The Proust Questionnaire

Seán MJ Rickard
Feb 24 · 4 min read

The Proust Questionnaire is a series of thirty-five questions regarding personality. Its name and popularity as a form of interview is owed to the responses given by the French novelist, critic and essayist Marcel Proust.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I feel like mentioning that this is my third attempt at answering this question. I’m determined not to tap that backspace button once again. I’m going to answer this question as I feel today, and refrain from outlining any historic background to this answer. I’m a 30 year-old now, I feel I am now me. That’ll do.

In recent years, I’ve found myself flirting with Buddhism. I’m attracted to its genuineness and rejection of the ego. Unlike other philosophies (religions included, which I refuse to describe Buddhism as), its core benefits are sourced internally rather than externally. In fact, a belief in god is not explicitly required to be a Buddhist.

I am not a Buddhist, but for me, this internal quality defines happiness for me. The possession itself of an ability to find peace and contentedness within oneself, to exist as a sovereign state of tranquility, for me is my idea of perfect happiness.

Knowing where happiness can’t be found is half the battle. When you stop looking, you’ll discover that there was no battle.

What is your greatest fear?

Fear itself.

Thinking about fear can become very scary, it can pull you into a black hole of brutally logical thinking. There is no purpose to life. I’m not trying to be morose — it is an undeniable truth. That truth doesn’t need to have any power however, if we don’t let it.

Fear is where that truth derives its power. Which is very scary.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I am stubborn. Let’s leave it at that.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

My first instinct was to say vanity, but I know vanity to be a psychological defence mechanism. Then I realised that that ain’t my problem and that others don’t necessarily deserve my understanding. So I revert back to vanity.

Which living person do you most admire?

My girlfriend Rebecca.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My interest in music.

What is your current state of mind?

Inspired.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Loyalty.

On what occasion do you lie?

That’s a difficult one. I don’t really lie. Honestly. If I had to give an answer, I might say, when I’m scared? I certainly did in my teens when my family was falling apart.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

Hmm, it’s hard to put my finger on it. And I’m not being literal.

Which living person do you most despise?

I don’t despise anyone.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

A willingness to accept the existence of their emotions.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Kindness.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“What?” “Bizarre” “Mhmm”

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My girlfriend. Abstractly — music.

When and where were you happiest?

Now (as in the last half-dozen years or so) and here, in Belfast.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d like to be good at art, but I’ve never given it a proper go.

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

I’m not sure I want to change anything, for fear of fucking everything up. Maybe I should have more confidence in my powers of judgement.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

This has two parts. Firstly, pulling through a pretty tumultuous adolescence full of heartache, confusion, health problems and hate. Secondly, learning just how tumultuous my adolescence was and achieving a pride in myself for pulling through it.

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

The planet Jupiter. Or maybe a Giant Sequoia.

Where would you most like to live?

Southern Portugal, or anywhere in the western Mediterranean.

What is your most treasured possession?

My mind.

Boke, not really. My drum kit.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Depression. I think I’ve been there but I can’t be certain because I grew up in small town Ireland where depression doesn’t (didn’t, if I’m fair) officially exist, obviously.

What is your favorite occupation?

Musician? I don’t know.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I’m told most often that I’m creative, so I guess it must be quite marked. The way I’ve answered this suggests I’m quite bashful too.

What do you most value in your friends?

Happiness, honesty and steadfastness.

Who are your favorite writers?

I’m more a reader of essays and articles than novels, but I would definitely have to mention Stephen King and Kazuo Ishiguro. My reading largely consists of non-fiction, by thinkers such as Sam Harris, Steven Pinker and Eric Weinstein. I also read a lot of nonsense.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Mark Corrigan of Peep Show

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I’m not important enough to be comparable to an historical figure. Some sort of mild outcast who people don’t mind. Napoleon Bonaparte?

Who are your heroes in real life?

Various family members, various friends.

What are your favorite names?

Imogen, Eli, Dot.

What is it that you most dislike?

Disorder.

What is your greatest regret?

I’m not sure I have one, actually.

How would you like to die?

Instantly, unbeknownst.

What is your motto?

I don’t have an official motto, but if I did, it might be something like, “Don’t live your life according to the words of a single sentence.”

Deconstructions from Elsewhere

Libertarian · Stoic · Poet

Seán MJ Rickard

Written by

Libertarian, rationalist, stoic, musician.

Deconstructions from Elsewhere

Libertarian · Stoic · Poet

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