Philip Seymour Hoffman and Saving Mr. Banks: What’s the Connection?

celtic soulAll in the same week, actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman died and Saving Mr. Banks came to my local movie theater, then I personalized both.

Jim Carrey, actor and comedic genius, commented in a tweet:  “Dear Philip, a beautiful beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us ‘the noise can be too much’. Bless your heart”.

And then, I watched the storyline for the film Saving Mr. Banks unfold. The father of PL Travers (Helen Goff), who authored Mary Poppins, tells his very young daughter, “PL”, in a moment of  angry despair, feeling suffocated by a life that is “not him” : “we share a Celtic Soul, never let them take that away from you!”  He is a man who by nature is  whimsical, playful, and imaginative. He inspires his daughters with make-believe, turning drudgery into imaginary games and fanciful story. His daughters delight in it….. but, the need to support his family in the backwaters of Australia has him working in a bank, a manager of paper and accounts and people who speak a different language, driven by business and well… money. “The noise is too much” for his softer more lyrical nature.

Both these men, Philip S. Hoffman and Travers Goff succumbed to substance addiction as a way to cope with not being able to cope with “the noise that can be too much”.  It eventually killed both Philip  and Travers Goff, one with heroin and the other with alcohol.

The connection?  I think both deaths are related to the challenge of having been born Celtic Souls , a poetic term for highly sensitive people rather than something only the Irish can lay claim to!

I googled  “highly sensitive people” (some would call them empaths) and here are a few of the characteristics describing such souls among us: “these are humans that rarely “do” everyday 9-5  life with ease.  If they do manage to, it requires painstaking effort; a fake it ’til you make it (or don’t ) discipline while trying to make sense of an homogenized mainstream western culture that seems beyond bearable at times.

They are souls that do not fit the tough, stoic, go-get’em  ideal of success so glorified amongst us.  They are people drawn to finding a deeper meaning.  It is a need not a pastime, and often a source of painful yearning that goes unsatisfied leaving such souls bewildered, wondering if they missed the memo about “how to do the business of life” without an MBA in hand.

I would venture to say the world is rampant with “highly sensitive souls”, people who think they were dropped here from a distant star without a manual and often find self destructive ways to protect their soft underbelly: drink, drugs, depression, and isolation in an attempt to escape the noise.

 I have a feeling it all starts very young when we first encounter the rough and tumble world through our families, schools and later jobs that bore us silly and seem useless to all the delights we might pursue.  In my experience, it seems to require the better part of a lifetime for highly sensitive people to get their bearings (if they ever do). I have found it so for me.

Underneath all this is what  Roya R. Rad, Ma, PsyD describes as the characteristics of highly sensitive people:
1. Have great imagination
2. Have great intellectual abilities
3. Are creative
4. Have a curious mind
5. Are hard workers
6. Are good problem solvers
7. Are extremely conscious and compassionate
8. Are intuitive, caring and spiritual
9. Have a strong sense of aesthetic awareness
10. Respect nature, art and music greatly
11. Have profound and intense sensations
12. Can access important information from the unconscious mind
13. Have a depth of understanding and feelings
14. Are objective and can see the bigger picture

Some of these characteristics work in our present culture, but many do not enjoy the same degree of worth.  We might value hard workers and problem solvers, but find the intuitive, caring and spiritual to be “side dishes” to the goals of success.

For those of us who identify with the HSP label or its poetic equivalent, the Celtic soul, what is real is often much more in our imaginations, in artful image, in soaring music that stirs us to wonder and awe. We are drawn to story and may be actors or writers because a good story is alive, felt, and moves us.

If we are fortunate to discover Nature in all her wildness and bring it into our lives then we have moments of seeing our own true nature mirrored back to us: imaginative, curious, unharnessed, and profoundly spiritual.  Nature provides the “big picture” offering the incomparable yearned for intimacy that eludes many of us elsewhere, bringing a sense of connection and belonging.

Here is my disclaimer: This is a purely personal lens through which I write.  It is not an all encompassing “truth”.  Much of it is personal to me, but I am grateful to Philip and Travers Goff and others (Virgina Woolf and many other creative women) who seem kindred spirits and great teachers asking us through their own tragic stories to find a different way, a different path… where we call to us kindred Celtic souls with whom to play and love and share whimsy, imagination and authentic intimacy, all of which the world may or may not ever value as the bottomline.

  I write this piece in praise of  the Celtic Soul, in praise of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Travers Goff,  and the myriad of other creative souls, famous or not, who have sought “Spirit” mistaking “spirits” or other addictive substances for a way in, a way to feel a part of the bigger picture.

You are Earth’s treasures, but I venture to say, you come from the stars!

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Hope(MORROW)Glidden says:

    This is All true for me, You have said it ALL I wish I could be around others that feel the way I do, YES there is SO Very Much noise,people going NO where, and leaving me to feel that I am the wrong one, and Yes there are NO Coincidence, Only fact that I feel things that are out side of myself,I feel a very strong feeling for Animals, mostly Dog’s and hoofed Animals, I think I can feel their sadness,and Happiness. I am an Artists/Painter from Day One, I paint what comes through these emotions, I could go on ,but I just thank GOD that I have an old Soul, and thank You for Your words. Hope Morrow Glidden. (MORROW) is my Surname. Scottish (Norse).