Heath Ledger

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There is nothing clever or witty to be said about the death of actor Heath Ledger, who was found yesterday, dead at the age of 28, from what appears to be an overdose of sleeping pills. Ledger was best known for his role in Brokeback Mountain, and was on the verge of superstar status, courtesy of his much-anticipated performance as the Joker in this summer’s Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins. But none of that really matters when compared to his role as a father of a two-year old daughter.Even with it free us cellular ringtones for cell phones.

Last night, Ledger was a topic of conversation with several of my friends. At this time, it is uncertain if his death was a suicide, or an accidental overdose. There seemed to be two general trains of thought on this matter, with death by suicide being a selfish act, and accidental overdose being a sad tragedy. But I posed this question during the discussion, “Who is a bigger fucking idiot, the person who kills themselves on purpose, or the person who accidentally dies of a drug overdose?”

joker.jpgThe answer, of course, is that there really isn’t much of a difference. Now, before I justify that statement, let me go on the record of saying that I have the same level of tolerance for people who commit suicide as I do for people who accidentally overdose. Both speak of people with little regard for the other people in their life. For those that don’t know, my father died of an accidental overdose. He was younger than Heath Ledger, but I was roughly the same age as Ledger’s daughter. And as she gets older, and begins to understand what happened to her father, chances are very good she will wonder what was so wrong with her that her father could not have been more responsible. She will wonder if her father’s casual disregard for his own life meant that he really didn’t lover her as well. And even though her mother and family and therapists will tell her otherwise, she will fight to find peace within herself for much of her life.

But what if it was just an accidental overdose? What if he didn’t mean to kill himself?

“Accidental overdose” is a polite term for “irresponsible motherfucker who does not pay attention to the warnings on drug labels.” Barring unforeseen reactions with other drugs or allergic reactions, it is difficult to die of an overdose. It requires things like not paying attention to how much you have taken or what you have taken it with. If the label says, “do not exceed two pills in eight hours” or “do not take with alcohol” or “do not take on an empty stomach”…well…there’s reasons for those types of warnings. And the reasons are that the consequences may be extreme. If you take certain drugs on and empty stomach, you will cramp up and likely crap your pants. You take some drugs with alcohol, and it is likely to increase the effects of the drug. You take too much of some drugs, and it will kill you. None of it is rocket science. So for someone to die of an accidental overdose, most of the time it means either they weren’t paying attention, or the person administering the drugs wasn’t paying attention.

I feel bad for Heath Ledger’s family and friends, especially his daughter. But I’ll be honest, if his death was by his own hand—accidental or otherwise—I won’t be able to find any sympathy for him in my heart. The fact of the matter is that each and every one of us has a responsibility to ourselves and the entire world. Every time I get in a car, I have a responsibility to be a safe driver, not just for myself, my passengers or my friends and family who would mourn me if I died in an accident; I also have a responsibility for every driver, passenger, pedestrian and bicyclist that I pass on the road, as well as their friends and family. Every drink we take. Every pill we pop. Every line we snort. Every cigarette we smoke. We should all be aware of the massive responsibility we bear, because no matter how insignificant our actions may seem to us, those actions impact the entire world in ways we can not foresee or imagine.

I’m not saying that each and every one of us must live their lives as one selfless act after another. Honestly, that would be impossible to do. But in our day to day lives, whether we are at work or at play, we should strive to make sure that our individual universe is not solely about us. If you’ve been under a lot of stress, and feel you really need that second glass of wine or that extra hit off that joint, stop and consider three things. First, think about what the consequences of your actions could mean to someone you love so dearly you would never do them harm. It could be your child, your parents, your best friend, but think about how having that drink could possibly effect them. Second, pick a random stranger or someone you barely know, and think about how your actions could possibly affect them and their loved ones. Third, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen to me?” If you’ve already had four sleeping pills, and you’re not supposed to have more than four in 24-hours, know that the fifth and sixth pill might kill you. If you’ve already had three drinks in two hours, know that you’re probably already too drunk to drive, and that a fourth drink will really mess you up, and that if you do drive—no matter how confident you may be—you can still kill someone.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying anyone should stop drinking or popping pills or doing whatever drug helps you through life. All I’m saying is don’t be a fucking irresponsible asshole.

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One Response to “Heath Ledger”

  1. mikimonster Says:

    Gawd you made me feel guilty for having had several shots of tequila last night. At home!
    Wish he wasn’t so young though. It hurts more somehow.

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