A parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Long before becoming one of the greatest human beings to touch a pen, Marcel Proust probed his psyche as many have done after him. Vanity Fair, for the last 30 years, has asked our cultural, intellectual, and spiritual icons a series of questions that requires a subtle pause before blurting out a answer. “What is your current state of mind……What is your idea of complete misery……What do you think is the most overrated virtue” are questions that help is begin the internal dialogue of discovering a little more about ourselves. As I answered the questions and read everyone from Joan Didion to Deepak Chopra to David Bowie the complexity of human nature revealed itself through the varied answers of questions like “What is your idea of Perfect Happiness?”; however, questions like, “How would you like to die?” most people asked for a pain-free and silent death. Answering each question honestly is more difficult that initially thought, but every question allows one to discover his meaning of love, death, and life.
What is your idea of Perfect happiness?
My answer: Traveling the world writing and teaching yoga
David Bowie: Reading
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
My answer: James Baldwin
Dave Brubeck: Jesus
What is your greatest extravagance?
My answer: I spend way to much money on books
William F Buckley Jr: My lifestyle
What is your favorite journey?
My answer: Walking through trails
Joan Didion: A long time ago, before they showed movies on airplanes and decided to make you close the blinds, I used to love flying west and watching the country open up, the checkerboarded farms of the Midwest giving way to the vast stretches of nothing. I also loved flying over the Pole from Europe to Los Angeles during the day, when you could see ice floes and islands s in the sea change almost imperceptibly to lakes in the land. This shift in perception was very thrilling to me.
On what occasion do you lie?
My answer: When I am scared of being judge or when I want to control the image people have of me
Deepak Chopra: Only when I am speaking to God
Which living person do you most despise?
My answer: Anyone who values money over people, and people that are mean
Sir Michael Caine: I have a rule of keeping all negatives out of my life, so if there was someone I was going to despise, I wouldn’t waste the energy on them—they disappear. I remember a philosopher said to me once, “You should only hate people you love. The rest of them are not worth the energy.”
What is your greatest regret?
My answer: Not having the courage to drop everything and put all my faith in my art
Kirk Douglas: That I have not paid attention to friendships in the past
When and where were you happiest?
My answer: I was 11 years old and my father took me, my brother, his girlfriend, and her kid to a water park
Jackie Collins: Right now. Life’s an adventure–you’ve got to live it everyday.
Which talent would you most like to have?
My answer: Dancing and singing
Jane Fonda: To be able to sing
What is your current state of mind?
My answer: Terrified and exhausted
Jane Goodall: Deep concern at the state of the planet, environmental and social
What is your most treasured possession?
My answer: All my pens
Hugh Hefner: My memories
Where would you like to live?
My answer: Somewhere by the ocean
Norman Mailer: Where I have lived–Brooklyn Heights years ago and now in Provincetown. Until you get to Maine there is no more beautiful town on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S
Which is your most marked characteristic?
My answer: My laugh
What quality do you most like in a man?
My answer: Kindness
Caroline Herrera: A man has to have sensibility, wit, mystery, tolerance, and strength… Romance also helps
What quality do you most like in a woman?
My answer: Compassion
Quincy Jones: An honest heart, a big mind, and inner and outer beauty
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
My answer: Virgil from Dante’s Inferno
Karl Lagerfeld: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando
What are your favorite names?
My answer: Giovanni, Helga, Sammy, Tiana
Fran Lebowitz: Driver
What is it that you most dislike?
My answer: Mean people
Shirley MacLaine: People who don’t care about themselves
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
My answer: Self-Sacrifice
Edward M. Kennedy: Silence
What is your motto?
My answer: Peace and Love
James Brown: Live as long as you can and die when you cant help it
Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire is a wonderful book that allows us to dive into the playful mind of the world’s most divine spirits.