An open-ended “who are you?’ quiz

Are you one of the people who can’t resist those “Which Fairy Tale Character Are You?” quizzes? So am I, though I’ve never gotten what seemed to me like a surprising or insightful answer. (Finding out from “Which Science Fiction Writer Are You?” that I was Robert Heinlein merely meant that the quiz-maker hadn’t read Alexei Panshin.)

Anyway, the quizzes clearly speak to something deep (or should that be shallow?) in many of us. That raises the question whether a more interesting and illuminating quiz type could be developed. (Yes, of course there are MMPIs and Enneagrams and Koans; I’m talking about something quick and fun.)

This came into focus as I was looking at the Analects, and it occurred to me that the Confucian junzi (a technical term of which “gentleman” is the approved, though in many ways misleading, translation) treats life as a ceremony, while a modern celebrity or politician treats it as a performance. Those aren’t the only options if one is likening a life to an activity: others might be journey, search, quest, task, celebration, feast, dance, prayer, education, game, struggle, contest, war, and so forth. (No doubt the ones I’ve listed say something about me, and the ones I’ve omitted say more.)

So we have a quiz question, or rather set of questions:

If your life were an activity, what activity would it be?

Which would you like it to be?


Note: Given the large number of perfectly good conceptual metaphors for a life, and the myriad ways they could be arranged — If your life were a document, would it be a novel, a short story, an official dossier, a folktale, a riddle, or a joke? — there is obviously a self-help, pop-psych “I’m OK, Your Parachute is from Venus” best-seller here somewhere, and I’m open to offers co-author it: pseudonymously, of course.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: