Reveal your true nature with answers to these philosophical questions
I recently ran into a feature in Vanity Fair magazine...something called 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 thought I'd engage in answering those questions, which could prove thought-provoking not just for me, but perhaps for anyone who sees them. I'll add these 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.
1---What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A balanced life. If I distill existence to a single day, in the morning there would be chores and errands, tasks designed to fix what needs fixing, to help someone in need, to give something of myself to good causes whether they be small, family causes or larger, public ones. In the afternoon, I would be lucky somehow, producing just the right combination of words, expressing some profound truth; and, ultimately spending time with my wife, Cynthia. I love to hear her remark on how charming, handsome, and wonderful I am. If she says so, it must be true. But even if only half of all this actually happens, it would be my serendipity.
2---What is your greatest fear?
That I will settle for less than my best. And by greatest fear I mean most persistent. My interests are fairly eclectic: college football, day lilies; authors like Ann Patchett, Tom Franklin, John Sandford, Ernest Hemingway, Tony Hillerman, and Sharyn McCrumb. There would be a taste of chianti classico, brie, chocolate sheet cake, a vanilla milkshake. I can get distracted from the greater goal sometimes, just drifting along without anything to show for it. I spend too much time enjoying things, spending too little time on duty. So I could do more, I think.
3---What trait do you most deplore in yourself?
Leaving tasks unfinished. Maybe that amounts to a short attention span. Sometimes it’s because events have combined to pull me away from something just begun toward something more important, and such a shift is understandable, perhaps even commendable. But there have been times when I simply changed course on a whim, because the newer task seemed more profitable, more enjoyable, easier. That haunts me. I should think longer and strive more to complete it before choosing another task. I need to finish what I start.
4---What trait do you most deplore in others?
Reneging on promises. What bothers me most is observing someone, usually in a superior position, make a promise to a subordinate, perhaps a young child, and then break that promise. I have been incensed on several occasions when the older person even announces in advance that, “I might just take this gift back if you don’t use it properly.” My emotional reaction to that is, “Then you better keep it because, if you give me something, it’s mine. I’ll do with it whatever I please. You can’t give it away and keep it, too.”
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