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Philip Seymour Hoffman, death not in vain

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As the snow fell Monday, I felt the clouds were weeping for Philip Seymour Hoffman; snow tears clinging to the limbs of trees, unwilling to melt away. This man with three names and many more people inside him left too soon. His talent was so bright and his manner known to be so gentle. It’s the Year of the Horse and he died taking ‘horse.’


I had seen him once at Crif Dogs and wanted to engage with him on the merits of a good mustard, but he was danced away by friends. I had often thought of writing something with him in mind, and would attend Labyrinth shows in the hopes of bumping into him.


His death brings up irrational guilt in me. Why am I feeling that I should have been able to save him? I had a similar experience when Heath Ledger overdosed. It’s not narcissism… I know I’m no god… but I think a genuine feeling of humanity… why shouldn’t we be able to help strangers out of the perils of the deep? Sometimes strangers are more effective than family and loved ones for all the obvious reasons.  It’s a human right and a responsibility. After all, look at how much they both gave all of us.


What if I had campaigned more vigorously for the legalization of drugs? If heroin had a less vile connotation, would it have been easier for Hoffman to find cleaner, ‘safer’ doses. If he didn’t feel he had to hide behind a wall of shame, would he have been able to balance out his doses until he worked through this round of angst?


I have a friend who is suffering deeply emotionally and it is a type of hell that I have never gone through. I am grateful for her that she has her art to ease some of that pain, as Hoffman must have felt his acting and teaching did for him.


Dr. Andrew Tatarsky is a specialist in Harm Reduction Therapy, a model of treatment that is compassionate and humane. Sometimes cold turkey doesn’t work. Thousands of dollars should be going into setting up centers for HRT all around the country where so many are suffering from addiction. Instead money is going to build up the war effort. There is a great war here against the vulnerable. And with the financial disparity growing wider every nano second, the need to end this war is even greater.


Philip Seymour Hoffman gave our culture a huge bang for our buck with his sublime character interpretations and dedication to his art. Why can’t this country give back to its own with a reformed attitude towards drugs? Why can’t we drop the judgments and at least try to understand the rings of hell that drive an individual to do what they can to alleviate the pain.  


Of course, I can’t bring this man back any more than anyone can bring back the dead. But we can honor them by not letting their death be meaningless… we can use this opportunity to liberalize our laws and release the chains on our hearts.  It is the only way forward.  Giddy up.

Written by nancykoan

February 11, 2014 at 6:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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