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Your golden gate

The obligation of the living? Verify, in solitude, the veracity of perception. Resolve the discontents of desire and repulsion. Find value, pleasure, and significance. Or anything at all.

I labored through undergraduate Heidegger, I romanticized high school Camus, and I believed in the achievements of the mind. Did I understand then that the obligation doesn't end? Illusoriness of perception. Disorientation of desire. Disruption of time. Infinite potential, infinitely vulnerable. Each realization the seed of its own demise.

Every day the opportunity to decline the obligation will arise. Caltrain pulling into the station, engine and five cars, unimaginable weight, a stopping distance of 500 hundred yards. A few steps from the end.

"We're all terminally ill," he said. Bravado wilting even before his voice trailed off. True. Death pursues us all. But with him, the fight was fixed. Melting 40 pounds to leave a skinny charicature. Hawking a charlatan's varieties of pain. Cultivating nausea so every meal became a test of devastating wills. Eat_vomit. Live_die.

Shudder with each arrival of the train. Three steps. Five seconds. No more.

And the world around absorbs. It happened not infrequently_perhaps once a month_someone stepped out, drove_stumbled, misjudged?_an accident, an intention. Often by the time the news reached us_undistinguished survivors, involved only in the momentary inconvenience of our commuters' delay_not enough information survived to form a judgment. Accident, intention. We knew only that it's not hard to see a train coming. It's not hard to anticipate the consequences of lingering a moment too long.

Simplicity of the action momentarily absorbs the complexity of the act. A few steps. Live. Live? Sometimes finality is more than fluctuating imbalance. Desire. Dread. Dissatisfaction.

I know what I like.

At 18, the scorn of an arrogant college rogue at my mention of Kahlil Gibran. Lingering suspicion that I really don't know what's going on. But, I protest, I also know Spinoza. Kierkegaard! So. A weakness. For turmoil radiating from impassioned thought. A confusion_I could_of sentiment for sense.

Inevitable, maybe, to reevaluate choices in the light of new revelation. Or maybe_rotate the lens a degree. Refract light differently, change the perception of unchanging material. Do we learn? Or just change our clothes?

So foolish. So easily fooled.

San Francisco exists to be beautiful.

The decision. Three steps.

Every encounter with danger, with elective cataclysm, an obligation to choose again. Seven-hundred-foot waterfall. A pile of broken boulders at the end.

The choice, to say no, to examine and relinquish what is known. Should that be exhilaration? We risk to know our choice is valuable. Not gambling, not surrender to uncontrollable fate. Not disabling the will, not harnessing hopes and agonies to what you can't control.

Leaning over a waterfall, facing an oncoming train. A test. To see if you can.

Smooth granite mountaintop. Icewater stream spreads out before it plunges down the side. The mountain's edge a shallow river bed where water and tree line merge_some trees submerged up to three feet. Immediacy. Eternity. Agitation. Calm.

Wild confluence of time scales_Rock that traces half a million years. Trees at fifty. Sixty. Five hundred. More.

Water.

Measuring the minute. Season. Hour of the day. Pulling down against eddies and swirls.

Roiling pooling dribbling recording on this rock. Instances become tableau. Freeze melt flood drought drops currents torrents draw with particles and particles each day.

A vague sense of agency. Less of control.

A test. To risk a little every day. To make sure you want it still. Invite opponents to attack. Risk gravity, velocity, impact, mass. Some can't live without the challenge. Some can't ask.

Is that the will to live? Or something else again?