Walking into the fire


Heath Ledger (who played the “Joker” character in the Dark Knight movie) died 11 years ago [Jan 22nd, 2008].

He died before the movie was released — from an accidental drug overdose. He was all of 29 years.

While there were some rumors that the intense work in the film was responsible for his death, that is no longer believed to be true.

Many of us can’t forget his riveting performance in the movie. He won a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2009 — the only Oscar ever to be awarded to someone for playing a role in a super-hero movie.

At least one of his co-stars — Michael Caine — was apparently terrified of his performance on the sets — that at one point Caine forgot his lines.

What does it take to do something that remarkable?

I was reminded of the following story I’d read many years earlier:

“There is an ancient Chinese story of an old master potter who attempted to develop a new glaze for his porcelain vases. It became the central focus of his life.
Every day he tended the flames of his kilns to a white heat, controlling the temperature to an exact degree. Every day he experimented with the chemistry of the glazes he applied, but still he could not achieve the beauty he desired and imagined was possible in the glaze.
Finally, having tried everything, he decided his meaningful life was over and walked into the molten heat of a fully fired kiln.
When his assistants opened up the kiln and took out the vases, they found the glaze on the vases the most exquisite they had ever encountered.
The master himself had disappeared into his creations.”

[Excerpt from “The Heart Aroused” by David Whyte.]

I think Heath Ledger walked into that proverbial kiln — and the results were visible for all of us to enjoy.

Although the rumors connecting his performance to his death were proven wrong, some of us have the nagging question: “Did he go too far?”.

I don’t think there’s a yardstick that we can use to measure this. It depends on each of us, what we want to do with our lives.