Excerpts from the interview:
“I've been thinking about transcendence, but I just call it 'consciousness research.' It's the same thing as thinking about God, which is the same thing as transcendence or the sublime; it's just a new paradigm. It has nothing to do with the old ideas of religion. We've had this big spate of 'no more God' books lately. Everybody has their oar in the water. But we seem to need religion. That's a human predilection -- to want transcendence and to think about those things -- and we need a new language for it.
“Most people who really enjoy music, experience it as a form of transcendence. That's why I used Charlie 'Bird' Parker and the birth of bebop along with the quantum indeterminacy 'many worlds' ideas and World War II for In War Times. For me, there are a lot of links, because the idea of modernity is linked to the sciences, and I think it was the movement in the sciences that birthed modernity in the arts. Bebop was another manifestation of that, because it was a completely new form of music. The people who played it came out of the jazz tradition, and yet it broke the mold. Bebop itself is a form of transcendence. (I know they all came to dislike that term. They called bebop 'modern music,' 'modern jazz.')”
“A lot of people take everything for granted. Those who question are basically the outsiders. They wonder what's going on, why things are happening, what's over the hill. There are always people who are not happy with the status quo, who are seeking alternatives to the rules. Teenagers are always outsiders, and that energy continues in some people. They get the training, the information, and the knowledge they need to actually change things, but it's that early energy that drives them. It's like the unheard resonance in bebop that Bird and Dizzy were striving for: you can somehow visualize or imagine that things will be different.”
“We don't know everything. Perhaps that's what my books are all about. We're actually very simple creatures who seem very complex to ourselves. And there are fascinating complexities about us, but we don't know everything, and the idea of bootstrapping is very attractive to me. Ways to know more, like memory drugs, like just learning more about the universe and about ourselves. Our bodies and our senses interpret the world. It's all wavelengths that we have learned to interpret and meld together as we grow. And we always think it's leading to something, just like the kids who say: 'I'm six. I want to be seven.'
“As a dyed-in-the-wool preschool teacher, I'm an optimist, but on the other hand I can see the dark side of everything, so it's kind of a strange marriage. Even as a Montessori preschool teacher, I was an outsider, because the schools I observed when I had my training kind of horrified me. The children were all very good at doing things the way they were supposed to do them in the classroom. I thought of quitting, but I could see that once I was out of training I could do whatever I wanted to. Teaching preschool was a real eye-opener for me. I had just wanted to do it for venal reasons: it was a good way to make money, so that I could write and be my own boss. But I learned a lot about humans and about who we are, who we can really be, what our possibilities might be, and about how we learn, which is fascinating. If we could maintain that plasticity of mind that allows us to learn the language or languages that are around us when we are up to the age of three or so, mathematics, all those things. If our learning abilities as thinking mammals could be truly understood, enhanced, or just used as they are now, with a good scientific education system, what might we become?”