Tales of Hoffman: Mourning, Madness, Misery, Mystery and Melancholy in the Wake of Senseless Death

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a genius. He was a mesmerizing actor on stage and on screen. Talented people stood in the wings and watched him work, their mouths agape.

Philip_Seymour_Hoffman_2011

Philip Seymour Hoffman.

He died yesterday at age 46. With a syringe in his arm.

That’s because Philip Seymour Hoffman was a junkie.

And that’s not an indictment of the man; that’s a fact. We have seen, all too often, creative geniuses who are drawn to substance abuse and who succumb to its lure. The question that I keep asking myself is why?

What is it that you are trying to escape? What is it that you can no longer endure? What pain is so searing that you crave any release?

I have no answers, it will remain a mystery to me, I guess, but I do know that substance abuse at this level is intensely egomaniacal. It is driven by something — some demon, perhaps — that makes you crave the high. The release. And not care about what happens to you. Or your children. Or your family. Or those who love you.

Hoffman was a shape-shifter; a big bear of a man who won the Academy Award for portraying the diminutive author Truman Capote. And he did this so effortlessly — it seemed — that the audience not only suspended its disbelief, we actually believed that he had become small and fragile before our eyes. That’s the hallmark of a master of his talent. But, as we have seen, that talent does not come without a price.

Today, I don’t know how to feel. Should I be angry at the people who sold him heroin? Should I be angry at Hoffman for giving in to the smack? For dying? Should I celebrate the body of work that he leaves behind? Should I be sad that he couldn’t overcome his demons. And that the demons won?

Life is such mercury: here one moment, there the next, then gone. Melancholia seems the overarching feeling of the day.

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