Sunday, February 2, 2014

Choices (and a Look at Woody Allen and Philip Seymour Hoffman)

We make choices all the time. What to eat, where to live, how we exercise. Most of them are done without much thought, some are done with agonizing scrutiny. But our choices shape our lives.

I have always been intrigued by choices. Last night I listened to a speech by a runner and a hiker who set new records traversing the Pacific Crest Trail. What intrigued me more than anything were small choices they made. Why did they start at the time of the year that they did? What made them choose to run north rather than south? How did they decided to wear this, run in that, eat those?

Another thing that shapes our lives is the choices others make. These can have as much of a positive or negative impact on our lives as the ones we make for ourselves. Whether it is our government deciding who gets what tax break, how health care is handled, or the closing down of a bridge heading into New York City out of spite, others' choices often influence our own.

A chapter in my book 138,336 Feet to Pure Bliss talks about how we definitely should applaud those who make a choice about becoming healthy again. By this I mean they have eaten themselves into near oblivion or have almost died because of drub abuse but have fought back to health. Good for them, indeed. But we often forget to praise those who were faced with the same choices and didn't succumb to them, either totally or in part.

Woody and his lovely bride to be.
Two interesting stories about choices have cropped up recently. The first is about Woody Allen's adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, claiming sexual molestation. Now, Allen is innocent until proven guilty but it is hard not to look at the large body of evidence working against him. He did, after all, marry his other adopted daughter and famously quoted "What was the scandal?" This is a choice that apparently Dylan Farrow did not make that has affected her life.  But, as I said, innocent until proven guilty, so let's move on to the next story of choice.

Philip Seymour Hoffman apparently died of a heroin overdose.  For those who enjoyed his acting, this is a loss. I am one of them. I have enjoyed virtually everything that he did. I also looked at him and saw a rather overweight guy who I was sure was:

a. going to drop dead in the next few years from health issues;
b. could not believe was just 8 years older than me. I would have easily put him in his mid 50s. He looked that terrible.

So where is the choice some might say? Well, while I know there is a feeling amongst some that drug addiction is not a choice I find that to be ludicrous. For 13,761 days I have chosen not to take drugs (obviously referring to the illegal, harmful kind.) Why? Because I am a big fan of being alive. I am not saying that some people are not faced with harder lives than me which might make them more predisposed to trying drugs. I am not saying that some people are not made up of different ways in which they cope with what is put in front of them. And I am definitely not saying that once you make a bad choice that it is easy to pull out of that life and start afresh.

But to equate drug abuse to a disease is insulting to all of those who actually get a disease without choice. Those who get lung cancer but never smoke a day in their lives. Those who are stricken with Alzhemier's or Parkinson's without once deciding to shoot up with a drug. Those who contract malaria or cystic fibrosis or a litany of other diseases which attack the body and try to kill it under no fault of the person who owns that body at all. These are the people I feel for. They did not make a choice. Like Dylan Farrow. She didn't choose to be molested.

Philip Seymour Hoffman may have been a great guy. He was a fantastic actor. But he chose very poorly.


Kenyon Delk said...

"But to equate drug abuse to a disease is insulting to all of those who actually get a disease without choice." I have always said this. Great insight, Dane!

On to Boston said...

Excellent article! 100 percent agree. Thank you!