Proust Questionnaire Number Four

Marcel Proust Quote:
“A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.”

Confessions Question:
Your favorite motto.

Confidences Question:
My motto.

Proust’s Answer:
I should be too afraid that it bring me misfortune.

The truth is that while I learned many a thing this year, I still think the words that make me think and motivate me haven’t really changed.

In reality it is rather difficult for me to pick just one motto. I certainly attempt to adhere to the words on a Del Taco cup that urged me to “Go Bold or Go Home.” I certainly ruminate on the Thomas Merton words that: “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.”

But I think the words I think about the most still come from a religious writer whose opinions and theories are far from my beliefs, most of the time. The words of Everyday Grace written by Marrianne Williamson in her book A Return to Love.

The quote that is most famous is the one that was slightly modified for Akeelah and the Bee:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I have found this to be the case. I am reminded of my favorite church service of the season. Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. I love seeing a whole room of candles lit by just one candle. I am reminded of the wisdom that points out that when one candle lights another candle, the first candle doesn’t dim.

As I’m sure many people have read or heard the quote, let me put it in slightly more context with the paragraphs that surround it.

We’re tempted to think that we’re more impressive when we put on airs. We’re not, of course; we’re rather pathetic when we do that. The Course states, “Grandiosity is always a cover for despair,” The light of Christ shines most brightly within us when we relax and let it be, allowing it to shine away our grandiose delusions. But we’re afraid to let down our masks. What is really happening here, unconsciously, is not that we are defending against our smallness. The ego is actually in those moments, defending against God.

As I interpret the Course, ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

A miracle worker is an artist of the soul. There’s no higher art than living a good life. An artist informs the world of what’s available behind the masks we all wear. That’s what we’re all here to do. The reason so many of us are obsessed with becoming stars is because we’re not yet starring in our own lives. The cosmic spotlight isn’t pointed at you; it radiates within you. I used to feel like I was waiting for someone to discover me, to “produce” me, like Lana Turner at the drugstore. Ultimately I realized that the person I was waiting for was myself. If we wait for the world’s permission to shine, we will never receive it. The ego doesn’t give that permission. Only God does, and He has already done so. He has sent you here as His personal representative and is asking you to channel His love into the world. Are you waiting for a more important job? There isn’t one.

I love the phrase artist of the soul. I love the concept that there is no higher art than living a good life. It reminds of the Picasso quote that used to reside on the top of this website:

“Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”

I am also reminded to be thankful for the soul artists that are in my life and motivates me to be one for the people that surround me.

Happy Birthday and a Farewell

Today is Carrie’s birthday. Happy Birthday Carrie!

Family Night - 06-06-08

Carrie got to spend a good portion of her birthday with her family and with me in Ledges. I will post some of those pictures in January. It will include a picture of the aftermath of my falling through some thin ice past my knees into Pea’s Creek. That was on the chilly side.

But today is also a day for wishing an old friend good luck as he embarks on a new adventure. Shadi is returning to Jordan to continue his academic career.


I had a farewell lunch with Shadi on Thursday. It was a welcome walk down memory lane. Although he is coming back to visit now and again (he is refusing to say “goodbyes”), I’m still going to miss the guy.

Proust Questionnaire Number Three

Marcel Proust Quote:
“We are able to find everything in our memory, which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers our hand sometimes to a soothing drug and sometimes to a dangerous poison.”

Confessions Question:
Your favorite colour and flower.

Confidences Question:
My favorite colour.

There is a separate Confidences question that reads:
The flower that I like.

Proust’s Answers:
The beauty is not in the colours, but in their harmony.


Hers/His – and after, all of them.

Ohhhhh, Proust you and your sexual innuendo! Well played, sir.

But I do have to give the man credit. The answer to his color question is brilliant. I don’t have a favorite color. I’d almost say that having a favorite color is borderline foolish. All colors have a purpose and their power is really in how one plays off of each other. If you have spent any time trying to pick out the right color mat for a photo of a flower you know of what I speak.

I don’t think that it is the fact that black and white will always be my primary love in photography that makes me think in this manner.

As for a favorite flower. I admittedly know very little about flowers and I’m not even sure that it is fitting for somebody that is as decidedly manly (I belched as I typed that for emphasis) as I am to even have a favorite flower.

I see flowers how I see colors. They each have a purpose, but since I posed this question to somebody over the weekend and got the answer back immediately (which means it was answered with a decided degree of conviction), daisies and stargazers, I should in fairness at least share my favorite flower pictures from this year.

Girl in the Blue Skirt - 2013
The Solace of Ordinary Humanity

2009 - Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest Nominee
Monica’s Childhood

2010 Calendar - November
The Eternal Seductiveness of Life

Iowa State Fair - 2009
A Proud Assertion

Iowa State Fair - 2009
Hieroglyphics of Angels

Iowa State Fair - 2009
Love’s Truest Language

Iowa State Fair - 2009
Where Love Waits

Iowa State Fair - 2009
Plant’s Highest Fulfillment

I realize now that one of my many failures this year was not getting to the State Center Rose Garden. That is something I will have to remedy in 2010.

The other day I came across a quote by author Alice Walker that I think also helps tie this question up:

“If you pass by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it, God gets real pissed off.”

That is one of the main tenets of this website as well.

Proust Questionnaire Number Two

Marcel Proust Quote:
“We become moral when we are unhappy.”

Confessions Question:
What you appreciate the most in your friends.

