Monday, December 29, 2008


Emma Bee Bernstein was the daughter of poet Charles Bernstein and artist Susan Bee and from what I've learned was as articulate and creative as either or both (see this and this link). I didn't know her, but saw her a few times as a child over the years and mostly was struck by the joy she brought to the lives of her parents.

There is nothing I can say, or I assume anyone else, to Charles and Susan at the loss of Emma. Although we try anyway to offer our condolences and support and prayers, for whatever they may be worth.

That's one of the main results I've noticed so far from this tragic event, the outpouring of sympathy toward Charles and Susan and other family and friends of Emma. But there's also the testimonies to Emma herself, to her life and her work and art, and mostly to her having had an impact on those who knew her or even knew of her.

This is the utimate answer to the mystery of all death, but especially that of the young. The very notion of "time" is a human construct in many ways. My friend Hubert Selby Jr. used to talk about "the eternal now"—and his attempt to be present in that "eternal now" is probably what made hanging out with him always seem so timeless, as any concerns I usually had for the future or worries that I had messed up the past disappeared in his company.

From that experience and others, similar, and not, I eventually came to understand the obvious, that life is living, and how much that living is done consciously—aware of the "now" and filling it with complete commitment to each passing moment as rich in opportunity for discovery, for growth, for creativity, for understanding and acceptance and appreciation and inspiration even if only for change ad seemingly infinitum, as well as for tragedy and turmoil, emotional and psychological struggle—does "time" matter.

So that there are those, like Emma, whose lives may seem shorter than many, but because they were so filled with that kind of conscious living, filling each moment with as much as life can contain, their lives actually may be more complete, more fulfilled, more accomplished and to not be too obvious, alive, than many that may be longer by the calendar.

Though viewed from afar and second hand, Emma's accomplishments and the impact of her presence in the lives of family and friends and those who only passed through her life briefly, or vice versa, (like me), seems inordinately powerful and lasting, in ways that the lives of many who may have been around longer never will.

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