January 23, 2008

The Fall Of Another Rising Star

Another wildly successful, rich, handsome, popular, got-it-all celebrity is dead after less than three decades on this earth. My first recollection of Heath Ledger is from the movie The Patriot where he played the brave son of Mel Gibson defying his father's wishes and joining the American Revolution. He dies as the tragic hero fighting for the burgeoning nation's freedom. Some sacrifices are not only honorable but admirable if not necessary. Many others are not.

It would be presumptuous of me to brand Ledger's death, naked and alone in a Brooklyn apartment, a hideous picture of the man's fate who pursues "life" apart from the "Life-Giver."

Never-the-less, Jesus did say in John's gospel, "I came to give life and give it more abundantly." For many, that's a great sentiment so long as you keep that "religious stuff" confined to a white, steepled building, but the reality of what Jesus promised is routinely lost on sojourners in a land of prosperity.

Rising star, actor/comedian Freddie Prinze, was only 22 when he shot himself; River Phoenix, had one year on Prinze when he overdosed outside a nightclub. Jonathan Brandis, hanged himself at 27 and David Strickland died in like fashion almost making it to thirty.

They were all rich, handsome, popular, got-it-all celebrities who had everything by appearance yet willingly cashed it in for nothing, believing, or at least hoping, that death is more preferable than life.

Apparently all their "everything" wasn't nearly enough to palliate whatever sorrow and meaninglessness compelled them to look for solace in the grave.

Heather Nauert of Fox news seemed sincerely baffled that someone with Ledger's profile would take his own life. That is understandable if your only point of reference for judging life is by the standard set by affluent, westerners. There is a disparate assessment however, by a wise, old soul who made it his goal in life to figure such mysteries out.

The first and last chapters of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes contain bookend statements framing Solomon's inspired assessment of the world's offerings of satisfaction and joy. He writes, "Meaningless! Meaningless! …Everything is meaningless!"

Solomon is often misunderstood by his critics seeing him as the consummate pessimist. To the partially informed, Solomon saw the glass not simply half empty; but broken. But that's not the whole story. Solomon explains: "…as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God." (Ecclesiastes 5:19)

There were plenty of rich people in the Bible and their wealth was clearly the blessing of God on their lives. But Solomon warns, lose sight of the One from whom such good things come, and despair is only a sword--or a pill bottle--away.

I cannot judge the late, young actor's heart or what was taking place in the mine field of his soul. But spiritual journeys--of which we are all active or passive partakers--bear certain marks of the roads on which we are traveling.

I truly hope I am wrong about Ledger's; only God knows, and that is all that matters for He is a gracious and perfectly just judge. If only the multitudes blinded by bling would learn that success and wealth are not a matter of fame and fortune, but of knowing, and being known, by one's Creator.

It is naïve perhaps but I trust maybe somewhere along the line of such high profile tragedies, a few will put it together. At least that is my prayer.


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