Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger is Dead. And it's Business as Usual.

Anyone else oddly emotionally affected by Heath Ledger’s death?

I’m no New Yorker and far from a talking head. I can’t shed any light on anything--never have been able to. I’ve lived here for four and a half years but still have no idea what direction is where, only that I can live a long and fruitful life never going back to Dorian’s, I’m not in-the-know or particularly fashionable or worldly, I’m not yet jaded, I oscillate between bouts of unexpected sensitivity and absolute lack of feeling and yet for some reason this week has put all of that up in sharp relief. Happening here, so close to places we all frequent, by a man who seemed to be one of those guys we just sort of saw and admired his normalcy, his Brooklynite life that we ascribe to is just the strangest feeling. This may be the dumbest statement I may ever make: but I am scared and saddened by death—how easy it is, how common it is, how inevitable it is, all the time, and so surprised when it dawns on me for the umpteenth time, and I don’t know if I ever will not be. I don’t know how people aren’t. I didn’t know Heath Ledger and of course I never would have, and my heart is breaking a little. And it has no right to.

Maybe because celebrities live here too, and we see them sometimes, and they seem like extensions of us—a little richer, a little more glamorous, and so we think, a little happier. And why shouldn’t they be? They live the life outside of cubicles, they get to walk outside at 1 PM if they want and they always will. Sure, they pay the price by being followed, but who can say that we haven’t thought they deserve it just a little, for getting to be immortal and unusually immune to the drudgery that pervades the rest of us?

Or maybe because I can’t shake the idea of a universal force that allows us to feel other people’s pain or something just as touchy feely—but it hurts that we’re not supposed to care about this kind of thing, that we feel like we’re owed something, that we secretly want the body bag to be open just a little because we can’t believe that people just up and expire, because of accidents or because they hate themselves or because people hate them or whatever else it may be. I remember when I cried for days when Kurt Cobain died because I was in the throes of SUCH IMPORTANT pre-teen feelings and he had SPOKEN to me, and I see now how silly that was, and maybe how sad, just like I do now, being so much closer in age to the next wave of celebrity deaths, knowing that a lot of us get to live a long time and accomplish nothing, a short time and accomplish something, even if just by punctuating said accomplishments by having a short time.

This thought is all over the place. It’s weird, it’s rambling, it makes no sense. I just keep having one salient conclusion about any of this. I remember when I read Rosencrantz & Guildenstern and I felt something reading it then, turning the pages slowly, when they die on stage, in these sort of bursting fits, they die quite well and they’re told to stop; because that’s not what death is. It’s not dramatic and epic and climactic in its own right, it has no power over us even remotely in the way we have grown up to believe. It’s the lack of living and that is all it is. Not banners flying and singing praises of victory, or honor for dying for a movement. It’s no movement. It’s one day being seen and then never again, not dramatic at all, just fading, memories living on until they don’t, because they’re under our own control and then, very very slowly, they aren’t.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is really sad.

courtney said...

I teared up a bit yesterday when I found out. And I couldn't really explain why, only that I had a crush on him in '10 Things I Hate About You'. Thank you for putting somewhat how I feel so eloquently.

Another Twentysomething said...

I hear you. It makes no logical sense, but my first reaction was a surprised and shocked, "People DIE?" Such a basic thing to understand, but when it happens...

Ha Ha Sound said...

It's sad, sure, but only in the sense that he was a promising young actor who left behind a young daughter. I don't feel like his death matters any more than anybody else's, really.

Anonymous said...

You're so right. Its always such a surprise. But death doesn't have some big reason or moment, not like in Braveheart. It just can happen, instantly, unplanned or planned, but perfectly quiet and meaningless.

very thought provoking.

Laura said...

I had a similar reaction to his death, though it wasn't so eloquently stated.