Editor’s note: The Decorah Stories Questionnaire is inspired by the “Proust Questionnaire,” a set of confessional questions popularized in the Victorian era as a parlor game. The “Decorah Stories Questionnaire” contains 24 questions and respondents were asked to answer 4-6 questions. A full list of questions can be found here.
What is your greatest fear?
Definitely climate catastrophe. One of my great hopes is to grow old and see my grandchildren and others of their generation experience the beauty of this world. I’m terribly afraid that climate change will destroy much of that beauty and make life miserable for so many of the world’s people. Even if my own family is lucky enough to avoid the worst suffering, I’m afraid of what awaits the whole world in 50-100 years. Worst of all, I fear that as a species we are totally incapable of adequately addressing the damage we have already done.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Lack of resolve, and susceptibility to urges/appetites. The opposite of this, the traits I desire, would be the possession of clear self-guiding principles, and steady commitment to living by them.
Who is your hero of fiction?
I’ve had many, but I’ll answer Harry Potter. I was a teenager, like Harry, when the books were being published, and I saw in Harry many admirable qualities: compassion, bravery, a strong desire to do good and stand up for justice. I also identified easily with some of Harry’s flaws and inner dilemmas: he experiences doubt, temptation, and anger. But the hero in Harry always overcomes these things – not for his own sake, but for others.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
I think a lot of us white folks in the rural Midwest, myself included, overvalue niceness or agreeableness at the expense of truth telling. I fully believe in being kind and generous, but I think being nice sometimes means not “rocking the boat” when truth and justice would in fact demand some rocking. I’m as guilty as anyone here.