Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Examined Life

We've been recording and watching lots of Inside the Actors Studio lately. It's a great show, but it's difficult to watch and not think of Will Ferrell's send-up of the show and its host James Lipton . . .

If you love Ferrell as much as I do, you'll also love this . . .

But I digress . . .

One installment of Inside the Actors Studio we really enjoyed was their 200th in which they mix things up a little bit and have Dave Chappelle (one of their all-time best guests) interview James Lipton (usually the host). It was the first time Lipton sat on the other side of the desk, and it was weird to see him without his enormous stack of blue note cards (those cards, by the way, are the result of 2 weeks [14 non-stop days] of researching and preparing for each interview he conducts). In the interview, Lipton says, in the course of writing his own (recently published) book (Inside Inside), he realized he hadn't examined his own life as closely as, for years, he had asked so famous actors to.

The Lipton interview got me thinking about the Socrates quote: "The unexamined life is not worth living." So, in this month of resolution-making and reflection, I thought it might be interesting to subject myself to a bit more self-examination by answering the short series of questions Lipton asks every actor at the end of his interview - a list of questions originated by Bernard Pivot (and apparently based on the 'Proust Questionnaire'). They're not the serious, soul-searching "What would you want your obituary to say?" kind of questions, but they are interesting in their own right.

So, here goes:

What is your favorite word?
Namaste. The way my first yoga instructor defined it to me was "the light in my heart, the best of what is in me salutes the light in your heart, the best of what is in you." I know it's a little too hippie for most people, and I don't exactly go around saying it. I just like that it exists and I do like saying it at the end of a yoga class. Much nicer than salutations like 'hello' and 'goodbye,' don't you think?

What is your least favorite word?
'Strategery' (and words like it) - In my mind, it symbolizes a lot of what I hated about the last 8 years of government and politics in the U.S. I realize a lot of people were bothered by this, but I would venture to guess that it probably irks me more than your average Jane because I happen to make my living as an editor. Word butchery has the effect on me that nails on a chalkboard do on most people. I'm looking forward to not having to hear 'strategery,' other butchered words, and non-words come out of my president's mouth in the years to come. Yay, Obama!

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
repartee, a very well-written book, poetry, art, jazz, the majesty of nature (especially the ocean)

What turns you off creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
insincerity, inhumane treatment of others, willful ignorance, arrogance

What sound or noise do you love?
violin, babies' laughter

What sound or noise do you hate?
small dogs yipping incessantly

What is your favorite curse word?
There's most-often used - 'Jesus Christ' or 'son of a bitch,' probably because that's what my mother would (infrequently) say (i.e., those are the swears I heard most often growing up). My sister likes to tell the story of when she asked me at the age of five what curse words I knew. I struggled to come up with three or four. When pressed for more, I thought long and hard and was proud of myself for adding 'bullshit' and 'asshole' (after having already offered up 'shit' and 'ass'). Now, I like curse words that are common in other countries but seldom used in the U.S., like 'bollocks.'

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

What profession would you not like to do?
I think Lipton had the best answer to this one - an executioner. I whole-heartedly agree.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I don't believe in god(s); I'm an atheist. That said, if I'm wrong in the end, I don't know that I'd necessarily want god to say anything to me. I think moreso what I'd desire would be to see pure love and unconditional positive regard in his/her eyes and to be welcomed with a hug.

How would you answer these questions? In the comments section, write your own answers or provide a link to your blog where you've posted your answers.

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