AW: Where did you grow up, or where are you from?
PTJ: I was born in California, where my parents were students at the University of California, Davis. We moved a lot, so I lived in a lot of different places. Probably the most “grow up” place was when we lived in Jaffrey, N.H. That was when I was in the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth grades. But then I consider myself as a New Yorker now because I was in New York for a number of years during my graduate school - that’s probably the most I’ve ever lived anywhere besides here.
AW: Where did you attend college?
PTJ: Undergrad was Michigan State [University] and my Ph.D.s are from Columbia, so I lived in New York.
AW: What is your favorite way to relax after class or a long day at the office?
PTJ: Music. I’m a bad amateur guitar player and I’ve been singing for a lot of years, so that’s very relaxing but also just having music on, listening particularly to the strange ‘70s progressive rock that I’m obsessed [with], so all Yes and Genesis.
AW: Do you have any other hobbies?
PTJ: I really enjoy filmmaking, amateur filmmaking and film watching. My wife and I are avid consumers of DVD films now that there’s nice bonus things out and so forth. And of course, I’m a huge science fiction nut and trying to read whatever I can get my hands on.
AW: Where do you and your family live now?
PTJ: We live in Alexandria, [Va.].
AW: I noticed in your schedule that you often eat lunch at TDR. What do you recommend?
PTJ: I’m actually a big fan of the pizza; the different pizza varieties. The line at the fire wok is usually too long, but the pizza and the onion rings.
AW: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?
PTJ: The whole world - I have a big canvas to choose from here. I think there are too many people who go through life never having to confront the limitations of their own perspective on the world and I think it would be really helpful if everybody, everybody had to confront the limitations of their own perspective at some point in their life. If everybody were brought up against the limits of their own partial assumptions about the way the world works and what right, good and truth are and those sort of things. I think it would, that kind of confrontation, would produce an awful lot more genuine humility among humans. That would go along a long way to make a lot of other problems easier to solve. It wouldn’t take all the problems away, but it would take sort of the sharp edge off of a lot of other issues.
AW: What is one thing your students or colleagues don’t know about you?
PTJ: A lot of people know that I have an autistic son. A lot of people know that I’m into ‘70s progressive rock. I suspect a number of people may not know that I’m actually really involved in my church and that is a not insignificant, in fact, a significant part of my life outside of the university. It revolves around being a part of church leadership or on the leadership board of the church and sort of doing a lot of faith development stuff. I don’t think people necessarily know that about me.
AW: What is your favorite word and why?
PTJ: My favorite word, oh goodness. Can I have two? Well one of them in fact would be German. It would be the word “wissenschaft.” “Wissenschaft” is a word that is often translated “science,” but it’s lot broader than the English word “science.” It means systematic inquiries, systematic knowing, systematic knowledge, and it’s one of my favorite words since it’s useful to designate what I think the specific value or character of what it is that I do or try to do in my scholarly work is that it’s a “wissenschaft,” in its adjectival form, and I toss it around a lot. Students that have come in contact with me have undoubtedly heard me go off about “wissenschaft” and politic distinctions. It’s something I enjoy a lot. There’s a great word that Robert Heinlein coined in “Stranger in a Strange Land” - “jarok.” It kind of means knowing that surpasses the subject-object distinction and gets you to a point where you are sort of, in a way, indistinguishable from the thing that you know. It’s a synonym for a whole variety of things. In the context of Heinlein’s book, it’s a Martian word and it maps onto human language in a whole bunch of different ways from drink, to eat, to know, to understand, to love - a whole bunch of connected things. It’s a fun word; it has a lot of utility. I know something, but do you really know it, do you get it in your gut. That would be a situation where a word like “jarok” would be appropriate.
AW: If you had $1 million, what would you do first?
PTJ: I would want to adequately fund some - my son’s autistic - and there are some highly pricy sensory integration and speech camps that I would love to be able to send him to, but they are just ridiculously expensive. Some of it would probably go to that. There are several deserving charities that I think could use some money. Two that I would immediately give some money to would be the Defenders of Wildlife, the wolf repopulation stuff in Yellowstone and one of the AIDS research campaigns. If I had $1 million, tax free, and that would probably be where it would go. Go for some charity stuff and therapeutic things for Quinn [Jackson’s son].
I then would probably indulge myself if I had a little left over and actually buy all of the re-mastered Genesis albums in stereo 5:1. But that would be after the other things, if there were any left over.
Correction: Professor Patrick Thaddeus Jackson explains the origin of the word “grok,” which is incorrectly spelled.