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May 24, 2011

Proust and the ‘End of Days’

In 2011 I wrote this article regarding the ‘End of Days’. And, since we’ve survived the latest end of days prediction from the Mayans, it might be an idea to revisit the article.

To this end, I’ve enlisted the help of French novelist Marcel Proust. I know his writing is more palatable and refined. So, check it out and take some time out of your noisy schedule to pause because it might just be the cataclysm that ends your life as you know it today and allows you to live the life you were meant to live.

The end of the world didn’t arrive on 21 May as predicted by American TV evangelist Harold Camping.

The end of days question has been asked (and predicted) many times. So, it was with interest that I read French novelist, Marcel Proust’s letter to a paper in Paris called L’Intransigeant.

The paper posed the following question: An American scientist announces that the world will end, or at least that such a huge part of the continent will be destroyed, and in such a sudden way, that death will be the certain fate of hundreds of millions of people. If this prediction were confirmed, what do you think would e its effects on people between the time when they acquired the aforementioned certainty and the moment of cataclysm? Finally, as far as you’re concerned, what would you do in this last hour?

L’Intransigeant got some interesting responses. A Henri Bordeaux, suggested that it would drive the mass of the population directly into either the nearest church or the nearest bedroom. Writer, Henri Robert said that he would devote himself to a final game of bridge, tennis and golf. And, in South Africa, Jonannes Coetzee and 80 followers would book into the Devonshire Hotel in Braamfontein and wait for the cataclysm.

Proust’s response was more profound and considered. I’d suggest we read it and re-read it. Then, get away from the noise that fills our heads and find some calmness and reread it again. This letter has resonated with me and highlighted just how off-track I am sometimes. Paraphrasing, professional speaker, Callie Roos, “In Africa we have two choices … we either sit under a tree and wait or we move. Most Africans will wait, I choose to move.”

Maybe, just maybe Marcel Proust can help us move.

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 for ever, 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, 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.

Source: How Proust Can Change Your Life – Alain de Botton

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