Thursday, January 24, 2008

Heath Ledger: Conspiracies and Nothingness

There are some who will read too much into the death of Heath Ledger, the prodigiously talented actor who passed this week at the age of 28. These conspiracy theorists will suggest that Ledger died at the hands of some shadowy organization, his wife, a jealous lover, etc.

It's difficult to particularly believe in any of these particular theories because nothing in this story pans out to suggest such a hypothesis. The facts of the story lead one to believe that Heath Ledger was one of the most depressed people in Hollywood and the world in general. There were no notes, no suggestion that he even cared what others thought; Ledger was doing what he felt was appropriate for himself. Unfortunately, that was to pass into the next realm of this experience we call life.

And, this reality, and its suddenness, is what disturbs us all, what makes his death so intensely haunting. Ledger seemingly had it all: a new baby, a booming, critically acclaimed acting career, and so many fans of the fairer sex that even Wilt Chamberlain would be impressed. What would make Ledger turn his back on such riches? An inner sadness that cannot be filled with the material success that Hollywood and celebrity can bring.

If there is any positive that can be learned from this suicide, it is a bracing reminder of our overall humanity. We all might be from different classes and racial/ethnic backgrounds, but there is an universality to our lived experience that cannot be avoided. Just because Heath Ledger might be more attractive and better-off than the overweight boy in Montana who just hit puberty, it does not mean that they do not have the same lived experience. Both of them are looking for something that will make them happy. They may find it in this world; they may find it in another.

Really, Heath Ledger's death should not be a sad occasion. Like with every death, this should be an opportunity to look within ourselves and remember who we are and what makes us truly happy because it is not money and material accomplishments.