[ Pokhara, Nepal ]
I’d like to tell you a story about ripples and waves.
And a stone named Orly King.
Orly died yesterday; cancer killed him. He was a skydiving legend: a pioneer from the early, wild-west days of freeflying—of days long before wind tunnels created a new class of pre-pubescent badass who can carve circles around you (yes, you) but has no idea how to exit an aircraft, or fly a canopy, or drive a car, or communicate without texting.
I barely knew Orly, to be honest; but the thing is, with him, barely was enough to make a huge difference.
To the best of my recollection, I met him only twice—both times at Skydive Dallas. I didn’t know who he was, but people at the DZ spoke about him respectfully, in awed tones. They spoke of things he’d accomplished, yes, but even more so about his positive, humble spirit. My closest DZ friends—the packers who had taken me under their wings, and to whom I looked for the skydiverly true true—were effusive.
At this point my Dallas days were numbered; a timer ticking towards zero. Freshly returned from Nepal, I planned to quit my job, get my affairs in order, and return to the Himalayas, where I would invent a new life for myself. Significant uprooting was underway. Stress and Terror were constant companions. Night sweats. Panic attacks. Insomnia.
Imagine my surprise, then, when this Legendary Super-Dude ambles up to me in the hangar during one of his brief visits—approaching me like an old friend. He chats me up about paragliding, asks me about my plans, about Nepal, about Point of the Mountain. He’s excited about a speedwing he got his hands on. Do I wanna see? With a big, toothy smile, he trots outside and starts to kite the thing. There wasn’t enough wind to keep it flying, but he was undaunted. I couldn’t stop grinning, because he never stopped grinning. He talked easily the whole time, fully engaging me about my plans—which he seemed genuinely to admire. The banter, and his questions, had a calming effect. Everything about the interaction spoke encouragement. Soon I was laughing, relaxed.
When I saw him again, months later, it was the same. He let me know I was doing something really cool; that he respected my decision and my courage (courage?). The hidden subtext was: and so should you!
Those of you who know me, know I went through with it. Two years ago I left my job, my apartment, most of my possessions, said “auf wiedersehen” to my friends and family, and hopped a plane to Asia. I haven’t looked back. In May, I’ll be in Mongolia, living for five months on the back of a bicycle, in a country two and a half times the size of Texas, with almost no roads and about the same population (2.5 million) as the San Antonio metroplex.
Orly’s kindness, his enthusiasm and encouragement, his respect—these played a key role in keeping me on an intimidating, often overwhelming, path. He said the right things, the right way, at the right time, and he did it because that’s who he was; because he simply, and genuinely, gave a damn.
Orly. The stone. Orly, the stranger whose ripples keep moving out in unpredictable ways, making unexpected contacts, reinforcing themselves; becoming waves.
What an impact he must have had on those of you who knew him well! How intensely you must be feeling his loss today! My heart goes out to you, but please consider:
You are a part of an infinitely expanding, never-ending tide of Orly events. His intensely joyous, optimistic, generous and loving spirit inhabits these ripples passing between us, connecting us, and we have the opportunity to pay his energy forward: to encourage the next dreamer, to calm a frightened friend or lend a helping hand to a stranger in need. We all have the power within us to spread love and empathy unconditionally, to share our warmth and compassion, and to spread simple, unvarnished enthusiasm for the world around us.
Don’t let the opportunity go to waste.
The King is Dead…
…Long Live the King.
Blue Skies, Orly, and Many Thanks,