I recently received a note from someone important to me stating that Philip Seymour Hoffman was a self-interested bum.
Immediately, I could feel my heart pump harder and faster; I felt my throat thicken in defense and anger against the indictment. I don’t normally touch current events or popular culture news; it often gets me into trouble, but this one … I can’t step away from it. His death touched me profoundly, probably because I am still grieving the death of my own mother, and her epic battle with addiction, just five months ago yesterday.
My reaction is primitive; I can’t explain why it was so strong other than to plainly state that PSH was not a bum. He was a depressed, misunderstood and addicted man whose talent knew no bounds and whose demons were equally limitless.
He was an addict. After 22 years of sobriety, he relapsed in May 2013. He was working on getting cleaned up. He was a father of three kids; he did not marry his long-time lover and I suppose to this person who wrote me that note, this means he was a bum. Because he didn’t marry her. I can’t speak to his morality and the choices he made; maybe Ms. O’Donnell, his lover and the mother of his three young children didn’t want to marry him; maybe she saw his temperamental side; maybe she was afraid he would be unreliable and unsafe, so instead of imposing his whims and moods on his children, she chose to protect them and love them by putting them first while allowing her beloved to pursue his craft and live how he chose. She is devastated by this news.
We can’t sit here in judgment and throw horribly weighted and lopsided stones from our glass castles. Let me be clear about this, because this post is getting a lot of traffic: my feelings have nothing to do with his celebrity status. I will miss him because he made every film he was in better, but this has nothing to do with “star power.”
Addiction is a horrible scourge on all of humanity. My reaction to the indictment of his being a bum — a holier-than-thou, caustic attitude — tapped a nerve that runs deeply within my being. To me PSH represents everyone dealing with addiction; everyone trying to figure out life; everyone who’d love to feel good about themselves in a true and real way, internally, that no external accolade, award, money, fame, power, or talent can provide.
I wish … God how I wish my mother had gotten her ducks in a row. She suffered tragically. She was a beautiful woman with amazing intellect, and a great big heart and vision which were devoted to something other than the world she lived in, but she was a human. She was addicted. PSH was a human. He was not a bum. Addicts are not bums. They are just like you and me. They are deeply troubled and they need our compassion, not an indictment. Compassion is not enabling. All I know is that compassion just isn’t hate.
ps – update: i continue my rant here: Let Me Clear Up Something