Planning for the end


OK, so here's the deal: The planet is about to go boom. Everyone and everything you've ever known are going to be blown to confetti by a comet the size of Manhattan. You've

already done your panicking, your crying, your venting of rage and bargaining with God.

Now it's time to face the fact that you have one more day and then it's goodbye.

L Whatcha gonna do? How will you spend the time you have left?

That's the question raised in the movie "Deep Impact." For most of the characters in the story, the stirring answer seems to be: going to work. Faced with the imminent End of Everything, the journalists, soldiers, political operatives and mission control specialists who populate the movie continue showing up for their jobs as if building brownie points for performance reviews that will never come. One wonders what they said to their spouses as they left home that morning: "Honey, I might be a little late tonight, what with the world coming to an end and everything."

Calling in sick

Not me, man. I don't know what my end-of-the-world agenda would be, but I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be much work involved.

What about you? What would you do on the today without a tomorrow?

Sure, the question's only hypothetical. But what if it weren't?

It's a premise worth pondering next time you're up to your neck in the trivial pursuits and mundane minutiae that form the stuff of daily life. At The End, would office politics still seem so important? Would the warring tribes of humanity -- from street gangs to ethnic groups to nation states -- still be so obsessed with hating one other?

Yeah, I know. It's not exactly practical to skip through life as if each day were the last. They have a word for the woman who tells the boss she didn't do the report because reports won't matter when the world ends. The word is: unemployed.

And yet . . .

This end of the world thing has its definite up side.

Ultimate deadline

As any journalist can tell you, there's nothing like a deadline to get you focused. Nothing like watching a clock tick toward zero to impose clarity upon confusion. And this would be the biggest deadline any of us could ever face. No more time for hemming and hawing. No time for cop-outs and extraneous trappings. No time to do anything but step up and answer the bottom-line question of your existence: What matters?

You'd think it would be a simple question, but it's not, really. So much of who we are and what we believe is filtered through the routine compromises and little lies that make up a day. Maybe it's good once in a while to act like it all could end tomorrow. Good to be reminded that some things matter more than others.

You don't have to be hit by a comet, after all. A city bus will do just fine.

Me, I still don't know how I'd spend the penultimate moment of human life. Having sex comes to mind. So does scarfing #F chocolate. And saying prayers.

Small joys, in other words.

Maybe I'd take the kids to Disneyland -- the lines for Pirates of the Caribbean are bound to be short for once. Maybe I'd drown my sorrows in Motown harmonies one final time. Maybe I'd just sit on a hill somewhere and catch the last sunrise. And, mind you, I've never sat on a hill and watched the sun a day in my life.

Small joys. They're so few and far between when the business of life is pressing hard upon you. But what else really matters in the end?

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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