The Internet is an amazing thing. It offers such immediate connectivity that former Green Arrow writer and Clerks director Kevin Smith can post a photo of himself following a massive heart attack and surgery. It can also allow Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt to offer a heartfelt message of condolence only to be attacked by those mistaking his words for the hollow “thoughts & prayers” talking point politicians use after a shooting massacre. And then it can allow Guardians director James Gunn to defend his star and clarify the notion of prayer in this context.
And thanks to the speed of the Internet, this all took place in the last six hours.
The story begins last night when Smith felt awful following shooting one of two performances for an upcoming comedy special. As outlined in his Instagram post, he began to feel the effects of what doctors would later term a “massive heart attack;” the result of a blockage in an artery morbidly nick-named “the Widow-Maker.”
I was trying to do a killer standup special this evening but I might’ve gone too far. After the first show, I felt kinda nauseous. I threw up a little but it didn’t seem to help. Then I started sweating buckets and my chest felt heavy. Turns out I had a massive heart attack. The Doctor who saved my life at the #glendale hospital told me I had 100% blockage of my LAD artery (also known as “the Widow-Maker” because when it goes, you’re a goner). If I hadn’t canceled the second show to go to the hospital, the Doc said I would’ve died tonight. For now, I’m still above ground! But this is what I learned about myself during this crisis: death was always the thing I was most terrified of in life. When the time came, I never imagined I’d ever be able to die with dignity – I assumed I’d die screaming, like my Dad (who lost his life to a massive heart attack). But even as they cut into my groin to slip a stent into the lethal Widow-Maker, I was filled with a sense of calm. I’ve had a great life: loved by parents who raised me to become the individual I am. I’ve had a weird, wonderful career in all sorts of media, amazing friends, the best wife in the world and an incredible daughter who made me a Dad. But as I stared into the infinite, I realized I was relatively content. Yes, I’d miss life as it moved on without me – and I was bummed we weren’t gonna get to make #jayandsilentbobreboot before I shuffled loose the mortal coil. But generally speaking, I was okay with the end, if this was gonna be it. I’ve gotten to do so many cool things and I’ve had so many adventures – how could I be shitty about finally paying the tab. But the good folks at the Glendale hospital had other plans and the expertise to mend me. Total strangers saved my life tonight (as well as my friends @jordanmonsanto & @iamemilydawn, who called the ambulance). This is all a part of my mythology now and I’m sure I’ll be facing some lifestyle changes (maybe it’s time to go Vegan). But the point of this post is to tell you that I faced my greatest fear tonight… and it wasn’t as bad as I’ve always imagined it’d be. I don’t want my life to end but if it ends, I can’t complain. It was such a gift. #KevinSmith
And while Smith contemplated his own mortality in the post, well-wishers began to pour in with messages of support and relief. Pratt was one of those, who, according to The Hollywood Reporter, offered these words: “Kevin we don’t know each other too good but I have loved you since Clerks and I’m praying my ass off for you cause I believe in the healing power of prayer. Can you please pray with me people!? Praying for you. I will continue to. You inspired me with Clerks when I was a senior HS. I’m tagging my Lb/rb football coach who showed me the movie cause he believed in me and knew I’d be inspired @hodge1916.”
Pratt is a well-known Christian who appears to use his faith in remarkable, charitable ways. Unfortunately, a subset of Christianity and ineffectual politicians have twisted the notion to prayer into empty words of dismissal. In light of deadly shootings over the last decade, the phrase “thoughts and prayers” became a calling card of those unwilling to address the underlying issues leading to the tragedies.
Which, of course, led many online to accuse Pratt of an equally empty gesture.
This is when Gunn entered the picture to clarify the difference between a politician’s “thoughts and prayers” and Pratt’s message. “There is nothing wrong with sending someone positive thoughts & prayers,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “But when this is coupled with inaction when action will benefit the situation, it’s empty.” Since Pratt is not a doctor and Smith can pay own medical bills, Gunn reasoned all Pratt can really do is offer to pray for Smith’s speedy recovery. Which used to be a reasonable way to say “I’m sorry this happened to you, man” before school shootings and extremist politics robbed people of offering condolences in this fashion. As Gunn subsequently noted, “Prayer isn’t for everyone but, in the face of helplessness, it’s often meant as a acknowledgement that one cares (and we all care about @ThatKevinSmith).”
Still, it is remarkable that this discussion took place in public overnight and happened so swiftly. It is also notable for the participants; which brings us back to Smith himself. We hope he has a swift and relatively painless recovery.