May 18, 2018

Death of Deaths (William Williams (1717–91), ‘Guide me, O Though Great Jehovah’)

6.45 am: A communion. 7.30 am: Admin: emails to read, post, and consider.

This is blog post number 920. After the thousandeth publication, the Diary will cease in its present form. In preparation for that day, I’m considering my options for a mode of description, self-reflection, and disclosure (for want of a better word) that, while unlikely to maintain the day-by-day, blow-by-blow structure of the present blog, will cover the same territory and other domains beside, as well as integrate the occasional extended blogs published under Blog: Intersections of Image, Sound, and Word. In essence, I feel the need to write in greater depth about matters. This isn’t possible within the confines of a daily stucture.

8.oo am: I began a small, self-commissioned sound work on behalf of one of our exhibiting postgraduate students, following a brief discussion that we’d had yesterday. The student had played me a YouTube video of the sound of planets recorded by NASA probes. Every star and planet emits radio signals or electromagnetic vibrations and interactions, which cannot be heard in the vacuum of space. These have been translated into frequencies into the audible spectrum. Copyright issues prevented the student from using the source files and, in any case, they weren’t sufficiently and imaginatively processed, in the manner of their visual artwork which it would accompany. My effort may prove to be unusable. Nevertheless, I’ve found that responses of this nature, which may push me beyond the boundaries of what I might otherwise do for myself, sometimes throw up ideas and methodologies that, later, play into the work that I do do for myself:

Pluto, photographed by the New Horizons spacecraft, July 14, 2015 (courtesy of WikiCommons). The planet was discovered in 1930.

The soundtrack (again for want of a better word) is a very small sample taken from a cleaned-up and re-equalised recording of Gustav Holst’s The Planets (1914–16) made in 1926 and, therefore outside copyright restriction. The movements, one for every planet (bar Earth) in the, then, known solar system, were stacked (superimposed), and the aggregated mixdown stretched by 200%. Thus I’d applied methodologies that were developed for the recent Nomine Numine composition. Nothing new in that respect, other than the source material. And that can make all the difference to the character of the output. Extract:

It reminded me of ‘The Face of Moses Shines’ from my The Bible in Translation (2016) album: a shimmering ecstasy. I enjoy making ‘pop-up’ compositions.

9.30 pm: On with the Vocational Practice teaching component submissions, before preparing to attend a funeral for a friend, at Holy Trinity Church after lunch:

There’s something utterly monstrous about death, particular when it comes before time. Inevitably and understandably people have asked ‘Why?’ and ‘To what purpose?’ I suspect that they don’t expect answers. In the Gospels, Christ addressed a similar inquiry in response to a local disaster that took place in the southern part of Jerusalem’s old city. A tower had fallen killing eighteen people. However, in this case, his interrogators (always eager to trip him up) wanted to know whether there was a causality between great sin and great tragedy. Did those who were killed get what they deserved? Christ would have none of this simplistic, heartless, an self-righteous folk theologising. Instead, he used the incident as an object lesson. What happened to those poor people awaits, in a far more profound sense, all who don’t repent while they still have breath, he warned (Luke 13.1–5).

Tragedy can appear pointless and arbitrary. Bad things may befall good people, out of the blue, and without rhyme or reason. Some calamities need not happen, of course. For example, the Grenfell Tower fire was wholly avoidable; gross human negligence was to blame. Likewise, the fall of the Tower of Siloam may have been the consequence of Roman jerry-building. But such events ought to prompt us to consider our readiness, should we, one day, fall victim to a disaster. This may be the only sense of purpose that we can impose on such awfulness.

3.30 pm: I bashed on with with my responsibilities on my return home.

7.30 pm: To begin: Tom Waits’ Kentucky Avenue. It’s one of the great and most off-beat love songs (of sorts) of the twentieth century. On with marking and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. I can’t think of another piece of music that evokes the essence of the English landscape so vividly and poetically.

The morning’s composition – Annunciata: Jesus Sumpur Remus (Envy Turner) was released in advance of tomorrow’s undergraduate and postgraduate exhibition opening.

 

 

 

 

 



May 17, 2018

6.45 am: A communion. 7.30 pm: Back to administrations: reports, emails, updates, and advice. 8.15 am: I’d promised some students that I’d be there early on this final morning of installation. They needed to maximise their time.

