I was sitting here minding my own business enjoying my time off from my Physical Therapist Assistant training when I came across these questions posed by a French woman to her 14 year old nephew, who just happened to be Marcel Proust. He took the time to answer them in a serious and thoughtful manner and continued to explore the nature of his thought and being throughout his life. So I thought maybe I should take a shot at answering them in a serious and thoughtful manner and see what happens with the rest of my life. It is amazing to me that a woman in France, writing in French almost 150 years ago and having no concept of what my life is like, can ask me questions that make sense to me and I can answer with the help of translation into English. It is the magic time travel bridge of written language and being human that connects us. I wonder if she would understand my answers if they were translated into French.
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I would like to live in a community where people strive to understand each other and share their talents and gifts to make the community stronger and more interesting. I would like to live in a place of natural beauty where there are opportunities and spaces for peaceful thought.
- What is your greatest fear?
I fear that I will never be understood deeply or understand myself and my motivations and anxieties, that I will live in this darkness forever.
- What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I most deplore my fear of trust. I am constantly anxious about how people perceive and will potentially react to me. I miss so much of life and am drained by social interactions when I should be energized. I find the situation for the most part intolerable and struggle in solitude when I feel I should be able to share my ideas and gifts, I can only focus on how people will receive them.
- What is the trait you most deplore in others?
I feel most people have no imagination, and live their lives in slavery to the ideas of small minded people who dictate popular culture because somebody somewhere wants to sell something that nobody needs or even wants, if they paused to think about what they want from their lives.
- Which living person do you most admire?
I admire anyone who can bring enlightenment, a true feeling of peace and joy, to others. The Dalai Lama is a good example.
- What is your greatest extravagance?
The amount of time I spend alone. I think it costs me dearly.
- What is your current state of mind?
I am half in shadow all the time, but I feel the light penetrating. I have a feeling that soon I will come out into a sunny place and stay there. I have hope even in this amidst this frantic struggle to keep my head out of the rising waters. I can see a distant shadow of land. I will make it there eventually.
- What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
The idea of being self-made. I think it is always false to believe that you have arrived anywhere without the sacrifice and intervention of others or the world. We are interdependent beings. We cannot live outside the system of mutual cooperation that is human life and life on earth. I think it is the most destructive idea on our planet.
- On what occasion do you lie?
I try very hard to say things in a way that will be helpful to others, and sometimes I have to be creative with words. But I am not sure this is lying. I think I lie to myself all the time justifying my motivations when I am being selfish or lazy. I lie to when it benefits me. When I am looking for another job and have to go to an interview, I will call in sick rather than tell my boss I am looking for another job. In practical situations that call for diplomacy there are always half-truths as when I am talking to a parent about their child I can’t always be completely honest about my feelings. It would not help the situation or be of value to confront the whole truth right away. I usually try very hard to get to the whole truth eventually.
- What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I dislike that I have a broken front tooth. I think that people respond to irregularities in smiles either with pity or discomfort. That makes me feel uncomfortable when I meet people for the first time.
- Which living person do you most despise?
I have the hardest time with people who think they are superior to others in any way. The hardest for me are people, who because they want to be wealthy or feel justified by the need for personal security, are willing to destroy the earth and people’s lives. I have a hard time feeling compassion for these people, though I know there are human reasons for behaving this way.
- What is the quality you most like in a man?
My relationships with men are different than my relationships with most women, because I am sexually attracted to women, but overall I look for people who are kind and imaginative and are able to show some interest in people and the world that takes them out of the small personal bubble in which most people live their lives.
- What is the quality you most like in a woman?
There is a quality of energy and shape that is hard to define that I find attractive in a woman. I like woman who have substance both bodily and in personality, women who exist for themselves as well as being compassionate toward others. Mostly I find women that can care about me as well as themselves and who let me care about them attractive. But for the most part I like people who are trying their best to understand as much as they possibly can about being alive and living with others.