The Proust Questionnaire

polar bearEach month Vanity Fair asks a celebrity the answer to a series of questions that Marcel Proust initially answered, twice, seven years apart, to measure how he had changed in the interim. After seeing several bloggers do so, I thought I would have a go at answering the questions, now, and will do so again, situation permitting, in 2015. Feel free to post your answers and/or trackback here.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Realizing my intentions.

2. What is your greatest fear?
That human folly will soon end our civilization, and that it will be a ghastly demise. Or to be endlessly suffering or demented or helpless and not be able to end my life, or to be asked to look after someone else in that same situation.

3. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
None. I don’t believe in individual heroes.

4. Which living person do you most admire?
My father.

5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Anger, impatience, immaturity, lack of perseverance. I should be made to wear earphones.

6. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Cruelty, unfairness, dishonesty, arrogance, backstabbing (and other indirect and cowardly attacks on people) and taking pleasure from others’Äô misery.

7. What is your greatest extravagance?
My footprint: Still owning stuff, and using stuff that isn’t fully reusable.

8. What is your favourite journey?
A walk in a wild place with no destination or schedule.

9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Fidelity, especially in the face of mistreatment.

10. On what occasion do you lie?
On very rare occasions when the truth will hurt someone deeply, and there is no chance of that truth coming out in some other way.

11. What do you dislike most about your appearance?
My face. For some reason it doesn’t convey who I am, which is problematic.

12. Which living person do you most despise?
Every person in the world with great wealth or power. The fact that they choose to keep either, and haven’t given it away, is absolutely deplorable.

13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
All superlatives. I’m extremely bad at this.

14. What is your greatest regret?
The pain I’ve caused to others.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Gaia: All-life-on-Earth.

16. Which talent would you most like to have?
Better conversation skills — listening, eliciting, paying attention. And living in the moment, in Now Time.

17. What is your current state of mind?
Troubled. Not sure why. Also happy, serene. For some reason this is not a contradiction.

18. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
I wouldn’t presume to change them or their situation. It’s not my business.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My writing. Some of it, anyway. And the helpful ideas and advice I’ve given to a few people.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
“When I die, make sure I’m gone, don’t leave ’em nothing to work on.” Nothing.

21. If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
Don’t want to come back. Would have liked to have been born in 2200. Or to have been born a bird, free. Too late for that now. Or too early.

22. What is your most treasured possession?
My writing, my memories, and my health.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The Noonday Demon. If you’ve never been there you can’t know. I’ve had kidney stones, and they don’t begin to compare.

24. Where would you like to live?
In a natural, sustainable intentional community with people and creatures I love.

25. What is your favorite occupation?
Doing this. The joy and curse of being a generalist.

26. What is your most marked characteristic?
The ability to imagine possibilities that others can’t.

27. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Deep capacity for love, passion, sense of purpose, trustworthiness, emotional strength, sensitivity/openness/perceptiveness, good instincts, self-sufficiency, honesty, intelligence/critical thinking ability, curiosity, imagination, creativity, responsibility, expressiveness, flexibility, and tolerance. I don’t ask much. We are born with all these things.

28. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Same as #27.

29. What do you most value in your friends?
Things we’ve collaborated on.

30. Who are your favorite writers?
Frederick Barthelme (fiction). TS Eliot (poetry). This bunch (non-fiction).

31. Who is your favorite hero/heroine of fiction?
The middle-aged guy in Frederick Barthelme’e novel Natural Selection. The salmon in Neil Young’s song Will to Live.

32. Who are your heroines/heroes in real life?
Same answer as #3.

33. What are your favorite names?
Male: Spence; Female: Mireille. Just like the sound of them.

34. What is it that you most dislike?

35. How would you like to die?
Quickly and painlessly, in a way that causes the least grief possible to others and leaves my organs usable by others.

36. What is your motto?
We do what we must, then we do what’s easy, and then we do what’s fun — there is no time left for what is merely important. And: Things are the way they are for a reason — if you want to change them, first understand what that reason is. And a few more.

This entry was posted in Our Culture / Ourselves. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Proust Questionnaire

  1. Steve Bean says:

    Dave, I just finished Loving What Is, by Byron Katie. Since I don’t see her mentioned anywhere on your site I highly recommend that you read it–immediately. (The only other book I would have said that about would have been Ishmael, so maybe that’ll give you some sense of its perspective-shifting value.) You can also check out the Work at you might do Proust’s list again and see how much you’ve changed. :-)My wife and I are separated for two months (her desire, not mine), and I now (after reading the book) find myself laughing out loud as I go about my day alone in our house. I love reality.Steve

Comments are closed.