J.M. BERNSTEIN

"I vividly recall sitting by the river in Wivenhoe, a little village where the University of Essex is, it’s called The Key and there’s a bar there, and I was having a drink with the philosopher Judith Butler, and we were having a lot of fun. We were laughing very hard and we recognized that we were laughing very hard, because we are both constituted melancholics, that the notion of loss was such a constitutive feature of our lives that we didn’t have to work to be serious about them, that I often think people are stern and serious because they don’t believe they’re serious, as if they could get it by demeanor only—If I am solemn and slow and ponderous, then you will know I’m a serious person—I, you know, it’s crazy! So, I could say autobiographically about losses and sufferingbut I simply do want to say that the acknowledgement of loss and its irredeemability marks a life in a certain way, but it marks it in a way that doesn’t make it lighton the contrarybut it doesn’t make it self-serious, and I think we confuse serious and self-serious. So, although I am a melancholic, I also recognize that I’m very fortunate, and I don’t take that lightly at all, and I celebrate it. People are always surprised when every occasion available I arrive with champagne, but I always think it’s a good reason to celebrate, because we need to."