Episode 22: With Professor Jenn (From Teenage Rebellion to Philosophy PhD, Motherhood and Beyond)


Meet Jenn, a Philosophy Professor at University of San Francisco and San Quentin Prison.

“I like to give my students responsibility.”

Jenn has two children: ages 22 and 17.


Empty Nests

Jenn looks forward to her children venturing out into the world.

Jenn’s parents divorced when she was young and then remarried and had stable partners. She lived with her mom and was incredibly close with her. She grew up with her mom, step-father and two older brothers.

She was born in Detroit, then moved with family to Sacramento at age 10.


Sacramento has Trees

Jenn got into punk rock in high school in the early 80s.

One band that has survived for her: X

“I used to listen to Dead Kennedys, DOA. I was drawn to it politically and…the wildness. My best friend and I organized a show, “Punks for Peace.”


Arriving at UC-Santa Cruz

“I loved Kant. I wanted to study abroad, and had to declare a major.”

Philosophy it was. Jenn lived in a tiny town in Wales for a year and at one point, found herself in a field with many sheep as the rain came down.


Abroad: A Moment With the Sheep

“One day early on, I was feeling kind of mopey. I went for a walk in the field and it was raining. I ended up in a field with all these sheep. We kind of stood together, staring at each other in the rain. It was an experience I never could have had otherwise.”

Schopenhauer describes it. Jenn says she’s terrible at being in the moment, but realizes she’s thinking about it in terms of attempting to practice mindfulness. She has moments of clarity with the present like the one with the sheep.

Animals learn death first at the moment of death;…man approaches death with the knowledge it is closer every hour, and this creates a feeling of uncertainty over his life, even for him who forgets in the business of life that annihilation is awaiting him. It is for this reason chiefly that we have philosophy and religion.

Jonah mentions The Super Furry Animals — a band which is his reference point for the Welsh language. “Dacw Hi” Super Furry Animals


On Zoom — strange intimacy and focus.

Finding My People — In New York, Jenn felt connected to the way people operated — openly political and

Jenn’s husband Jason played music with the band Clem Snide. Jenn’s son, Eli was on stage — Jenn gives context to the memory.


Living: Old Houses Fall Apart


Cats and the Roomba


Philosophy: Undergraduate thesis on Wittgenstein


Decline of Humanities Majors Since 2010


Labor: Who Does Society Value?


Change: Incremental Versus Instant


Social Media and Sharing

“When Facebook first came along and all the people in my generation were reconnecting and thought it was so cool, I told them, “I’m in touch with all the people I want to be in touch with. I felt very suspicious of it. I felt there was an invasiveness about it. I didn’t like how it commanded people’s attention.”

I’m a big fan of not over-sharing. I like the idea that not everything is for everybody. Some of it for me is about control.

Rate My Professor

Non-Religious Jews

Jenn’s advice, via twenty years ago from Eli’s then-90 year-old pediatrician:

“I’m sure he’ll work it out by college.”


Thanks as always to Bill Frissell for providing guitar interludes “Wildwood Flower/Poem for Eva”

Thanks for listening and remember, this is temporary.

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Jonah Hall makes Jonah Asks, a podcast about being human. Conversation-interviews with friends and friends of friends about how to live on Earth in 2020.