24 Hours to Live

In Paris, in the 1920’s, a French newspaper asked a bunch of celebrities for their response to the following question :

If there was an announcement that the world would end in 24 hours and the announcement was confirmed, what do you think its effect on people would be ? And, what would you do with your last 24 hours ?

The first celebrity hypothesized that the announcement would drive everyone to either the closest church or the closest bedroom. He said that he would take the opportunity to climb a mountain and admire the scenery. A female celebrity said that she thought that men would shed all their inhibitions as soon as they realized that their actions had no long term consequences. A few other celebrities had similar responses based on people’s determination to enjoy as much worldly pleasure as they could in their last hours.

The final celebrity to be consulted was Marcel Proust. This was his reply :

“I think that life would suddenly seem wonderful to us if we were threatened to die as you say. Just think of how many projects, travels, love affairs, studies it- our life – hides from us, made invisible by our laziness which, certain of a future, delays them incessantly.

But let all this threaten to become impossible forever, how beautiful it would become again! Ah! If only the cataclysm doesn’t happen this time, we won’t miss visiting the new galleries of the Louvre, throwing ourselves at the feet of Miss X, making a trip to India.

The cataclysm doesn’t happen and we don’t do any of it, because we find ourselves back in the heart of normal life, where negligence deadens desire. And yet we shouldn’t have needed the cataclysm to love life today. It would have been enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening.”

Imagine if you only had 24 hours to live. I bet you would treat your love ones with the care and attention that they deserve. I imagine you would pray and work hard to prepare your spirit for your date with judgment. Life would become very precious. When you compare 24 hours to 80 years it may seem like a big difference. But when you compare 80 years to eternity, things change perspective again.

Paul said that it is not for the man who starts well but the man who runs the race to the end well. Don’t let yourself be caught unprepared. Death will come like a thief in the night. Treasure every moment. Love like there is no tomorrow.

God Bless You

( Excerpt from : How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain De Botton )


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