What are we to take away from the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman at age 46? A man of great talent, respected by the movie-going and play-attending public as perhaps the finest character actor of his generation, a man who could choose what roles he wished to play for the rest of his natural life, and a man whose life ended with a syringe in his arm with between 50 and 70 glassine bags of heroin scattered around in his Greenwich Village apartment.
I feel sorry for his friends and survivors, his three children, his former partner Ms O'Donnell, and for the fans who will be deprived of his performances in years to come.
It's sad to look back on the old '60 Minutes' interview and see him describe his avid interest in gobbling as many drugs as he could get his hands on, but that was in the days when he gotten straight, and the assumption was that he would remain free of heroin's grip, or death grip, I should say.
More sadness comes from realizing that this will not serve to dissuade one person from embarking on a walk down this same road, if they have decided to do so. Everyone thinks they will be the one to beat the odds.
I've been around long enough now to see marijuana described as a killer drug in my teens to its current state as a punch line on late night talk shows, as states and cities legalize recreational use of weed. Here in Maryland, a law was passed in the General Assembly last year to allow the medical use of grass for pain relief. While they're toking away in Denver, no hospital in Maryland has so far been willing to administer a plan for medical marijuana, and the governor is unwilling to support recreational use.
But the point is, drugs - including alcohol, don't fool yourself - remain a scourge of society, because, after all, their overuse/abuse leads to nothing but sadness and gloom. Heroin and cocaine were once in use as pain medications, but you see how they are used now. We banned alcohol in the 1920s, and you see where that wound up.
Hofmann was an educated, gifted person, reduced to stumbling around his neighborhood in an apparent stupor while the drugs fought it out against the demons within him. Or maybe the drugs teamed up with the demons. Now, for all his talent, fame and ability to transform himself into new characters and different personas, he is just another resident of the morgue, a life wasted, a future shot to hell.
And there's a lesson in that.