The Proust Questionnaire Part 1
The Proust Questionnaire was popularized by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering the questions, an individual provides an insight into his or her true nature. Whether that is true is debatable, but I do find the internets fondness for Q&A sessions, curiously fascinating. And as this very questionnaire has been recently resurrected by Vanity Fair magazine and has also been utilised on the Ricky Gervais is Deadly Sirius podcast, I though I’d jump on the same bandwagon, as I’m behind in my writing and this is an easy post. As there are thirty-five questions, I thought I’d tackle them over two days. So, without further ado, here are my considered and measured thought on the first seventeen.
1). What is your idea of perfect happiness? I find that I am at my happiest when I am in a tranquil environment. Noise, crowds and any place or activity that has the potential to generate anger of bellicose behaviour are the bane of modern-day life. Give me a quiet, calming location, that is warm and pleasant, and I quickly feel relaxed and thereby better disposed to others. Populate such a place with those who I care about and whose company I enjoy, and it becomes even better. Adding Gin, Pimm’s or a quality red wine doesn’t do any harm either.
2). What is your greatest fear? Putting aside pain which I think is a red herring when tackling this question, for me my greatest fear is losing the capacity to think, reason and martial my thoughts. Senility, Alzheimer's disease and generally any form of mental decay terrify me. These are cruel conditions both for those who suffer from them and their families. To be afflicted in such a way and to slip into a mental decline, only to have occasional moment of lucidity, sends my blood cold.
3). What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? If I make someone a promise, then I’ll keep it. If I take onboard a project that involves others, I will do my part because I have an obligation that I need to honour. Yet, I don’t always maintain this standard if the only person involved is myself. I’ll let things slide if I’m the only one affected.
4). What is the trait you most deplore in others? I’m tempted to say existing in the first place, but that is a little misanthropic. So, on reflection I’ll go with wilful ignorance. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something. I am poor at languages and there are lots of gaps in my academic knowledge. But if something comes to my attention that I don’t know about, I’ll research it. We live in an age where it has never been so easy to look something up. Yet so many people choose not to. And others even appear to revel in their ignorance. Thinking means having to read, analyse, consider and then make a decision. All things that many do not want to do at present. Every day is a chance at self-improvement, why choose to do the opposite?
5). Which living person do you most admire? This is a tough question. It’s hard to single out just one man or woman, because there are many who worthy of praise. So here are a few just off the top of my head in no order of preference. Ennio Morricone, because his music profoundly moves me, and he bring beauty into a dark world. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, not so much because of his politics, but mainly because of his dedication. He fights for what is just possibly at the expense of his own happiness. I couldn’t do that. The world needs people like this. I may even go so far as also citing Queen Elizabeth II. I’m not a major royalist but I think she is a unique individual. One that really has spent her life serving the nation. The wealth is a merely a trapping. She is about duty to the country. And man, she has had to put up with some appalling visiting heads of state over the years, on top of a never-ending succession of utterly shite Prime Ministers.
6). What is your greatest extravagance? A signed picture of Peter Cushing. Cost a fortune. But it’s the Cushmeister. Say no more.
7). What is your current state of mind? Relaxed. I have arranged to take a brief 36-hour respite from my caring duties. I have tinkered with my PC today, eaten far too many Pork Loins and am now on the Guinness. The world is nicely on the other side of the front door and I’m listening to Anthony Newley. A cold caller phoned earlier by I told them to fuck right off. Take pleasure in the simple things, I say.
8). What do you consider the most overrated virtue? I believe this refers to the twelve virtues attributed to Aristotle, rather than those found in the MMO The Lord of the Rings Online. All of those classical virtues were fairly sound, so I don’t feel the need to pick on one. Using a more contemporary yardstick, being humble is considered a virtuous thing to be. Sadly, it often manifests itself in the form of the humble brag, which is quite the opposite. Plus, virtues are a poison chalice these days. Make a principled stand and you’ll be accused of virtue signalling, which is a pejoratives term.
9). On what occasion do you lie? I like any other human being living in western civilisation, skirt around the truth, make factually incorrect statements and lie by omission on a daily basis. You cannot have a society that runs smoothly if everyone was 100% truthful all the time. Emotions and the truth are a bit like oil and water. So, lying has become a fundamental part of human interaction, although it is governed by a lot of rules. For example, it is okay to lie to children. “There is a Santa Claus”. “Oh, that’s a lovely picture”. And my personal favourite, “you can be anything you want to be”. As an adult we also lie as a social nicety. “No, of course you don’t look like a sack of shit tied up in the middle with a dead tape worm” etc. But there are lines in the societal sand. Lying in grown-up situations around issues of relationships, arson, murder and cannibalism are definite non-starters.
10). What do you most dislike about your appearance? At the age of nearly fifty-one I am beginning to lose that bloom of youth and my saturnine good looks are slowly fading. Plus, I’m not too keen on my eyes. It’s not the colour that concerns me but that old adage about the eyes being the windows of the soul. The realities of the modern world and the fact that life is mostly a bleak and futile experience, akin to picking at a scab, is reflected in my brown eyes. This frequently causes people to recoil and pets to defecate in flowerbeds. It’s not a good look for family photos either.
11). Which living person do you most despise? I don’t think it is healthy or wise to be consumed with abject hate for a person or thing. You can righteously disdain an individual or a course of action, but it helps if you maintain a sense of proportion. That said, there is no shortage of odious lickspittles and shit chiselling fuck monkeys in our world today. They are usually self obsessed, thin skinned, ignorant and devoid of empathy. It’s hard not to want to stove in their skull with a tent mallet. If you asked me this question when I was nine, I would have said Colin Robertson, without missing a beat, as he broke my eagle eye Action Man on purpose. The git.
12). What is the quality you most like in a man? A well developed and nuanced sense of humour. I like raconteurs and people who view the absurdities of the world through the prism of wit. I find that humour helps me no end, especially in my duties as a carer to two elderly people. If I didn’t laugh at what I encounter every day, I weep uncontrollably. I also like people who don’t try and dodge buying a round of drinks when it’s their turn.
13). What is the quality you most like in a woman? Why should this be any different to the quality I most like in men? Unless we’re going down the road of sexual qualities, to which I say keep your nose out of my peccadilloes (not to be confused with hands of my Armadillo). I guess this is just a legacy question from an age when the cultural divide between the sexes was more pronounced and entrenched.
14). Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Nebulous”, on “mature reflection” and “go piss up a rope, fuck stick”. I am also obsessed with obscure pop culture references, usually taken from my most formative years. Therefore, I’ll frequently drivel on about stuff from seventies and eighties TV, music and movies. For example, I often plagiarise a line from a classic Derek and Clive sketch, regarding “a bird on Mrs Coltart’s roof”.
15). What or who is the greatest love of your life? Mrs P, obviously. If we’re talking about “love” in so far as a passion for an activity, then it is writing and maybe podcasting. There was a about a three-year period when Contains Moderate Peril got a little traction and writing every day was a joy and recording the weekly podcast with Brian and guests was an absolute hoot. Good times.
16). When and where were you happiest? This question implies that I have some how peaked in the happiness stakes and that it’s now just a slow and painful decline into misery and despair, while listening to Lacrimosa by Zbigniew Preisner really loudly. Fuck this question. I live in the moment and there has been happiness throughout my life, as there will be in the years to come. That said, my granddaughters really make me happy as they are so young, loving and unspoilt by life.
17). Which talent would you most like to have? I’d like to be able to play the Baliset like Gurney Halleck.
To be continued.