Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Zen Master

Gust Avrakotos: There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, "how wonderful. The boy got a horse" And the Zen master says, "we'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful."
Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, "We'll see."
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

I first noticed Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Twister, a somewhat forgettable movie with an amazing cast. He played one of the storm chasers, a ragtag sort of group of vagabonds. He was over-the -top goofy, with a huge heart and enormous appetite.

He had won an academy award and been nominated for another before Charlie Wilson's War. Wilson (Tom Hanks) was a Texas legislator who represented "the only district in American that doesn't want anything. They want their guns, they want low taxes - that's it." Charlie was enlisting the the help of offbeat CIA agent Gust Avrokotos to garner support for, and to arm, the mujaheddin in their fight to rid Afghanistan of the Russian invaders. Tom Hanks is an American icon, but PSH stole the show. 

Hoffman was talented, revered and had won a number of awards for his art (including an Academy Award nomination for his role opposite Hanks). He also battled drug addiction. He was found dead in his Manhattan apartment with a needle still stuck in his arm.

A good friend and I were called to a library bathroom one evening. There was an unresponsive man in a bathroom stall. When we arrived, his was purple, not breathing and cold to the touch. We had to unfold him to drag his body onto the floor in front of the sinks. We turned him on his side in what we thought was a vain hope of resuscitating him. Paramedics arrived and injected him with a dose of NARCAN. Moments later his eyes roared open, he pulled the intubation device from his mouth and demanded to know "what the fuck" we were doing to him.

No one was there to find Phil Hoffman in time for NARCAN to make a difference. How sad. In the real world, there is no second act. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a successful, rich and talented actor with three children and a huge future. The Zen master - in this case the awful evil allure of drug addiction - said "We'll see."

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