Philip Seymour Hoffman, arguably the finest actor to emerge in the past 25 years, is dead.
If only death rang ahead to warn of its imminent arrival. Instead it just shows up unannounced - like a headache, flatulence, an annoying relative or an unplanned pregnancy after promiscuity - and expects us to drop everything and cater to its foreboding. We haven't stocked the fridge full of the foods it likes or the cooler with ice cubes and bottled beers to crack open over some small conversation.
We aren't prepared. We aren't ready.
Death catches the lifeless off guard and takes no account of the living, who are never appropriately attired. When death comes we are usually in the middle of some mundane task or, even worse, some hedonistic thing that doesn't require a single item of clothing, just a hypodermic syringe, the accompanying needle and the sadness we will be injecting into all those pretty poser people who cared so much they were never there; who loved you so much they made you hate yourself; who so wanted the best for you they took every opportunity to remind you of your worst crime. The people who pushed you over the white line. The people who wasted your precious time and never gave you theirs. You know the ones who spoke but had no listening ears. The ones who commiserated your confidence and laughed when you shared stifled outrage and your innermost fears.
Behind the bolted bathroom door we are all snorting some beautiful bloody war through a plastic cutoff straw or a rolled up banknote. Behind the bravery, we are all just cowards buying grams of courage, crushing it with maxed out credit cards and getting high on the lies we tell ourselves to maintain the socially acceptable truth about us, which says I'm doing just fine ... (but we all know you're not really).
The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has stunned so many of us into a deafening numbness. Here is a man who appeared to be somewhat of a bore. An Academy-Award winning actor who excelled as the lead in Capote and Doubt who had previously performed exceptionally well from the periphery of films like Magnolia, The Talented Mr Ripley and Todd Solondz's Happiness. Released in 1998, Hoffman's Allen Mellencamp is an obscene phone caller and a seedy exploration into the depths of compulsive behaviour. In one key scene, while speaking to his therapist - who also happens to be a paedophile - Bill Maplewood, Mellencamp muses:
"I have nothing to talk about, I'm boring. And that I know, I've been told before so don't tell me it's not true 'cause it's a fact. I bore the people. People look at me and they get bored, people listen to me and they zone out. Bored. 'Who is that boring person?', they think. 'I've never before met anyone so boring."
Unassuming, quiet and subtle - yes - but, unlike Mellencamp, Hoffman was no bore. Hoffman was textured and brilliant. We like brilliant men to be brilliant at all times and so we brush aside any indication that brilliant men might, like us ordinary men, be capable of brokenness, which means men like Hoffman and Heath Ledger before him, though richly brilliant, often end up dying the impoverished death of broken men who have been impossibly fractured by some intimate failure.
Upon hearing the news of his death, I shared it with my Jamaican mother as she pulled the spoon through the Oxtails in the dutch pot. A woman of a certain generation who has absolutely no idea who Philip Seymour Hoffman is or what he does. Nevertheless it stirred in her a certain pathos when she poignantly remarked, "Some of us are chasing dragons. Most of us are being chased by them."
You can stop running now Philip.