Welcome to the Limit

Having successfully pushed it to the limit, Paul Engemann wasn’t sure where to go from there. He had successfully traversed the razor’s edge, crashed the gates like a bat out of hell…how many men could say the same? Could boast of having not only reached the limit, but taken it a step further than anyone in his right mind would dare? That was something to be proud of, something he could keep with him for the rest of his life.

Yet, uncertainty hung like a cloud over Paul’s head. He had been so focused on winning the power game that, now that there was no one left to stand in his way, he found himself in an odd sort of vacuum, like the void left by a receding wave.

As he often did in moments of spiritual crisis, Paul consulted the Tao Te Ching for some hint as to his next move. His eyes fell on a passage that had always inspired him in the past:

The Way is limitless,
So nature is limitless,
So the world is limitless,
And so I am limitless.

Perhaps there was no limit after all. At least, none that would bear any fruit other than discontent and spiritual cacophony. Wasn’t the “limit” merely an abstraction, in any case? And could not such abstractions, in defining existence, also restrict its true potential, reduce the mysteries of the universe to a mere Darwinian struggle for survival? Paul’s doubts were amplified by this thought. Was his quest to take it to the limit an ultimately fruitless one? One that had consumed his mind and soul to the exclusion of spiritual harmony?

Had he come all the way to the brink, to the very edge, only to find nothing but his own questing gaze staring back at him?

Paul felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to find Corinne regarding him with a mixture of apprehension and concern. “Paul?” she said tentatively. “Are you…all right?”

Paul nodded. He searched for a response that would not come, settled for pouring them both a drink.

“Giorgio called me last night.” Corinne said, accepting a glass of Chivas Regal. “He…told me you had pushed it to the limit. Is that true?”

“Yeah.” Paul had expected to savor this moment of recognition, but the victory felt hollow now, almost pointless. A sour, impotent anger surged up inside him, and he spoke more forcefully than he’d intended. “Yeah…I took it to the limit, baby. I hit it and just kept going.”

Corinne seemed to pale at his words. “God…I…well, that’s amazing, Paul,” she murmured, sipping her Chivas.

“I guess,” Paul muttered. Corinne was a beautiful, intelligent woman, but she would never understand what it was to open up the throttle and not only hit the wheel but double the stakes. No, he had reached a level that someone like Corinne, in her safe, sheltered world, could barely comprehend. Paul would have handle her with caution — he couldn’t be careless, now, when he was still in it, so close to the brink. He downed his drink in one savage gulp and turned to stare out the window.

“So where do you go from here, Paul?” Corinne asked. Was there reproof in her tone? A sliver of icy petulance? “Now that you’ve pushed it to the limit, what’s next?”

“I don’t know, baby,” Paul replied, shaking his head slowly. “I don’t know.”

Somewhere out in the fading light of the day, a dog howled disconsolately.