De Botton then tells us that this same question, in 1922, was posed to French celebrities in a publication of Most celebrities responded to this grim question with a sad contemplation.
Some said they would ready themselves for the afterlife by praying, others that they’d play their last bittersweet round of golf.
When it came Marcel Proust’s turn to answer, he responded with a strange joyousness at the thought of an apocalypse: “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.” De Botton takes Proust’s vast works, letters and journals and decodes the wisdom within for us to use.
He’s published papers on everything from the psychology of being fooled by magic to the strange power our initials have over our destinies.