Fear not, my heart. Every fall is miniscule and every life diminutive when they stand against Everest and the vastness of all Time. And death is but a sweet reminder that pain will not last forever, as well as an impetus for us to fully permeate every moment of our existence.
“Though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no evil. I do not fear Death. I do not welcome it, but I do not fear it.” -Officer Marc Carrillo, LAPD
My friend, Marc, said the quoted sentence one night as we indulged in beer and pretzels at our favorite drinking hole- Mother Road in Flagstaff, AZ. He was about to graduate from Northern Arizona University and move back home to Valencia, CA. His next step would be applying for the LAPD Academy, and he was telling me about his thoughts on becoming a cop in one of the largest cities in the United States. There was more to what he said, and I’m sure I’ll dig that up and put it on another post sometime… Marc always finds ways to inspire me… but ever since he said that, I held a greater respect and awe for him. He eventually applied and was accepted into the Academy. Shortly thereafter, he got into a motorcycle accident that would keep him from completing the Academy. That would have been enough for me to bail. Screw not having a fear of Death, that’s just a straight up sign to not go back. But over the next few months, he healed and eventually re-applied and was re-accepted. He ended up the best at PT in his class, as well as #1 Overall Recruit of his class. Sunnuvabitch, Marc.
And what a “coincidence” that he lives in Valencia (I do not believe in coincidence). Valencia is a name of Latin origin meaning Brave.
Marc is a man I could never compete with, nor is life a competition. But if it was one, he’d be winning… but I have this fixation with fear, and now as a result of Marc and a few other occurrences, I must overcome my fears.
One of my fears is that I will, one day, be standing somewhere very high and sneeze or twitch or have some other impulse to cast myself over the edge. Knowing me, I’ll probably just be listening to music and sway a little too far over the edge. That would be pretty funny. You have my permission to attend my funeral and laugh, if you feel so compelled.
The picture above is, in fact, me grappling up the side of a mountain after standing on a small platform of jagged rock. What it does not show is just behind me, there is a sheer drop over 100 feet to the bottom of a canyon. The picture was taken after my brother, Bradley, yelled at me to come up off the ledge.
Before retreating, I clung to the mountain behind me as I leaned over to look straight down at the cacti and palo verde trees below. I pictured the many grotesque ways I could have fallen and died well before hitting the bottom. But as I looked out at the scene around me, I also saw the wonder of the world, and how miniscule I am. It put me in my place, and yet I was still infinite. It was death-defying and yet the most coddled I’ve ever felt. I did not fear Death, I feared that if I died, my parents would mourn, my books and songs would never be written, and worst of all, someone would have to clean up the messes I made and debts I owe.
But I also saw all of the Love and Beauty that has been given to me in my life. I saw the mountains beyond in a way no one else sees them. I saw them through my eyes. My fingers trembled, by breathing was heavy, and in this state of heightened awareness of my place in the world, I saw that I have a place in the world.
The safety of the people of Los Angeles rests on Marc’s shoulders. I know he wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s his place.
The responsibility of telling his story and the stories of a few other Good People rests on my shoulders. The responsibility of showing you the world through my eyes rests on my shoulders. I am Valencia.
Here’s what I saw on that ledge. I hope it puts you in your place as it did me in mine:
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