There have been an awful lot of thoughtful words offered in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing. Writing in Slate, Dana Stevens talked about “the intensity of [her] sense—of everyone’s, I think—that Philip Seymour Hoffman died when he was right in the middle of something, or of a lot of things, all subsumed under the work in progress called ‘life.'” David Bazan wondered on twitter why Hoffman’s passing feels especially painful to him and to us.
The answers, in so far as they exist in some way we can talk about across social media and news cycle chatter, have everything to do with our understanding of Hoffman as not wholly unlike us: maturing but not old, really, quite young, right in the middle of something called life. It’s not that we’re thinking “that could have been me.” It’s that we know very well it is us. He was one of the most talented artists of a compound generation born between the late 60s and early 80s, and somehow, his success, so deep and non-conventional and real, affirmed the standards we all hold ourselves to in secret. He was one of our most brilliant compatriots, one of the last of our poet priests. We’re all in the middle of this work in progress, and we’ve seen a fellow light, and a bright one, go out. We are right to mourn, to hug our partners or our children, to commit to keep our own lights burning. None of this feels as easy as it should be.
A friend recently told me about the death of someone close to her, someone for whom things had seemed to get better. Life is so lovely and shitty and strange, she said. Keep going. Please keep going.
That goes for you, too.