Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Really Cool!!

My daughter Rebecca has a way of saying 'Really Cool!!' that never fails to warm my heart. And when Dr. Jazz, my radio promoter sent me the cover of this weeks Jazzweek radio chart, that's what I heard: Really Cool!!. So I'm back at number one on the charts (Jazz Brasil hit #1 as did Con Alma). So why do I feel like such a failure. I can tell myself that it's because I rarely perform, or because I'm 71 and feel time running out or because I still long for a relationship with a woman. But I think time running out is up there as the reason for my persistent negativity.

I've been thinking about the philosopher Heidegger despite disregarding him for both professional and personal reasons. I'm a logician and trained in analytic philosophy rather than in continental philosophy, which Heidegger dominated, and he was a Nazi, belonged to the party and etc. But in checking out Wilkepedia, which embarrassingly I rely on more than any self-respecting academic should, I came upon one of his central ideas that I can relate to, as they say.

The basic idea is that we (all of us, even Jews) come into existence with a relationship to the world, that world that manifests itself as the condition for our being-in-the-world as we are concerned with it through our interactions. Our engagement with the very stuff of our existence: the existence that we care for. But being-in-the-world is conditioned by its temporality, our present draws upon its past as we move ahead into the unfolding future. And at 71 it seems that I can't count on very much future at all.

It's not that I think I haven't accomplished anything. My recent interest in Heidegger is sparked by a doctoral student I'm working with who is writing a dissertation on math and ontology. Just being able to say that should shut me up. For god's sake I have doctoral students and built a successful career as an academic after a really shitty start in the 1970's that included being fired when I got my degree, going bankrupt and having to reinvent myself as an educational consultant and getting my first tenure-track position at 47. But I was associate director of an institute for critical thinking, department chair and as a full-professor have a great job, a reliable income and have been able to live out my dream to create a body of work as a jazz musician.

And dammit, I have a #1 record! Again! But somehow it doesn't do it for me. I still miss the life that didn't happen. Being a working musician and celebrating the success of my music with an audience and with other musicians. The life! I know it is a crappy life. Being on the road, not hearing yourself on stage. Not knowing where your next gig is coming from. Feeling your musical worth loosing purchase as younger musicians are called instead of you. Not to mention that there are very few gigs, that jazz is geriatric in its appeal and as Nicholas Payton has recently said in defense of his move into jazz-fusion (as it used to be called) playing jazz requires you to be a necrophiliac. One step beyond Frank Zappa's infamous gibe that jazz wasn't dead, it just smelled funny.

But boy when I look at the photos on my facebook page from the hundreds of musicians that I am friends with, I crumble at the thought that I am not doing it, and it is overwhelmingly probable that I never will. Those photos of smiling guys in airports with their instruments at their feet, or sitting around tables with their arms on each others shoulders. Boy I miss being a musician among musicians. I have lots of recent photos of myself with musicians, a few from every record date. And when I record it is a short trip to musician heaven. Hangin' out with the guys. The being-in-the-world of musicians. I did it for 15 years starting when I was a kid and lasting until my early-thirties. And even though my rotten personality kept me from enjoying it as much as I should have, I look back to that period as a period of intense engagement with life. And I long for the chance to do it some more. Just like I long for the possibility of one more great romance, one more chance to love someone.

I guess that what happens when the future futures seem be closing off. As the limit from above meets the limit from below (think of calculus) defining the vanishing point of existence. As all past pasts meet all future futures in the obliteration of life, everything vanishing, including especially all future possibilities.

Holy shit! You won't believe it, but I'm not depressed, just telling it like it is. Life is the result of choices and contingencies. And every actuality crowds out all of the unactualized possibilities of roads not taken. As Popeye used to say: I am what I am, and as I might add, I done what I done. I stopped playing trombone, I stopped being a musician. I became a philosopher and started playing the flute. But I sat on two chairs, each with a halbe tuchus (yiddish for half an ass) and so didn't end up doing either with a whole heart or with complete dedication. And I'm stuck with it.