Yesterday afternoon, I read many reactions to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  They ranged from expressions of loss and grief to attacks on the character and intelligence of anyone who dies of a drug overdose.

One comment said simply, “R.I.P. Another great goes too soon.”  Another one said, “It’s not sad or tragic when someone dies from a drug overdose. it’s stupidity.”  The first comment was respectful and suggested the death was tragic; the latter suggested it was a deserved punishment for ‘stupidity.’

I’m not even sure what my reaction was, other than surprise.  I’ve only seen a few of the films in which Philip Seymour Hoffman starred and I did not know much about him, personally.  I did not know until reading news of his death that he had struggled with addiction in his youth, nor that he had checked into a rehab program last year after relapsing into drug use.  Both his early struggles with drugs and his relapse may have been big news, but I try not to pay attention to celebrity news; I have an almost pathological need to avoid getting on the “groupie train.”

Regardless of my distaste for celebrity worship, though, I know I did not feel anger or disdain for him.  When I learned of his death, I did not judge him any less of a man because drugs took his life.  But when I read the condemnations, the attacks on his intelligence, and the snarky comments about wealthy actors thinking they are beyond the reach of the negative effects of drugs, I felt anger at the people who posted those virulent attacks on a dead man.

Who can possibly know the darkness each of us may hide within us?  Who can know the pain or the fear or the anger inside that might cause someone to escape with drugs or alcohol?  That is not to say that I condone it, only that I think being judgmental overlooks the intricacies of reality.

I am sorry Philip Seymour Hoffman died; whether a drug overdose or natural causes, his death robbed us of a talented actor and it robbed his family and friends of someone they loved. It’s a heartless-son-of-a-bitch who can attack him for his mistakes and imply he had it coming.  That attitude suggests, to me, the person who holds it needs to take a long, hard look inward and do a bit of self-assessment…and self-judging.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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12 Responses to Compassion…hmmm

  1. Thank you, Roger. That hard edge between enough and too much can be brutal, I suspect.

  2. roger says:

    well done john. the stash he had argues against suicide. i did read that his heroin did not have fentanyl (apparently heroin with f in it has been causing many od deaths back east). some of the stuff some of us use to smooth the hard edges of the day has a sharp line between enough and too much.

  3. Trish says:


  4. Trish says:

    Uh, read Robins comment and for some unknown reason the video I posted suddenly shows nothing….found it again for re-post. And yes, a lifetime pain.

    I was just reading that he’d said he kicked the habit for 23 years and remained sober until May 2013, when he briefly relapsed, after admitting to snorting heroin, and returned to rehab, spending 10 days in a detox program. This was just all the more saddening for with that said, he obviously worked very hard against his addition.

  5. robin andrea says:

    I had seen him in a few movies and always thought he was a wonderful, soulful actor. I liked him. I liked his face. It broke my heart to know he had died of an overdose. Such a tragedy. He left young children and a family who loved him. That is the pain of a lifetime.

  6. Excellent, Trish. Thanks for that.

  7. Trish says:

    This short clip I found in The New York Times this morning was part of a tribute…and as I personally would like to remember Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was superb in “Capote” and “Doubt”.

  8. No wonder at all, Larry!

  9. Trish says:

    Very thoughtful post, John!

    Yes, I’d to had seen both reactions posted yesterday. I had commented on one, just saying, who really knows what demons he struggled with? It’s just a sad loss of a very talented man.

    It was, and is heartless of some to pass such judgement. He will be missed.

  10. Larry Zuckerman says:

    My comment was the first you mentioned. Is it any wonder to you why we are friends!

  11. Joyce says:

    Another well-spoken thought, John. Thanks

  12. Susanne says:

    Good words John. Well said.

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