I heard the story pasted below from listening to the book How Proust Can Change Your Life.
In August, 1922, the Parisian newspaper L'Intransigeant posed a question to a group of celebrities:
An American scientist announces the end of the world, or at the very least the destruction of such a large land mass, and in such a sudden fashion, that death would be the certain for hundreds of millions of people. If this prediction were to become a certainty, how do you think that people would behave between the time when they acquired this news and the moment of apocalypse? And what would you do before the final hour?
Marcel Proust responded:
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 human and that death may come this evening.