Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t know how to be happy

Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t know how to be happy

By Lauren Alix Brown @laurenalixb February 6, 2014

Back in December 2012, Philip Seymour Hoffman sat down with philosopher Simon Critchley at the Rubin Museum to talk about happiness. Days after reeling from the actor’s death, much has been made of the singular pain of addiction and the lonely descent into acting in a difficult role. But the interview touches on something universal, a base human inability to simply be happy. Within the first two minutes of the interview, Hoffman declares, “I really don’t know what it means to be happy.”

As this video makes clear, Hoffman’s struggle is “how to just be.” Pleasure is transient or a dangerous booby trap that you’ll simply make a mess of. When you start to examine whether you’re really happy, it seems to slip away.

Yet we still blindly pursue it. A December 2013 global study found that people rate happiness as more important than being rich or having meaning. And perhaps even more desperately as the economy begins to recover yet our satisfaction hasn’t buoyed. Since 2005, Google Trends shows that search for “how to be happy” hasincreased by nearly 180%.

The interview was taped just three days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This was something Hoffman referenced after stating: “I have three children and I think I’m happy with them and they’re OK.”

Toward the end of the interview, Hoffman references one of Critchley’s lectures “To philosophize is to learn how to die“—Critchley is a disciple of so-called continental philosophy—by offering his own take: “Learning how to die is learning how to live.”

Yet Hoffman certainly seemed to get it. “Meditation is actually coming right up to the lip of death, and saying, ‘I’m here and I’m scared and I’m here and I’m scared’…That’s life, that if you can actually live in that place, that that’s happiness.”

In other words, the tension between denying life and embracing it might be the closest we can get to being happy. And perhaps Philip Seymour Hoffman spent his whole life coming “right up to the lip” before he went.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: