Heath Ledger's Star Studded Message

>     The now confirmed tragic and unintended overdose-caused death of actor Heath Ledger is an opportunity for us all to shine a bright light on the several issues his life, and death, present. On the surface, it’s about the proliferation and ease of obtaining both prescription and illegal drugs. However, just below the surface are lurking several deeper issues equally, if not more, in need of our attention.
    Yes, the drug issue is the most obvious. Ledger was in possession of a potentially fatal cocktail of legally prescribed sleeping pills, anti-anxiety meds and pain killers. The question first asked is “What physician, if in fact a single physician is involved, would have prescribed such a combination and allowed a patient in such “pain” (physical and/or emotional) to have unfettered access?”
    Yet the underlying issue around the prescribing of drugs is “Why are we as a culture so quick to medicate and suppress symptoms rather than treat root causes?” While I do not know if Ledger suffered any physical source of pain, it does appear from reports that he suffered from emotional pain and depression as witnessed by close friends. In this regard, he was no different than countless numbers of Americans who daily take drugs, legal and illegal, to mask their underlying problems.
    I have a good friend, a chiropractor, who has always said, “To heal you have to feel.” And it’s true. Whether it’s a broken leg or a broken heart…whether it’s Hyrodcodone for the broken leg or Prozac for the broken heart…at some point real healing cannot be accomplished by sedating or distracting the conscious mind from the painful reality of the growth process. As we experience pain, we learn from it. We learn what and how not to do as well as where and how not to go.
I am reminded of Thomas Edison’s reply when asked how it felt to fail so many times before he succeeded at inventing the light bulb. “I never failed” he replied. “I discovered a thousand ways how not to make a light bulb.” Edison ultimately succeeded because he was willing to experience the pain of not succeeding. Edison learned by that pain how not to reach his goal, which gave him momentum and direction on how to reach it.
    We have become a nation unwilling to feel the pain. And so, in our desperation to hold true to that goal, we try and circumvent the natural process of how things evolve, and what evolution feels like, by trying to insulate and sedate ourselves. It’s a losing proposition. For it’s impossible to shut down one aspect of yourself without impacting all of the other aspects as well. We, like Heath Ledger, have moved into a quiet sleep from which it’s very easy to slip away.
    We are in denial about this pervasive problem. I was reading an ABC World News on-line article about Ledger’s autopsy findings and navigated over to the comments that people were posting. Almost all of them were raging against our denial of the magnitude of this problem and how children, in record numbers, are on drugs.
    Then there’s the fact that he was 28 with enormous success and a child out of wedlock with a woman he had met on the movie set of Brokeback Mountain, and, with whom he had recently split up. He was reported to be a doting father to their new daughter and yet a wild partier. So many issues here: The capacity to handle fame and fortune at age 28; bearing children out of wedlock; sex vs. love; the pressures to achieve money, fame, stardom, success, whatever.
    Such are the stuff of a national dialog that needs to commence and run deep. We need to get to the root causes of our weakest links and do something about strengthening them rather than anesthetizing them. Like Edison, we need to acknowledge out loud all the ways we have tried that have taught us how not to get to where we want to go so that together we can alter course.
    It’s too late for Heith Ledger, but not for the 1.5 million runaway children each year…or the 1 million high school age children who attempt suicides each year…or all the others of whatever age group who cannot seem to understand how we’ve created the world they inhabit…or who cannot seem to find an opening to a path leading to a better one.
    Death is only meaningless if we fail to find meaning in it. Heith Ledger has left us an opportunity that, if taken, can provide him a legacy far beyond any Oscar ever could have.
    Let’s give him that.

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