There has been so much bandying about the tragic end to the heroin user and wonderful actor-artist, PSHoffman.
Most of it has been kind and compassionate.
Some people are terrified and have blamed him for his own demise. “How could he do that to his three children?”
How could he not?
What happened happened.
I was shocked about this news. I had no idea he even had a drug problem. Maybe I was too drunk/high to notice?
Strangely, I have been able to “abuse” alcohol and weed at weekend levels that in other cultures would be considered just a tame Wednesday evening. It’s hard to know the extent of the damage you are doing. Luckily for me, I have a very sensitive, weak system, so there is just a limit to what I can handle and I just stop. For days at a time. For weeks. Sometimes years. Depending on the bender.
At the root of whatever it is that keeps me from going off the deep end, chemically, is I am terrified of illness and refuse to destroy myself (even though, at times, I do believe that others would be happy with my disappearance). My self preservation is stronger than my desire to numb out.
The primal horror in reaction to the death of this wonderful actor is that we all have a very questionable impulse. To self-obliterate. We all, while standing on a tall bridge, feel the desire to jump over the divide into the nothingness. We all want to escape this fucking veil of tears. Those of us who are high functioning, or medium functioning, or functioning within the legal limits of our house pants while sitting on a stained couch, find it terrifying that we could be so self destructive. Not to mention what we are doing to others by self immolation. But we all have some kind of wish to disappear. Even if only occasionally. Certainly, we all want pleasure, even if that pleasure is nothing more than a lack of pain.
There is much talk about brain chemistry. The chemistry of addiction. All that. I believe we will fully understand the chemistry of this whole addiction mess more fully in decades to come. But then, I do believe we may use our scientific ability to genetically engineer human beings who will then not have problems with addiction.
However, I fear the world will be less colorful.
I sort of know, or have the sinking feeling, that my creativity—which is really a form of reaching for transcendence—comes from the same area as my need to obliterate my negative feelings and increase my warm feelings. This is not dissimilar to drinking gallons of cheap beer at the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl in
Munich (and why didn’t Duncan ever call me? We
got along so well that evening!) or like when I am stoned on some of the good
weed you can simply have delivered to your door, anywhere in livable U.S.A., and use
it to enhance ye ol’ sex life or dry pot roast.
Of course, there are limits. For me. But I completely understand that old saw you hear in 12 step rooms, “One is too much and a thousand never enough.” The desire, “To find God at the bottom of a bottle.” Pascal’s “God Shaped Hole,” Etc. There is a need FOR SOMETHING ELSE. And maybe for some people this need is filled while watching sun motes dance around their sweet children’s heads who love to eat noodles with their hands. But many people don’t have the luxury…of noodles. More abstract things can take over.
Death always lurks. For all of us. Horrible, horrible death. Yet on some level we crave death because for one thing, life can be too hard or too boring and also, it’s a curious place, death. Like, what the hell is it? And if we are going there, anyway, wouldn’t it make sense to get there sooner? Who likes to wait for anything?
Life is better, we say. But we don’t really know that. I have come out of anesthesia three times—each experience leaving me thinking, “Damn, if death is that kind of nothingness, why on earth is anyone afraid of it? I’ve never felt more well rested!” (And on my tombstone, please write, “My sinuses have never felt better”)
I believe the righteous indignation that people hold against addicts is a projection of the fear of their own death and the death of the ones that they love. People hate the idea of no longer existing. But why? They did not exist for all those long years before they were born. Are they mad about that, too? And does someone have to pay for this most great probability that we are not immortal?
I did not know PSHoffman. I know some people who did. They are all saddened. Sad. Not mad. Just sad. Anyone who did not know him who is angry at his action is projecting a fear onto him. Anger will not change anything here.
One day, we may figure out how to handle ourselves better on this earth, with all its pitfalls and problems and aggressions and miseries. But until then, I think we are going to drink and do drugs. And probably after that, too. It’s tricky.
Rest in Peace, Philip. You gave more than most. Sorry you’re gone. It’s sad for all of us. Living, unlike being dead, is often sad.