Reading books is magnificent…until it’s not. Great books overwhelm your senses, your intellect, your heart, your soul. Drowning in a great book’s raging river, you bob up and down. You thrill to white-water violence, you bask in back-water eddies, always connected. Always ready for the next concept, line, and if you’re quite lucky, you hang on to the very next word.

Atlas Shrugged did this to me. So did The Fountain Head. Dandelion Wine. The October Country. 1984. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Lolita. The Four Agreements. Replay.

I am currently surviving the book Catch 22. An exasperating writing style, seemingly born of insanity yet falling in step with the human race. I cannot say, at this point halfway through, that this book will be on my list of favorites, mainly due to the difficulty of the prose, but I still have a long way to go.

I have poached a line from this book for the title of this post and hopefully the title of a good poetic exploration of life.

Does everyone live until they die? Do we live before we die? Do I live before I die? Those rigid rationalists will, of course, state flatly “yes” and move on. The line struck me as one of those ‘ultimate questions’ one should strive to answer. I feel I’ve traveled all these decades searching for the means by which to ‘live until I die.’

I’m not attempting to come across as trite. Too much of my life falls into the category of living for others. I can see some of the influence of Ayn Rand here. She unlocked a barrier. The door stands with rusted hinges from neglect and opens only with great effort.

I desire to live until I die. To understand the exact meaning and application of this statement I must first explore “desire.” What truly, at the root of my soul, is my desire. Desire’s definition lies rooted in selfishness. Selfishness, over the years, has become one of the pariahs of inner emotion and contemplation.

If you are selfish in any way shape or form, you become despised and avoided. You’re an outcast. Who are you to think you can create anything? Who are you to not follow blindly what the masses and money and governments demand you to swallow? Who are you to even dream of being an individualist?

Ayn Rand drove this point and drove it hard in Atlas Shrugged. The destruction of self coincides with the destruction of your life. When you cannot live “Your” life, you have no life to live. You exist until you die.

My desire is to live.

No, my desire is to LIVE!

Living is effort. A struggle against so many obstacles that mere contemplation of the task can obliterate your moxie. Your energy. Your will. Your motivation.

Desire, for me, is to align myself with my best self, not the self this world dictates I should show to everyone else. Far too often, this world (collectively governments, corporations, media, friends, neighbors, ad nauseam…) dictates my heart direction, my soul direction, my chosen direction, and my life direction.

I’m not alone. uncountable people before me and with me have suffered under this same yoke. Writing lends me freedom. Not only release through my fingertips from my soul but also in return in through my eyes and into my soul.

To live becomes what I define as my best life and my ability to achieve that life. “Life” can be an ever-moving target. One you must not allow to slip into other people’s control. This is often a clash of wills that we lose consistently and these losses fragment the driving forces within us.

I write many definitions of life on these digital pages. Most, approaching all, of my writings here grow from my search for life. My desire for a life continually morphs as days and moments pass.

One moment of life, which lasted about fifteen minutes, was the lunch I enjoyed at the Grand Canyon in Arizona on September 12, 1986. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an ice-cold Mountain Dew. I climbed over a barrier fence against the protestations of Vicky, and I sat on the rim of the canyon. My feet dangled over a sheer vertical drop of over a half mile.

No. This is not a testosterone moment of defiance of daring over safety. The canyon called me to communion with my soul. I could see eagles and helicopters miles away beneath me. No sound came to me other than an ethereal silence that soothed my soul. The sheer magnitude of this place delivered a peace within me that few other locations ever did.

Sun drenched me in warmth and comfort. Breezes whispered welcome. That sandwich and Mountain Dew exemplified the act of communion, so to speak, but time became the true connection. In reality, no, it was not timeless or I would still be there, Yet, I am still there in my heart and soul. I felt timelessness on a scale beyond my knowing. Beyond my living, Beyond my death. In THIS moment I was living until I die.

I possess many moments like this. Moments of life I value beyond all other moments. I am no different from you. You possess these moments as well. The main difference I witness in many, possibly most people, is the hope and belief that more moments await you. Too often we chase after the same moment. That is not possible.

Too many people, including myself, relive the ghosts of old moments. Some moments, I do agree, may be revisited over and over, yet they are new moments where we allow ourselves to see and experience life in a new light, a new perspective, a new environment, basically a new moment. This is when I feel I am most living until I die.

I could go on forever on this, but I shan’t.

If I Live Until I Die

If I live until I die

My heart revels in small things
A gentle word
A loving touch
Timeless moments

My soul rests in a snug warm blanket on a winter’s day with
My innermost thoughts

My life defines itself through
Direct pursuit of happiness
Ever rebirthing desire
My evaluation only
My ability to embrace my core values

If I live until I die
I will die with the peace I crave
The knowledge I desire
The comfort of self-love
The purity of a glowing love for life
As a surreal walk through a midnight garden
And all other experiences I deem valuable.