Robert (Bro. Pepper-spray of Reasoned Discussion) (montecristo) wrote,
Robert (Bro. Pepper-spray of Reasoned Discussion)

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Be careful of that for which you ask!

Sometime ago, on her page, the thoughtful and intrepid emmabovary did that perennial celebrity interview meme. When it came time to ask people if she would interview them, she was understandably inundated with requests from those eager to hear what she would ask them. I myself was very curious about what this nimble intellect would come up with in asking questions of me. In the end, in order to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome from typing, she has resorted to an interesting "form interview" called "The Proust Questionnaire," which she has graciously answered first. My own answers follow below. Whew, but this darned thing was an exercise and a half in thinking. Be careful of that for which you ask!

  1. Which living person do you most admire?

    That's a difficult question. I don't tend to think in terms of superlatives when it comes to people I admire. I admire different people for different characteristics which are values. I admired my grandmother for her ability to live life on her terms, but she died in April -- does that count? I admire emmabovary for her unflappability and the ease with which she makes those in her company feel comfortable. I have another friend whom I admire for her beautiful sense of life and her balancing sensibility. I admire various other people for other various things like courage, creativity, productiveness, etc. The problem with a question like this is that if you have identified qualities and characteristics in people that you admire then it becomes hard to identify one single individual as the epitome of that characteristic -- you find one or more admirable characteristics in almost anyone, if you look hard enough.

  2. What is your greatest fear?

    For anyone, the greatest fear is that one which, under the current circumstances, has the greatest probability of becoming a reality, moderated by the severity of its expected consequences. Absent this evaluation criteria, the question becomes: "Over what worry, irrational or otherwise, do you obsess most?" I suppose that the idea of having no value to pursue, or no interest or ability to pursue the things I value bothers me. I think it would bother me greatly to have the kind of debilitating, degenerative condition where one's focus is captured entirely by the task of accepting the inevitable. Like Captain Kirk (to be a geeky Trekker for a moment) I don't very much believe in the unwinable scenario -- I may not always win, but I like to believe that it is possible. I don't like confronting situations where I fear that this may not be true.

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

    I have always found my discipline level to be problematical. Sometimes I am bedeviled by indecisiveness. I often jump to conclusions and rush to judgment when I should have spent more time in reflection and consideration.

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

    I deplore "poisoned premises"

    • Hopelessness, helplessness, and despair

    • Evasion of responsibility and scapegoating

    • Malicious envy

    • Militant and evangelical cynicism

    • Spiteful pettiness

    • Predatory human relations

    • Bureaucratic behavior with pompous intent

    • Imperious and preemptory attempts to mind the business of others

    • Overweening boorishness

    • Bullying

  5. What is your greatest extravagance?

    I find this a difficult concept. Prolificacy to the point of self-injury is deplorable. On the other hand, reveling in one's values and the things that make you happy is not extravagance in the sense of being ill-advised or counter-productive. I'm big on creature comforts and pleasing those whom I care about, even if I'm not always brilliant at the latter trick -- I believe that it's worth effort! I love to indulge myself and those I care about. Life itself is to be enjoyed. Our pleasures may be simple or complex, but they should be indulged when it is not self-destructive to do so.

  6. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

    That would be hard to say.

    • Piety

    • Humility

    • Selflessness

    • Self-sacrifice

  7. I think those are subject to the most misunderstanding and abuse, if they should even be considered "virtues" at all.

  8. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

    Heh. I could stand to lose some weight! I could also use a bit more muscle too. It's been awhile since I've seen the inside of a gym, and it shows, unfortunately.

  9. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

    If a word or phrase is appropriate it is not overused, no matter how often it is used. I tend to say "interesting" a lot. I don't know. I guess I have favorite turns of phrase and words, but I never really thought about it before.

