The “Proust Questionnaire”

In 1890, French writer Marcel Proust answered these 30 questions in his friend Antoinette’s English-language confession album entitled “An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc.” Vanity Fair has used similar lists of questions as interview material. Some of these require a bit of thought to answer honestly. Fiction writers might find it helpful to interrogate characters with them. How would you answer for yourself?

At the risk of revealing too much, and because the longer I live the less I give a damn, here are my own answers:

1.    What is your greatest fear?
To be forgotten. I’ve had bouts with loneliness over the years, and what always got me through them was knowing someone was thinking of me, waiting for me. To be alone without that hope would be hell.

2.    What is your current state of mind?
Optimistic discontent. Things aren’t exactly as I would like, but I have reason to believe my happiest years are yet to come.

3.    What is your favorite occupation?(way of spending time)
Exploring a new place with someone I love. I like to hike, go to museums, climb things, ride bicycles, and I like these things best when I can share them. Shared experiences accumulate into the solid foundations of relationships.

4.    What historical figure do you most identify with?
Alcibiades. He was a brilliant young general who gave everything he had to the glory of the Athenian Empire, but he was young and full of himself. He was selfish and partied too hard, and it cost him. But he was a resourceful bastard and lived by his wits for a long time. Eventually, the Spartans — people knew how to hold a grudge — convinced the Persians to murder Alcibiades. He went down fighting, in a hail of arrows. History isn’t kind to Alcibiades, and for good reason, but he never gave up.

5.    Which living person do you most admire?
Malala Yousafzai

6.    Who is your favorite fictional hero?

7.    Who are your real-life heroes?
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Louis Leakey
Neil Armstrong
Ernest Hemingway
Diana Nyad
Jacques Cousteau
Amelia Earhart
Jane Goodall

8.    What is your most treasured possession?
A healthy mind and body. Second to that is my 2008 Martin HD-35 guitar.

9.    When and where were you happiest?
Today, right here–knowing what I know and hoping for better things in the future.

10.    What is your most obvious characteristic?

11.    What is the trait you most deplore (hate) in yourself?

12.    What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Hate induced by ignorance and fear.

13.    What is your greatest extravagance?
Eating and drinking well.

14.    What is your favorite journey?
One on which I see and learn something new, and that ends with the beginning of another journey.

15.    What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My teeth and aging skin.

16.    What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?
Physical beauty.

17.    On what occasion do you lie?
To avoid hurting someone, though I know this only makes it worse in the end.

18.    Which words or phrases do you most over-use?
“I’m sorry.”

19.    If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d eliminate my need for sleep.

20.    What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising 2 sons. (in progress)

21.    Where would you like to live?
Between the mountains and the sea, or anywhere with the person who is my true home.

22.    What is the quality you most admire in a man?
Compassion for others, especially those not like himself.

23.    What is the quality you most admire in a woman?
Courage to be herself in spite of what our culture expects.

24.    What is it you most dislike?
Bigotry. Fascism.Willful ignorance.

25.    What do you value most in your friends?
An active presence in my life, loyalty, and dependability.

26.    How would you like to die?
If not saving another’s life, then in bed holding on to the hand of someone who loves me.

27.    If you were to die and come back as a person or an animal, what do you think it would be?
A tree growing over my grave, a squirrel living in that tree, or a goat grazing on the cemetery grass.

28.    If you could choose an object to come back as, what would you choose?
An interstellar comet!

29.    What is your motto (words you live by or that mean a lot to you)?
Love more. Seek beauty. Find meaning. Work hard.

30.    Who has been the greatest influence on you?
The image of the person I wish to become.


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