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The Proust Questionnaire

The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

This is a state I encounter fairly frequently. Being inside a comfortable home in the mountains, in the west, with an incredible view, with Stephanie and my children near, a cool breeze wafting through open windows or maybe a screen porch. Relaxed, quiet, content, at peace, in the early part of the day with time stretching out lazily before me, creamy strong coffee in hand, reading, with a nap in the near future.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Cancer.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What I now recognize as perfectionist tendencies often cripple me with fear. I cope by procrastinating large and intimidating projects until the last minute, or even until the last minute has passed. And I constantly misplace my keys, wallet and glasses.  

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Willful ignorance. That, and aesthetic tastes that tend toward the sentimental, cheesy, sappy, and clichéd.

5. Which living person do you most admire?

Shane Claiborne, Steve Martin, Bill Gates.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

The occasional bottle of premium distilled spirits, and credit card purchases.

7. What is your current state of mind?

On the whole, I am incredibly happy. Right lately, I’ve been experiencing some low grade anger and having a hard time getting beyond it.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

It’s really hard to consider any one virtue and disparage it.

9. On what occasion do you lie?

Rarely. Honestly.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

The presence of acne, even as my hair grays and recedes. One or the other I can accept as my lot in life, but having both seems unfair.

11. Which living person do you most despise?

I keep coming back to this question, searching my mind, and I can’t think of one. The one or two who come close to evoking that emotion in me only manage to garner my pity.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?

Confidence, charisma, education, gentleness, accomplishment.

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Friendliness, openness, kindness, independence, and a sense of adventure

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“beautiful,” “significant,” “amazing,” “in addition.”

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Stephanie is without question the love of my life, my companion of choice, my partner in all things.

16. When and where were you happiest?

Driving with Stephanie from Texas to Alaska.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?

The ability to write books that are both current best sellers and critically accepted and immediately adopted into the canon of western literature. A man can dream.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would have a supernatural ability to find all lost things; I would love other people more, and be more outgoing and engaging with other people; I would be better at making and nurturing friendships. That’s three things.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

In the grand scheme of things, this may not be that significant, but one accomplish I am very proud of is moving all of our things by boat, up through the most difficult, shallow, and braided section of the Yukon River from Fort Yukon to Circle when we made that move. It took half a dozen trips through stark wilderness, and it was way outside of my skills, knowledge, and comfort zone, but I did it.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

My life and my family are things I would never trade for another kind of life, but if I had another whole life to live, I would remain single and devoted to the kind of ministry in the manner of Jesus that the responsibility to a family precludes.

21. Where would you most like to live?

Right where I am living now: Alaska.

22. What is your most treasured possession?

My laptop computer, stowed inside my backpack (along with wallet, keys, a notebook and pens, a current book and sundry other papers), is the one thing that goes with me pretty much everywhere. If I had to run for my life, the backpack with my laptop is what I would grab. Other than that, I have a ring my wife gave me and a cross that my mother gave to my father when they were married.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

My child being kidnapped and lost to me forever, with no knowledge of his or her fate. My wife having an affair and my inability to forgive that. Succumbing to crushing depression and not having the first idea how to get out of it. Existence apart from God.

24. What is your favorite occupation?

If I knew I could be successful at any occupation, I would without question, be a writer. I have read Steven King and Larry McMurtry describe their practice of writing, and it sounds like a great life.

25. What is your most marked characteristic?

I tend towards extremes – opposite ends of the spectrum, as can be seen in some of these answers.

26. What do you most value in your friends?

The ability to share time, ideas, common interests, and common values

27. Who are your favorite writers?

John Steinbeck, Sherwood Anderson, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Sherman Alexie

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

Atticus Finch and Charles Ingalls.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Thomas Jefferson and Joseph the husband of Mary.  

30. Who are your heroes in real life?

Jim Burke, Gary Whiteley, Steven King.

31. What are your favorite names?

Tobias Wolf, Steven King, Adam West, Wes Anderson, John David King, Shade, Ring, Steele (those last three are baby names my wife vetoed)

32. What is it that you most dislike?

Popular country music; too much noise too early in the day

33. What is your greatest regret?

Missed opportunities to learn. If I could do it all again, I would’ve got my teaching certificate while at HSU, learned Greek at the highest level possible while at HSU, and done better and learned more in every class I’ve ever taken. 

34. How would you like to die?

If it were today, then falling from 15,000 feet. It would be minutes of exhilaration followed by a flash of oblivion. Either that or slipping off peacefully in that sleep that comes after great sex, after a vigorous 110+ years of life. 

35. What is your motto?

A quote from Annie Dillard: “How you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life.” 

Posted on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 10:35PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | Comments2 Comments

Reader Comments (2)

Wow, great questions! Very compelling. And, I'm flattered that our boy's name is among your favorite, even if it is a different JDK. Still a good name, if I do so say myself!
December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel King
Thanks for sharing. The answers described you to a tee, and no need to worry about cancer. I caught one and am living it out as if I don't have it. When the Lord see's fit to take me, then so be it. My greatest fear is dying a prolonged death, being a burden to my family in endless ways, and my family falling apart because of jealousy and greed. I don't see the latter as being likely though. I have been blessed with a great family.
December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDad

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