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Ptolemy Tompkins

Ptolemy Tompkins has been an editor at Guideposts and Angels on Earth magazines and is the author of four books. His writing has been featured in Beliefnet.com, Harper’s, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in New York.
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My Life in 8 Words

Author Revealed

Ptolemy Tompkins
Q. What is your motto or maxim?

A. I'll have to to go with Heraclitus' line: "Character is fate." Which doesn't mean that I think I have a particularly good character. I just think it's true.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?

A. Writing my first book. Because I really, really didn't know what I was talking about, but had to pretend I did, and doing that every day for a year and a half gets tiring.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?

A. I think it was Proust who said that we never know when we're happy, only when we were happy. I don't know about perfect happiness, but I know I'd enjoy being able to inhabit certain moments of the past again, only as the person that I am now. To climb back into my past self kind of like a space suit and do it all over again, the same only... different. Actually, I think a lot of writers have this dream, and that that's one reason why at least some people become writers to begin with.

Q. What do you regret most?

A. Same as (pretty much) everyone's: Not living my life differently.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?

A. The psychologist Carl Jung said somewhere that at bottom, everyone's greatest fear is hell. Not the Christian hell, necessarily, but a place of ultimate darkness and negativity. A place that's DOWN, not UP. I think he was right. Well, he was right about me at least.

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