1. LAYERS OF THE HUMAN PSYCHE
I believe that as a child grows up the human psyche goes through the psychological stages of human culture and understanding.2. TYPES OF INTELLIGENCE
A child's first sense is magical. People, plants, buildings, ponds and oceans have a personality and powers. Sometimes they are nice, calm and friendly, other times they are angry and agitated. A child learns to relate to them as best as he can depending on their moods. This magical sense is followed by a superstitious sense in which certain rituals will help a child cope with certain forces (not stepping on the cracks in the pavement), then outside objects are given powers over which one has no control but whose influence can be predicted (we see this in astrology). Last comes logic, reason and cause and effect. In this case a person is trying to understand the laws of nature over which he has no control but which, once understood, can be harnessed for his benefit.
I firmly believe that all these layers of consciousness are available to us as adults if we allow them to exist. Artists may be more able to access all these layers than other more "rational" people.
Recently scientists have realized that there are a number of different kinds of intelligences, not just the math and verbal skills measured by the SAT. For example some people seem especially gifted when it comes to music or art (spatial skills). My own brand of intelligence did not fit any of the usual criteria. However, people would remark on how curious I was, or how good my memory was, or how I was able to carefully pack a car trunk and use every inch of available space.3. BLACK CULTURE
I feel especially fortunate to have been able to experience black culture as something of an insider rather than an outsider. The few white people who joined the civil rights movement were generally completely accepted by the blacks in the movement. We were taking an even greater chance, in some cases, than the blacks. Called "nigger lovers" by other whites, we were hated more than the black activists. For several years I had an honor code violation hanging over my head at the University. This would have prevented me from graduating. However, the supreme court threw out all the arrests for sitting in segregated restaurants so the honor code violation was dropped.4. AN INTENSE EXPERIENCE OF BEAUTY
I don't think that it is an exaggeration to say that American culture would not have the power and vitality it has without black influence. From the ragtime tunes of Scott Joplin in the 1890s which were the hit tunes of their day, to the Jazz Age of the 1920s, to the swing music of the 1930s, to the rock and roll of the 1950s, black culture has been crucial to the heart and soul of American art. Jackson Pollock used to paint to jazz. When Elvis Presley's music first went on the radio, a disk jockey thought he was black. Jazz, of course, was invented primarily by blacks, by Louis Armstrong, in particular, in the 1920s.
Intense beauty is almost foreign to the modern sensibility. Contemporary society seems to be afraid or ashamed of beauty as though it were too sentimental or emotional. I feel that a sense of beauty is at the core of visual art.5. EXPERIENCE GIVES YOU MANY MORE METAPHORS TO WORK WITH
As a young man, my first overwhelming sight of beauty was a particular moment with my girl friend after we had made love. While I had seen her naked a number of times, this time the light hit her just right and she moved just right, or perhaps we were now comfortable around each other without our clothes for the first time. In any case it was as though I had been hit by a blinding light or wave of emotion that took my breath away.
Experience is in a class by itself. It is not a kind of intelligence exactly, but it gives you more tools and it carves out pathways in your brain, actually developing neurons that would not have existed otherwise. The more experience you have and the more metaphors you have to work with, the more tools you have in your tool kit to deal with a problem or understand a concept.6. WHERE YOU LIVE IS IMPORTANT
I believe the house that you live in is critical. After 1965 I always lived in a house with character. I have lived in a cabin in the woods, an antebellum mansion out in the country, a 1920s home on Main Street in Durham NC and finally a 1920s home built by local people here on the coast in North Carolina. Each house had good "vibes." Each home was in an interesting area. All were very cheap to live in.7. MATURITY IS RESPONSIBILITY - FREEDOM IS RESPONSIBILITY
In this age of talk shows there has been a lot of sympathy for the victim. I believe that all children are victims of the shortcomings of their family and parents. However, at a certain age, probably about 20, a person needs to accept who and what he or she is and get on with life. If that person has unfinished emotional business with a parent, then he or she needs to deal with that business and not get into the blame game. You can spend your whole life pointing the finger at others and in the process find that your life has passed you by.8. THE IMPORTANCE OF INTUITION
Reason and intuition are often placed at opposite ends of the spectrum. I am a great believer in both. When reason doesn't work, I listed to my gut.9. THE PURPOSE OF LIFE IS TO BELONG, TO BE A LINK IN A CHAIN
I took a philosophy course at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A professor argued that when reason was practiced to its highest degree (as explained by Plato) it was very similar to intuition when it was practiced to its highest degree.
The mistake often made is to think of reason as being similar to logic. Logic is more like a mechanical process that cranks out an answer, much in the way a computer cranks out data. As we all know garbage in equals garbage out. A logical machine is only as good as the machine maker, i.e. the reasoning that went into the creation of the machine.
I believe the most powerful emotion in human existance is the desire to belong. Soldiers and street gang members will die before letting themselves be rejected by their group. People who lose their jobs go through deep depression and some commit suicide. And teenagers suffer extreme angst from rejection.
What everyone craves is a feeling of belonging to something bigger than themselves. This is why there is such camaraderie in war. Live or die you are contributing to something much larger than your own small existance.
The purpose of life, I believe, is to be a link in a chain. You might contribute to the understanding history or build houses that would never have been built or teach children who never would have understood without you. 100 years from now or 1000 years from now, no one will remember your name. But you will have contributed to the unbroken chain that reaches into the future, and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Without you, the future would be different, even if you are not remembered as an individual. You are part of something much larger than your own existance.