8.30 am: ‘BUNNIES!’ There were a great many young ones on the lawn in front of the School, with their white bobtails towards me, chewing and taking in the early-morning sunshine. They scattered and hid in the bushes as soon as my presence became known:

9.00 am: Fortified by my third cup of PG Tips so far this morning, I walked the studios. ‘Wrapped in plastic!’. Everything will be revealed on Saturday at 3 .00 pm:

My charge for the morning was to aid ‘Student D’ hang their work. They make art against the background of autism and dyspraxia. I take my hat off to them; they’ve never used their challenges as an excuse not to persevere. So, I went into manly mode and, with an electric screwdriver to hand, began mirror-plating. Beats report writing:

When I was in secondary school, woodwork and metalwork classes were mandatory from the age of 11 to 16 years of age. I learned to make a poker, a copper teaspoon, a knife rack, and dovetail and tenon joints, among other things. My father taught me to use electric drills and saws, soldering, respect for a blowtorch, how to correctly match drill, rawl plug, and screw sizes, and the safe way to wire a plug and select fuse amperage. This was my ‘key skill’ education. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to acquire them. I asked some of the students today: ‘Have you seen the bradawl around?’ I was met by blank, dumb silence. One thought it was a Welsh word. (I can see how it could be thus construed.) Oh! They’re missing out on so much. ‘Turn off your phones, and spend an hour in a hardware store with physical tools and apps!’.

The end is in sight:

There was a moment of exquisite surprise: a sensual and beckoning vermillion in a pristine white room:

2.00 pm: After lunch, I wandered to and from my computer and reports, basking in the afterglow of the students’ achievement. This is a tight show. I succumbed to a ‘Zero sugar’ Coca-Cola. (I can already feel the waves of disapproval approaching.) ‘It won’t happen again, I promise!’ An utterly bland drink. I’d learned my lesson.

I made a final sweep of the studios and gallery:

I walked briskly passed the chair as a I moved from one studio to another, and thought I saw, in the corner of my eye, a young man sat slouched, wearing a short blue-black jacket and trousers, t-shirt, and light-coloured trainers, with his right foot resting on on his left knee. He vanished as soon as I turned around. That’s definitely no more ‘Zero sugar’ Coca-Cola for me:

7.30 pm: Back to reports, with Petula Clark’s greatest hits playing in the background. Happy Heart (1969), for example, summons so many memories associated with listening to the radio at home in the late 1960s, when I was young. For me it embodies, too, the spirit, texture, an sonorities of that age. There’s a sumptuous phasing of the strings towards the end. I had a crush on her in my early teens.

 

 

 

 



May 16, 2018

6.00 am: I awoke. 7.00 am: A communion. 7.45 am: I wrote up my assessment of the final Vocational Practice presentation (submitted by, what in the halcyon days of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth might have been termed, ‘Alternative Regulations’). The Chieftains’ Mná na hÉireann played in the background. I’d first heard this on the sound track to Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975).

8.30 am: Off to School. A desultory sort of day; apathetic in its own way:

Not long after I arrived, an accident took place on the premises. An ambulance was called. It was bad enough, but it could have been far worse. We each live on the knife edge of disaster. I recalled slipping and bumping my head on the walkway to a jacuzzi (not something that I’ve indulged since), while on a cruise of the Norwegian fjords some years ago. I wasn’t concussed. However, I formed no memory of the interval between the time of the incident and the ship’s doctor reviewing my injuries back at my cabin. I’d suffered temporary amnesia. Fascinating, if disorientating:

9.30 am: The postgraduate monitoring material and instructions posted, I returned to my perambulations of the studios. The pattern today would be this plus marking and report writing in alternation – a chequerboard sort of day. It’s a pleasure to write supportive reports for genuinely hardworking and conspicuously gifted PhD students.

A lunchtime meeting with Dr Forster at the Town Committee Chambers. 2.00 pm: Back on the studio floor, things were hotting up. I’m seeing connections between the work of different painting students that weren’t evident when it was being made. Evidently, the students had rubbed off on one another, unconsciously. That’s a healthy sign. It implies that they’re open to influence at the deepest level. The quality of their colour control is particularly conspicuous this year.

It was heartening to hear that our morning’s casualty was back in action so soon. 4.00 pm: Final consultations between Dr Forster and her tutees:

7.30 pm: I returned to the Postgraduate reports, which I’d been working on throughout the afternoon in between exhibition consultations.

Some observations and principles derived from today’s engagements:

  • Crises bring out the best in the best of people.
  • A teacher’s dedication to their students is seen most conspicuously in their commitment to see them through failure and disappointment, and onwards towards success and fulfilment.
  • In relation to the object before you, ask: What must I draw? And … What should I not draw? These are reciprocal choices of equal importance.
  • The art that we make cannot be other than a manifestation of who we are: our standards, predilections, passions, thoughts, understanding, temperament, emotions, world view, determinations, ambitions, and facility. That’s its glory and betrayal.
  • It’s relatively straightforward to produce small, immediate, and appealing works of a sufficient resolution. However, maturity lies in being able to spend a long time on a single work (regardless of scale), labouring with it, restating and refining an idea over and over again, until the work achieves maximum resolution, and a degree of psychological and aesthetic depth that’s impossible to reach using more immediate processes.
  • Your exhibition space is not to be filled but, rather, articulated.
  • You have to do it in order to know it. You have to know it in order to do it.
  • Your professionalism should be evident not only in your work but also in everything you say about it: to friends and family, on your social media and website, in seriousness and good humour, formally and informally. How you regard your work and identity as an artist will have a considerable influence on your audience’s respect for the same.