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

    Again with the superlatives? I cherish the people and values that I do for many different reasons and in many different ways. I would find it difficult to arrange the things I love into some sort of canonical order. I had one wife. I have one mother. I have two children -- do I love them less because there are two of them instead of one, even though each of them is unique? I suppose that it would be wonderful to have a spouse again -- someone with whom I could share almost everything about myself and who would likewise share nearly everything she is with me, but again, I don't like using superlatives like that -- as if to love one person that way precludes or supercedes other relationships with other friends and family. Every relationship is as unique as the people in it and each has it's own value. Spouse, children, family, friends, character traits, virtues, accomplishments, desires -- each of these has a certain place in one's life, and one is diminished to lose any of them. I don't really think they can be compared easily with each other in an effort to arrange them hierarchically. Obviously, I value my children, more than say my unseemly and intemperate passion for lasagna, but then, this isn't the same kind, or quality, of love is it.

  11. Which talent would you most like to have?

    That's an odd way to put that. "Like to have?" I think I'm pretty good with metaphor. I have some talent with words and some with drawing and music. I'm a pretty good engineer and I have a talent for writing software. I'm good at spotting patterns and drawing inferences. Perhaps I could use a bit more courage. That would be a good thing -- most people, including myself could use more of that. Sometimes I think it would be good to be able to better see myself as others see me, like Robert Burns said in his poem "To A Louse":

    "Oh would that God the giftie gie us,
    To see ourselves as others see us.

  12. What is your current state of mind?

    I'm usually on an even keel and in an upbeat state of mind. I'm usually pretty happy to be myself, (and some have hinted to me that this is complacency). Right now I'd say that I'm enjoying life. Stuff is really in transition for me lately, and that presents certain problems, but I'm enjoying the ride, for the most part. I'm reasonably happy with the course I have set. I think that is one of the secrets of happiness, to be responsible for one's own course.

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

    Oh, I suppose I have bad habits of abruptness, arrogance, condescension, a habit of rushing to judgment. These are things I work on. I tend to be attracted to people who, just by being who and what they are, tend to help me moderate these characteristics in me by causing me to be aware of them. Heh, it's hard to explain, but there are some people around whom your bad habits just kind of stand out like a sore thumb when they manifest, and so they are easier to spot and correct.

  14. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

    Heh. That seems very similar to asking what I would do if I could make them different people. It's kind of an exercise in futility, because one can only really change oneself. On the other hand, it reveals what we think of those close to us and upon what things we focus.

    • I wish that there were less conflict in the life of my parents, or at least that they could handle each other's idiosyncrasies and means of personal expression better than they do.

    • I wish that I could instill a little more self-confidence in my elder daughter.

    • I'd wish that my younger daughter could better see that uniqueness and having a sense of self does not imply or equate to "weirdness".

    • I often wished that my ex was not so much of a "J" personality type and that she didn't have so many invisible trip wires and electric fences and other inflexible, unstated conditionals in her personality and in her interactions with me, but that is pretty much superfluous, now.

    There's not a lot I would change about my family, really. They're good people, despite whatever faults foibles I think they may have.

  15. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

    If Robert and I pull off McGuffin, it will be hard to top that one. Lot's of people will say "being a parent," but that is easy to achieve (not to mention FUN), and the work is so rewarding that it really doesn't feel like a difficult job. I suppose that raising your children right is an amazing accomplishment in itself, but children are mostly the people into whom they make themselves with our inspiration and guidance.

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

    I really hate questions like this one. Okay, I choose a dragon! Dragons don't exist? Neither does reincarnation. See? Completely irrelevant. I am what I am and I see no need to be someone or something different. I suppose that this question could be construed to be an attempt at getting at some characteristic that would be a constant in someone, even in the face of reincarnation as a person or a thing completely different than what one is now. Given that premise, I can say that I have always loved the idea of being a discoverer, or a creator, an innovator and problem solver.

  17. What is your most treasured possession?

    There are many things that I have, which I really cherish: photographs, letters, mementos of this or that. I have a tendency to sentimentality but I tend not to get too attached to things though. I suppose I would be really really upset about losing the opal ring that the ex gave me years ago, or perhaps my computer.

