Oprah: Sidney, what do you do for fun?

Sidney: I play a lot of golf. My love of golf far outstrips my gift for it, but I love it. And I read a lot.

Oprah: What do you read?

Sidney: I love James Baldwin—the way he put words together. And Shakespeare for being such a wordsmith. I've read so many books on astronomy. I've also read Aristotle and Plato.

Oprah: And you didn't have any formal education, right?

Sidney: No.

Oprah: That's why it's so extraordinary that you could hold on to who you are!

Sidney: You know what? It was survival.

Oprah: All the work I do is about helping people realize who they are. The whole quest for each of us is to become more of who we are meant to be. So how does someone get to that?

Sidney: We all have different selves: There is a public self, a private self and a core self. We all know the public self—it's how we put our best foot forward, smiling and behaving. But the private self is a more fundamental self, and that is where we find our frailties, our fears. It's like a clearinghouse where our demons are safe. Then there's the core self, which is our pure instinct. That's where all our goodness and capacity for kindness lives. You can feel it sometimes. When people say, "I feel it in my stomach," that's the core self. Our best comes from there, and we know how courageous and honorable we are. The core self is who we are.

Oprah: How do you learn to trust that core self?

Sidney: I don't know how to do that for other people—I know how to do it for me. And I keep searching for answers.

Oprah: You once said that you have been visited by regrets. Other than playing Porgy, what do you regret?

Sidney: When I was a boy on Cat Island, I used to go hunting with a slingshot. And I would hit birds with my pebbles. Later in life, I learned the value of a life. I wanted to be my own man, but I wasn't allowing the birds I destroyed a life. I had to go back and examine my killing of those birds, frogs and insects.

Oprah: No, you didn't.

Sidney: I surely did, my darling! And you know what? I learned that an insect, a frog, a bird are such miraculous creations, and who am I to destroy them since I cannot create them? Do you know what goes into the design of a little beetle that flies? There I was, killing them at random! And the remorse helped me to never kill again.