When the news broke about the death of Heath Ledger, I heard about it first from my daughters – their ages ranging from 24 to 30. The frenetic texting and animated cell phone conversations told me something was up. This young actor was a face and name very familiar to them and their generation.
Not so much to me. I had to strain to try to figure out who he was – before I located a picture on line.
I had managed (thankfully) to completely miss Brokeback Mountain – preferring my “Westerns” more, well, traditional, with the only slightly disturbing image being a cowboy acting benignly affectionate toward his faithful horse. Some of the other titles my girls mentioned, featuring Ledger, brought that deer in the headlights look they are sadly accustomed to seeing from their dear old dad.
Then one of them mentioned the movie The Patriot - and the part Ledger played – and the light came on. Now, THAT was a movie! It had a point - a good point - one well worth remembering.
It is far too early to draw detailed conclusions about the circumstances leading to this young man’s death. Excessive speculation is unwise, but the word tragic certainly fits anytime someone so young, with such promise, dies suddenly. I’m sure the next few days will yield reports ad infinitum about his lifestyle and final weeks.
One thing I did note, though, is that two experiences seemed to converge in his life, recently. First, his break up with his girlfriend and the affiliated estrangement (at least somewhat) from his young daughter – 2 year old Matilda, certainly rocked his world. That’s very sad stuff. It’s sad, not only because of the whole “breaking up is hard to do” thing, especially when there is a child involved, but also because of the aversion contemporary culture has to commitment and continuity.
Modernity has effectively decreed that gratification is seldom, if ever, to be deferred and, therefore, seldom sustained. Pleasure unredeemed by grace, commitment, and discipline tends to burn the relationship candle too fast – both at the beginning and the end.
The result is a lifestyle of diminishing fulfillment returns.
We can’t be sure how depressed he was, or what part it played, if any, in his death – but no doubt about it, the guy was dealing with sadness.