals for 2019 and beyond. (See the last line of this review). I’ll post those goals on my other blog late on New Year’s Eve. Check back here early next year for more on how I’ll make those writing plans come true–along with other New Year’s Determinations (no, I don’t call them resolutions–that’s a tired cliché satirized ad nauseam).
I must confess to being both bewildered and inspired reading this book. I’m bewildered because much of what Herbie talks about in this book is Greek to me—I am not a musician and the details he offers about the evolution of his own musical techniques makes less sense to me than a discussion of the finer points of calculating interstellar trajectories using advanced mathematics.
I’m inspired (and a little jealous) of his many successes. He started on his musical career as a child and continually refreshed his style and knowledge of music. The title, Possibilities aptly describes his refusal to adhere to a status quo but always to innovate–no matter what learning curve might be required. Like Herbie, I am a practicing Buddhist. Forty-one years for me this year–more for him. Much of his success–his many Grammys, an Oscar for the musical score of Round Midnight, his Kennedy Center Honor, his record sales, etc., has to do with his practice of Buddhism. From it, he early on recognized that we are in control of our own destiny and that only surrender to doubt or the obstacles that occur in life will keep one from achieving whatever one sets out to do.
I had the good fortune of meeting Herbie in 1982 when he, Tina Turner and Patrick Duffy–among others, were preparing to perform at the “Aloha We Love America” event on the mall in Washington, DC. I worked in the control center, in L’Enfant Plaza where we did our morning Buddhist prayers (Gongyo) around 7 am for several days. All those celebrities were among the twenty or more people doing Gongyo there every morning. Herbie was an incredibly sincere and devoted member. He told the organization’s General Director to let him know whatever he could do to help. One of my tasks was to drive Herbie and his wife Gigi around Washington, DC. They were without pretension and without condescension. He was a star and I was no one of great stature but that mattered not at all.
The book touches only briefly on his Buddhist practice, just enough to establish its importance to him without a heavy handed push to persuade them to practice. Still, there’s enough encouragement to anyone open to this belief system to learn more. As it happens, I was among a large group of fellow Buddhists attending a conference in Florida when the Grammy for Album of the Year was awarded to Herbie for River: the Joni Letters. The first time in the history of the Grammys that a Jazz album had won this award.We watched the award show that night and rejoiced with him.
I too wrote a memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland, which has quite a bit more to do with what the practice of Buddhism has meant to me in reforming my own life and working to make the world a better place. I am envious of Herbie only because my career as a writer has begun at such a late stage in my life. It will be very difficult to acquire fiction writing skills comparable to Herbie’s skills as a musician in the years that I have left. But, inspired by his success and confident in the power of my Buddhist practice, I will make my mark in the next decade or two.