I have some kooky hypotheses about how people like this (and folks like Van Gogh) experience reality differently from the common “civilized” person:
I haven’t really articulated them properly, but I have a bunch of data points that allude to similar things:
1- Alan Watts talks about how when you do intense solitary meditation– that is, you go into the woods, be completely silent, etc– after a while you almost forget how to use words, and when you look at things you see things in much richer colors. A sunset can reduce you to tears. That sort of thing.
2- Just generally pay attention to different artists’ vocabularies– some are very dark, grey, depressing. Others are very bright, happy, cheerful. Some are very… fragmented, disassociative. All of those things hint to me that different people very clearly see the world differently.
3- Even variations in personal experience. I know that when I’ve been smoking, sleeping late, etc, the world seems a little duller, greyer. When I quit smoking, everything gets brighter, almost unbearably so. Like turning up the contrast. I think Limitless (the movie) captures this transition very nicely. Also how in The Matrix, the “plugged in” scenes have a greenish hue, and the “unplugged” scenes are more blue-grey. And I’m thinking about how on two particular occasions– last day of JC, last day of NS– the sky and grass etc just seemed so much bluer and greener– something about heart-swelling emotion affecting perception
4- Read any articulate person’s description of their experience with LSD; perception is fundamentally wild but we have largely domesticated it (like time and space). So life seems boring and dull– we have made it so. It’s easier to process.
5- There’s a bit in Dale Carnegie’s How To Enjoy Life book where he talks about a lady who went nearly blind, and when she was recovering she found doing the dishes to be a celebration of life– galaxies swirling in the soap and water, rainbows bursting from the suds, and so on. Same thing.
I think our brains attempt to do some sort of homeostasis with all the input and information it gets, and most of us are swimming in too much data to have the sort of beautiful gestalt that this blind man paints. Everything is pregnant with explosive beauty, but we’re often too busy worrying about goals, destinations, outcomes, etc to see it. The point and meaning of life is right here, right now, everything is spectacular. But we miss it, usually.
Sometimes people like this guy experience something drastic or dramatic and they change their frame, and they try to share it with us. Which is pretty neat.