Confidences Question:
What I appreciate most about my friends.

Proust’s Answer:
To have tenderness for me, if their personage is exquisite enough to render quite high the price of their tenderness.

I have always had a 100% commitment to the truth and I will remind you, before you read this, that there is truth in lies if you can collect enough of them.

The thing I appreciate most about my friends is their ability to use me. In fact, let’s just take a look back at all the ways that my friends used me in 2009:

I hope my friends are able to use me this much or more next year. With the exception of the moving part. If I move again in the next 2 years my life most likely left the tracks again.

Proust Questionnaire Number One

Marcel Proust filled out the questionnaire twice. The first time was in either 1885 or 1886 in an English confessions album. The second time was in either 1891 or 1892 in the French album Les confidences de salon. There are some questions unique to both questionnaires and the wording is slightly different in both questionnaires.

To start this exercise (perhaps in futility) I will share one of my favorite Marcel Proust quotes, pose the questions both ways and share Proust’s answers to the questionnaire in Confidences.

Marcel Proust quote:
“Love is a reciprocal torture.”

Confessions Question:
Your favorite heroes in fiction.

Confidences Question:
My heroes in fiction.

Proust’s Confidences’ Answer

To remain true to the 19th century spirit of this question I am going to only consider literary characters and not fictional movie or television characters. Although it is really hard not to pick a fictional character like Glenn Beck. That character is hilarious! Brilliant parody of paranoid, right wing nut job! He has to be playing a character, right? Nobody with half a working brain could truly let loose the things that fall out of that guy’s mouth.

The label “elitist” has falsely been placed upon me many a time. I do not consider myself an elitist just because compared to some of my other fellow members of the human race I actually have standards.

Teresa knows not to ask me for Nicholas Sparks novels for Christmas. In fact, when my Mom and I went Christmas shopping for Teresa last year and she picked up a Nicholas Sparks book for Teresa I refused to let it be placed near the same bag as a book that I had picked up. It also had to ride in the trunk the whole way back from Des Moines. I’m not sharing any of the car cabin space with anything that guy put to print.

My reputation is great enough that when Elainie put the Twilight books on her Christmas list this year Teresa asked me if she should bother copying that over to my Christmas list book. (Teresa makes books that contain everybody’s Christmas list so that it easier to carry with you when you go Christmas shopping.)

I told her that Elainie is a teenage girl. It is acceptable for her to be reading such trash. But I would hope that she would aim higher in her literary pursuits in the future. Of course, there is no way that Elainie will be getting those books from me. My skin burns when I touch reading material that is beneath me. Even if I’m only buying it for somebody else. It is an allergic reaction that can’t be helped.

Despite my standing as the family literary snob, I actually have read very few fiction books this year. In fact, I don’t even think I’ve cracked open a book by either of my favorite authors: J.D. Salinger or Nathanael West.

The fact I have read so few fiction books makes it rather easy to answer this question. My favorite fictional hero that I met this year is the title character from Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome.

According to the back cover of my Dover Thrift Edition of Ethan Frome, Ethan is:

Burdened by poverty and spiritually dulled by a loveless marriage to an older woman, Frome is emotionally stirred by the arrival of a youthful cousin who is employed as household help. Mattie’s presence not only brightens a gloomy house but stirs long-dormant feelings in Ethan. Their growing love for one another, discovered by an embittered wife, presages an ending to this grim tale that is both shocking and savagely ironic.

Since I doubt anybody will rush out to read this small book, I will just let you know why this book and character stuck with me, even though it will ruin the shocking and savagely ironic ending somewhat.

Ethan is stuck in a loveless marriage. He is in love with his wife’s cousin Mattie and Mattie loves him back. But he is paralyzed by the times he lives in and a mountain of debt and his personal code of morality. One of my favorite paragraphs exhibits the paralysis that has stricken Ethan.

Ethan had imagined that his allusion might open the way to the accepted pleasantries, and these perhaps in turn to a harmless caress, if only a mere touch on the hand. But now he felt as if her blush had set a flaming guard about her. He supposed it was his natural awkwardness that made him feel so. He knew that most young men made nothing at all of giving a pretty girl a kiss, and he remembered the night before, when he had put his arm about Mattie, she had not resisted. But that had been out-of-doors, under the open irresponsible night. Now, in the warm lamplit room, with all its ancient implications of conformity and order, she seemed infinitely farther away from him and more unapproachable.

Because Ethan and Mattie can’t be together in life, they decide to be together in death. They make a suicide pact where they sled down a hill together into a large elm tree.

Her pleadings still came to him between short sobs, but he no longer heard what she was saying. Her hat had slipped back and he was stroking her hair. He wanted to get the feeling of it into his hand, so that it would sleep there like a seed in winter. Once he found her mouth again, and they seemed to be by the pond together in the burning August sun. But his cheek touched hers, and it was cold and full of weeping, and he saw the road to the Flats under the night and heard the whistle of the train up the line.

The spruces swathed them in blackness and silence. They might have been in their coffins underground. He said to himself: “Perhaps it’ll feel like this. . .” and then again: “After this I sha’n’t feel anything. . .”

The sledding accident doesn’t kill Ethan or Mattie. They are both crippled and Mattie’s sweet disposition turns sour. Ethan spends the rest of his life with the wife that he despises and with a woman that is but a shadow of the woman that he loves.

It is a bitter life, but Ethan continues on every day with a daily reminder of his shattered dreams of happiness.