A Serious Waste of Talent

The sudden death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, brought me to some jarring realizations. Mr. Hoffman, Oscar and Tony Winner, may have died from a heroin overdose. After 23 years of sobriety he had returned to drug use, entered a rehab clinic and emerged to work again. Work, apparently, was a catharsis of sorts for Mr. Hoffman. He stayed busy on the Broadway stage but still found time to appear in two or three films each year. He leaves behind a staggering body of work.

Sadly, he leaves behind this body of work at age 46. One could imagine Mr. Hoffman working well into his 70’s, his girth broadening, his blond hair thinning, his talent deepening with the depth of love and sanguine sadness that can only come with age.

We will not have his talent or his depth of love to enrich our own aging. Mr. Hoffman joins 22 persons in the Pittsburgh area (he died in New York) and perhaps as many in the St. Louis area who have died of heroin overdoses in the last twelve months. Some combine heroin with another drug intended for cancer patients but said to give (already) potent heroin an even more forceful high. Left unsaid is the selfishness the users show in denying the drug to patients who actually need it and the pain some leave behind them upon their untimely deaths.

We want to provide grace for all people. Grace is essential, I think, in treating every illness, from neurosis to psychosis. There is nothing, I think, that grace cannot heal, nothing that God will not forgive. Christians from Aquinas to Wesley and beyond point out how important it is for humans to cooperate with God by faith to partake of grace. Wesley was often heard to ask, “Why are we not getting better?” No one can say Wesley lacked grace (or even graciousness) but he knew what every addict of every kind should know. Addiction to sin, which often ends in self-destruction, is a serious waste of talent.

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