Yesterday’s news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death struck me pretty deeply. It is always sad for me to hear of celebrity deaths but I often feel a bit feel detached…this was not the case with Mr Hoffman. I took some time yesterday to reflect on why I teared up and grieved his passing a little differently. Yes…addiction was part of it. What a life stealer addiction can be…brutal and unrelenting. My heart breaks that Philip was all alone and using in a room in Manhattan…a borough with millions of people just outside his four walls. Yes…his children and wife losing a father was also a part of it. I can’t imagine the emotional aftermath they will experience. My heart goes out to all of his friends and family. And yes…he was one of the greatest actors of our generation. I will miss his brilliant work. I am thankful that his completed art will live on even though the artist is gone.
I think that I was moved because I come from a long line of artists much like Philip. Brilliant Poets, book writers, painters, instrumentalists, singers, woodworkers etc…I have many lovely artist friends as well. Some are trying to interpret the world around them through their craft…to put pain into pottery, family hurts into oil on canvas, righteous indignation into melody, political injustice into chariactures. Some of my comrades are trying to create other worlds with fantastical characters, magical landscapes and wondrous plot twists. And then some create to make others feel loved, heard, understood, happy, joyful and hopeful.
I like to imagine that creative types with strong artist temperaments have multicolored blood running through their veins…processing the data of their day to day lives in their minds like a mosaic or an abstract watercolor rather than a calculated equation or a bullet point list. I like to envision that their hearts beat to the rhythm of a samba and when their eyes open from sleeping they cue the sun to rise. You see…so many artists I know live in another world while simultaneously living on this planet we call earth. So many creatives I know are brilliant escape artists…with the astonishing ability to ascend from the doldrums and troubles of this world and seek shelter in a sonnet they’ve written…refuge in a rock riff they’ve shredded…haven in a hip hop lyric they’ve penned.
Many of these same escape artists have the supernatural power to come back down from their escapade and set up a vacation slide show for the world around them to take in. The listener of these artist’s translated tunes from another world is often driven to tears. The observer of an extraterrestrial acting performance is often silenced and can’t process their feelings with words. These artists are a gift to the earth indeed.
But then comes the rub – The moments when the artist is not creating…the days when the reality of this harsh existence catches up…the moments when we are unable to escape. What to do when you struggle with the ability to find art in the normal day to day grind…poetry in the pursuit of healthy relationships with our loved ones? Do we find ways to make our days a 24 hour retreat? To borrow a quote from psychotherapist Carl Jung…
“The artist’s life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him—on the one hand, the common longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life, and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire. There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman had the divine gift of creative fire. I miss him already although I did not know him personally. I feel for his struggle…and for all of you who may share in this plight.
My hope is that all of my creative brothers and sisters could find the art in life…find a reason to wake up every morning…know that you are not alone…find peace for your souls…find kindred spirits to love and be loved in return by. By all means…keep enjoying your vacation homes nestled in creative otherworldly destinations of the soul…keep giving this world your art…the earth needs it…you are adding beauty.
I just hope that we all can find just as beautiful of a place to call our permanent home when we are not traveling.
Rest in Peace Philip Seymour Hoffman. Peace and love to all my creative friends.