Last minute ruminations: Is there an analogy between waiting for the last minute to do things and waiting for our last lifetime to cram in every untasted pain and joy before hitting the pillow for the long sleep?

I wonder why, despite all my planning and schedules, all the urgent promptings of my brain’s left hemisphere, I end up running around like this in the long last minute of every issue, gulping coffee, bumping into furniture, careening and lurching around the inside track in a souped-up little number I call “The Gruff Editor” — no time for my children, no time to make a salad instead of a sandwich. Oh higher consciousness, where are you?

This is a magazine, not a newspaper, a leisurely journal of ideas, published in the sleepy South. No clatter from the news wires. A little traffic outside, sure. The phone ringing a couple of times a day for The Sun Finance Company. But the only real distractions are the shadow dances of the mind: the anxieties about time, the jockeying for creative advantage in the face of a dozen mundane tasks (reminding myself that nothing is mundane distracts me, too). “Fretting is the only sin,” Neal Cassady said. If you believe deep down that there’s nothing to worry about, that makes sense; if I need a flashlight to see that deep, I guess I have sinned.

Of course, some people fret about everything. Especially the future. It was refreshing last week to hear a novel interpretation of the prediction that California is going to break off and fall into the sea: it already has. Fallen, that is, into the sea of the collective unconscious, from which our deepest dreams and visions emerge.

Does that sound crazy? At least it’s imaginative. So much prophecy is devoid of imagination, compassion or humor — and it’s so literal. As if all those intuitive flashes are exactly what they seem. As if a poem were nothing but words, a painting simply oils, a symphony just a bunch of notes.

When I hear talk about the Earth being cleansed for a New Age by earthquakes and other disasters, I think about when I was a student, praying for the school to burn down. Bored with life, or afraid of its challenges, it’s natural to yearn for change: it could be falling in love, it could be the sky falling. Those who despair of themselves, because they’re not who they want to be, or despair of others, because they’re not caring or ecological or don’t meditate or read Marx, are likely to favor the big bang. Happiness — about small changes, small kindnesses — seems bourgeois, irrelevant. In Earth’s terrible long last minute, wrongs will be righted, sins will be punished, everything subtle and unpredictable and wondrous will be washed away.

But I wonder if those who are so intuitive about the Earth’s future are equally prescient about their own lives — where they’ll be living in five years, who they’ll be married to, what they’ll be imagining then about the planet, and the planet’s great heart, and the mind of a race that stretches across time.

— Sy