• Danny Thomas

Secrets revealed - Proust's questions Numbers 9-14

Here's my third installment of answers to Proust's Questionnaire. It has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering a series of 35 questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. I'll add these thought-provoking questions and my answers in a series of blog posts and hope you'll join me here often for more news about me and my work.

9---On what occasion do you lie?

When telling the truth will make things far worse. When time is short, and taking the time to explain the entire context of the dilemma being faced is not an option, and events could run out too rapidly so that in the meantime someone might harm herself/himself…that’s when it’s all right to lie by omission. If you can think fast enough and well enough to save someone, that seems acceptable to me. It’s not fair if the someone saved is yourself.

But it occurs to me that the reverse is also true: let me explain. When I was a school administrator, there were times when an adult or student would begin a conversation with me by saying, “I’m going to tell you something very important, but you’ve got to promise not to tell anybody else.” My standard reply was to explain, “My job makes me responsible for dealing with desperate situations when people might somehow be injured or worse, so you need to understand that I will not divulge what you’re about to tell me for a frivolous or gossiping motive, but that I am required to inform appropriate officials if there is a chance that you or someone else might be hurt. Do you still want to talk with me?” To my knowledge, I never had anyone decide not to divulge their problem to me, and usually that person was greatly relieved that we were able to resolve her/his dilemma.

10---What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My head is oddly shaped. I’d like to take a trowel and some magical substance, wet and pliable, to cover my imperfect cranium to smooth it out, round it off a little bit. Oh, and I’d add some hair.

11---Which living person do you most despise?

Some particularly arrogant public figures on the national scene deserve a full share of derision. The vast majority of these persons are politicians or celebrities. Some are both. Trump is the elephant in the room, the obvious name that comes to mind. I believe he’s fundamentally reckless and self-absorbed, and to top it all off, he’s also a political novice. Sometimes he’s an awkward outsider, a brash disrupter who has trouble showing sympathy for others. I expect that, like all of us, he will get what he deserves, and future historians will do a better job of analyzing the Trumpian whirlwind than we’re doing now.

I cannot abide anyone mocking others, using ugly, unflattering names. That isn’t a Republican virtue; neither is it Democratic. I’ve seen it on late night television, and those broadcast comics are as wrong as he is when they mock him. It has taken great restraint to keep myself from calling him vile names, sinking into the gutter with him.

I remind myself that each election in this democracy of ours is a referendum on whoever’s in charge. And it is natural to have an ebb and flow between the conservatives and the progressives. In 2016 just enough voters in precisely the right states voted to bring about major change, and their wish came true. His language, mean-spirited and hurtful, has let him bond with many blue collar, older, non-college graduates who feel he speaks for them as no one else ever has. His tenure is their turn at being in control, but will they will vote in 2020 to continue his brand of change? We shall see about that.

12---What quality do you like most in a man?

Honesty and humility. And I believe that I admire athletes because participating on the playing field illustrates the fundamentals of one’s character and skill, whether the individual is a youngster just learning basic skills required to win or a veteran leading teammates by example or a coach instructing players about devoting oneself to the team’s goals. That’s where the humility comes in.

13---What quality do you most like in a woman?

I’m not sure there ought to be a distinction between what I admire in men and women, but there probably is for my generation. I prefer a woman who’s willing to engage in conversation without reading more into my words than I put there. I suppose that means I like a good listener.

14---Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Hopefully.” That word comes to mind because I have a habit of using it incorrectly…as in, “Hopefully, they’ll do better next time.” How do I know what they hope?

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