Interview with Jean-Pierre Weill

The Well of Being: a children's book for adults is an illustrated inquiry into the pursuit of happiness, and what it means to be radically alive in our daily moments. This adult picture book takes its reader on a quest for well‐being and self‐acceptance, following the story of a wondering everyman. The projective tale summons the reader’s inner child as a complimentary vehicle to drive the plot through bold reflection and earnest doubt. Assisted by cosmic perspective, the faceless protagonist sets out to retrieve the deep self-comfort and inner wellness lost along life's way.

1. The Well of Being crosses several genres. Which genres do you think
it belongs?
The genre issue has been a puzzle, not just for me, but for a number of bookstore
managers. On which shelf does it fit - in with the “Self Help” section, or with “Mind, Body, Spirit” or “Philosophy” or “Poetry” or “Children’s Books” or “Art Books” section of the store? I don’t wish to suggest an answer, as I do delight in the problem it poses.  I like to think that the genre my book points to is unique, shared with a  tiny pool of other orphaned books.  I hope that its readers will associate it with books like “The Giving Tree” (by Shel Silverstein) which defies categorization yet is evocative in its simplicity and message. 

2. Explain self transcendence.
Let me first explain what is meant by “transcendence”, then I can explain “self-transcendence”. Transcendence is a fancy word, but conceptually, it’s simple to understand.  Consider an individual atom - it is there, being itself, doing whatever it is an atom does – a fuzzy electron spinning around its nucleus.. At a “higher” level, a “transcending” level, that same atom may be part of a molecule, which orchestrates many individual atoms joining together. The molecule participates in the world at a deeper, richer level than the atoms that comprise it. The molecule transcends its constituent atoms, becoming more than the mere sum of its parts. And so on. The molecule participates with other molecules to form a single cell. The cell, too, operates at a deeper or richer, more transcendent level than its molecular components. The cell is part of an organ, say, which transcends it’s cells. The organ is transcended by the organism that is made up of a network of organs. It is “deeper” more transcendent than its components organs. Transcendence exists everywhere and in all things.
Self-transcendence follows the same pattern. Thoughts  are like individual droplets which belong to a stream of consciousness upon which we drift.  We float along the stream of our thoughts. On occasion, we step out of our thoughts to become aware of our thinking. Instead of having the thoughts, we make the thoughts into objects of our own awareness.  We notice them as though from outside, from above.  The awareness that I am the thinker of my thoughts and the feeler of my emotions is an awakening of sorts. This is what I mean when I refer to self- transcendence.

3. You're an artist as well as a writer. How has art influenced your writing?
While developing my book I considered carefully what it means to have the images and text  work together. I wanted to match them, a shared texture between the words and the images: laconic, open, uncluttered, layered, resonant, jokey, intimate, and modest. For me they tether each other preventing what might otherwise be esoteric and bring each other back down to earth.

4. Which authors have inspired you?
I have spent much time with classic books, with the old-fashioned Western canon.  In the last decade, I have found interest in the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber, especially, and those around him.  Philip Roth is my favorite author. Saul Steinberg has been a great inspiration and influence.

5. What is one thing you'd like readers to take away from your book?
I’d like readers to take away a desire to sit down and share some time and the book with a loved one.  I’d like them to then to then laugh along with some of the book’s insights.