I think art is not an ornament or refinement at the fringes of human intelligence, I think it’s at the center. It’s at the core.  In a famous classical tag:

The animal is pathetic.  Its teeth aren’t very good weapons.  Its claws are almost useless as weapons.  Its fur grows in kind of silly patches here and there on its body, but it has thrived and even dominated.  It may destroy the world.  It can do this because it can communicate, not only amongst peers, you can communicate with your ancestors and your descendants.  And before we could do that with digital memory or printed memory or written memory, we did it with some combination of what we now divide into dance, song and poetry. 

And that hunger, that ability, that craving for art in relation to memory is right at the center of us.  And poetry, we use our own body to make it.  There is no fiddle, there is no paint, it’s the air that comes out of your body shaped in ways that have evolved and that are controlled by our brain. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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