from an interview by Frank Rubolino 2002
So how would you sum up your life?
If you are you, 24 hours a day, then you do not have to remember who you are supposed to be in different situations—something that I imagine could be troublesome. Ornette once related to me years ago about his own work that people didn’t so much mind what he did, they minded that he had done it. Confidence in my ability that I could do work of substance had a long gestation period. Being able to believe and fully believe in myself took a long time. Even the idea of confidence had to be built, and it needed a foundation to be built upon. In the late 1930s, I looked around and said, this is the only life I am going to have. I had to attempt a sorting out of my strengths, to isolate them, and then get to work on my weaknesses. What did I want to do? What did I want to be? What could I do? What would I be permitted to do? I discovered music and I discovered painting. I have a thing about myself—it is not arrogance, it is that I am confident in my ability to continue to attempt work. And I am also disturbed that people do things and expect you to roll over and play dead. I don’t talk of serious things to certain people anymore. The cure for cancer may come from some poor kid in Harlem who at the present time is unable to even finish high school. We take incredible chances on whom we select to pay attention to. Every mind is important. Man is the only animal who can deal systematically with abstract thought. I firmly believe that if people will allow themselves to become feelingly educated, so that things that are openly painful can be honestly discussed, then this could be the way out of the morass.