  18. What is your favorite occupation?

    Everything in moderation -- even sex! My favorite occupation is whatever is bringing me enjoyment right now. If I could figure out something better to be doing right this minute instead of listening to music and answering this question, I'd be doing it. Hopefully, that will not happen before I finish this questionnaire.

  19. What is your most marked characteristic?

    Wow, that's a tough question. I have no idea what my "most marked characteristic" would be. Sometimes I have the desire to know things like this, but I generally get very little feedback from people about what I'm like, perhaps because I am so hard to read, or perhaps because other people know that I am not easily influenced by others' opinions of me. I really have a hard time figuring out how I come across to people. Once I played that "Tell Me A Song That Reminds You Of Me" meme and only two people answered. Heh heh, story of my life. Ah well. To me, I'm just me. I tend to think in gestalts.

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

    There's another one of those questions! Everyone is a unique combination of qualities and traits, and that's what makes them special. It would be difficult to focus on just one quality like it were a fetish or something. I'm attracted to smart, affectionate, passionate, creative women with a good sense of humor and an inner sense of who they are. All of those kinds of virtues and characteristics and more have to work together in a person for me to like them or be attracted to them. I couldn't pick out just one characteristic and say that if a woman had that then I would be attracted to her. I suppose that a particular good quality could conceivably be a necessary but not sufficient characteristic for me to think a certain woman is something wonderful, but I couldn't imagine one of those good qualities that I would call "the ultimate."

  21. What do you most value in your friends?

    I like people who are genuine and who can be themselves. Individuality is an admirable characteristic. I like people who challenge my expectations and those who are honest with me about what they think of me and who and what they are.

  22. Who are your favorite writers?

    Oh dear. I'm going to turn off any literary snobs reading this, but I am something of a literature gourmand. I'll read anything decent and even some things which are not, as long as it looks interesting. I am very eclectic. I like different writers for different things, and would be hard pressed to name just a few. I couldn't give an exhaustive list of the pieces I have liked, or even of the authors I have enjoyed reading. I like both fiction and non-fiction. I like fantasy and science fiction and straight drama, technical manuals, history, economics, philosophy, plays, some biography, poetry... I like reading things in general and I have literally tons of books.

    • Edgar Allen Poe, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.P. Lovecraft, Steven King, Anne Rice

    • Ernest Hemmingway

    • John Steinbeck

    • Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradburry, Roger Zelazny, Theodore Sturgeon, Edgar Rice Burroughs

    • Alexander Dumas

    • Victor Hugo

    • William Shakespeare

    • Ayn Rand

    • John Grisham (even though I don't much like some of his politics)

    • J.R.R. Tolkien

    • P.J. O'Rourke

    • Michael Crichton

    • Rudyard Kipling

    • George Orwell

    • Mark Twain

    • William Faulkner

    • Arthur Conan Doyle

  23. What is it that you most dislike?

    What an odd perspective! Do people really sit around all day thinking about the things they dislike to the point where they can say, "That one! That's the one thing I absolutely dislike the most"? That sounds like a waste of time to me. I suppose I could say that I despise collectivism of almost all stripes -- I prefer to treat people as individuals, for the most part, despite the powerful human tendency to categorize according to characteristics, some of them irrationally arbitrary. I despise the refusal to think, and to substitute "automatic answers" for critical analysis and questioning.

  24. How would you like to die?

    Oh please. I wouldn't like to do that at all, thank you very much, not ever. If it has to happen, I would prefer that it be in a manner that would allow my corpse to be frozen until science comes up with a way of reanimating me. I want to live forever, or as close to that as I can come. Heh.

  25. What is your motto?

    Ah, at last, an easy one! It's the same as the motto of the Renaissance: "Sapere aude": "Dare to know."

Tags: introspection, memes, values, who i am

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