Q: So would you say risk-taking is a pillar of creativity?
Q: And I think that that’s got to play a huge part in what happens as we grow older. Some people just stop. Some people seem to run out of ideas. I’m sure you’re familiar with Stevie Wonder, who for a long period was unparalleled, putting out brilliant song after brilliant song after brilliant song, and then it stopped.
A: Well if you don’t have it, actually I would say better to stop rather than inflict second-rate stuff on people.
Q: When you say “if you don’t have it,” does that mean people lose it?
A: Well, I don’t anything about Stevie Wonder, but Brahms stopped composing well before he died. And Beatrix Potter stopped writing when she got married. I think there are certain people who say, “I’ve said what I want to say” or “I don’t want to put out stuff which isn’t to my standards.” I mean, Brahms was very picky. T.S. Eliot I think stopped writing poetry when he was quite young. He only published 43 poems in his life. But then there is the creativity of the late years, the swan song. There are certainly in poetry, people like Yeats and Robert Penn Warren, and music people like Richard Strauss, for whom mortality has some galvanizing effects.
Q: What do you imagine is the source of inspiration for those late life resurgences.
A: Well, I think that it may be a combination of two things. One, the summative stuff I’ve talked about. You have to bring it together because you know you’re not going to be around much longer. But often it’s being able to give it with a kind of succinctness and clarity, which maybe you had the potential to do but you got flabby, and then it kind of gets crystallized at the end. Last works tend to be short, whether it’s poetry or music.
Q: Is there anything we do better later? Any ways in which our skills or capabilities are enhanced?
A: Well, I don’t think I have anything particularly original to say here. I think sometimes our critical faculties become so acute we can see the flaws too clearly.
Q: That’s interesting.
A: Yeah, I mean I’m interested in ethics now, which is kind of like wisdom. And that gets better. It doesn’t mean that every 70-year-old has got better judgment than every 30-year-old. But just like I bet on a 25-year old every time for mastering domains, when it comes to making a judgment about life, I bet on the 70-year-old, again on the average. Youth is about excess, good and bad. And I think balance, proportion, perspective, those are things that in general get better with age. The ageism of American society is interesting in this regard because in America if you look old the assumption is you’ve got nothing to say. That’s not true in Europe, it’s certainly not true in Asia. And I think we probably suffer because of that.