 

 

 

 



May 15, 2018

7.45 am: A communion. 8.30 am: off to the School:

Back into the fray:

A number of students had made an early start. Good on them! The overcast weather came as a blessing. Yesterday’s resplendent sunshine generated a formidable heat in the studios. It’s an annual challenge. The studios go from Saharan conditions in the day to Antarican, at night. The temperature variation can play havoc with adhesive tape, sticky pads, and other modes of temporary fixing.

11.00 am: On with collating papers and preparing for marking. For the next few weeks, my feet won’t touch the ground.

After lunch, I toured the zones and awaited Dr Forster’s availability for an early MA assessment. I’m like raw meat to flies presently. Students buzzed about me. Advice was disposed on a first come first served, need to know, basis. Slowly but surely, the exhibition spaces are filled.

7.30 pm: Adminy things. I’m itching to get on with ‘Born Blind’, but deadlines are pressing. The dreaded Postgraduate Student Monitoring Round was initiated. I can’t politely express how much of a chore this is, annually.

Some observations and principles derived from today’s engagements:

  • Don’t ask a tutor a question for which you should already have an answer.
  • There’s a dimension to art that’s utterly mysterious and inexplicable. Some theologians have spoken of this as, metaphorically, its ‘sacramental’ quality. Just as the bread and wine of the Eucharist is that on one level, but far more in terms of both its significance and materiality on another, so also artworks transcend their self-evident nature to point elsewhere and to something that’s deep within, and far beyond, us.
  • Is there an ideal elevation at which to hang an artwork? The principle of eye-level is problematic because it assumes a common height on the part of the percipients. Moreover, some artworks, by dint of their conceptual nature and formal attributes, need to be positioned either way below or way above eye-level. The notion of eye-level is bound to that of the horizon line which, in turn, is rooted in the tradition of the figurative landscape genre. Why should the conditions of one mode of art dictate those of another?
  • Every practice worth its salt requires a discipline. Discipline is what makes the artwork difficult to do. Artfulness is what makes the artwork appear effortless in its execution.
  • We are our own worse enemies. Therefore others are theirs, too. Rather than fight one another, we should commiserate and join forces in helping each other to resist our common foe. Love, understanding, patience, and practical care must be at the bedrock of any working relationship.

 

 

 

 



May 14, 2018

Sunday. A ghost on the staircase that appeared to ascend to the third floor of the house (from the place from whence the voice has come):

After lunch, I walked to Llanbadarn village. The red trees bled in the saturated sunlight:

On my return, I played The Nice’s rendering of Tim Hardin‘s Hang Onto a Dream (1968). Keith Emerson was reaching his peak as a piano improvisor at this time – integrating his love of jazz into the rock idiom. I recalled playing the album, from which the track is taken, regularly on Sunday afternoons as a teenager, while alone in the front room of my home in Abertillery:

Today. 8.00 am: A communion. The glorious day that broke my sleep in the early hours was at odds with my spirit. As in times of bereavement, the ebullience, normality, and indifference of the outer world is sometimes ill fit to articulate the motions of the inner world. And a present grief or loss often bears with it the vestigial echoes of every other grief or loss that one has been suffered, in my experience. Thus, over the past few days, my mind an heart have returned to the years immediately before and after 1983.

8.30 am: Off to School. Today begins the final haul towards the opening on Saturday. The screens having been painted immaculately, the students began to instal the work. My job is to listen to the students defend their decisions, and step in only when an appropriate resolution cannot be found. This, after all, is the first time that they’ve ever had to think about and apply the principles of editing, coherence, selection, and arrangement within a prescribed space.

10.45 am: A jaunt up the hill for another blood test. The nurse drew forth a crimson stream on the second attempt:

On the way home, I said to myself: ‘Do something that you’ve never done before!, John’. The possibilities for such, between where I was and the School, were limited. I decided to take a snack at Bronglais Hospital’s cafeteria. I wondered how many people had sat there before me, either waiting for bad news or after having received it:

11.15 pm: Back at the ranch, several of my tutees were where they should be, getting their act together:

12.30 pm: A PhD Fine Art inquiry.

2.00 pm: After lunch, I continued shuttling up and down stairs, and to the galleries. Things will inch their way forward until Wednesday morning. In between expeditions, I marked MA Vocational Practice material. I’ll have walked many miles on these trips by the close of the week.

7.30 pm: I was desperate to return to my own work. Having wiped my earlier version of ‘Born Blind’, I reviewed the weekend’s endeavours. The fluid background loop required a more decisive beat pattern overlaid upon it. I was onto it …

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • The size of a work has no relation to its importance. The old 7″ (18 cm), 45 rpm vinyl records, on which singles were released, could only contain a maximum of 4 1/2 minutes of music on each side. The medium, thus, constrained the length of the composition recorded on it. However, during the golden age popular music in the 1960s, truly great songs never felt too short; that’s because they were designed to be that long.
  • When exhibiting, aim for economy, succinctness, coherence, and sufficiency. Do not be afraid of the spaces either side of a work. The space is almost as important as the works (like the silence either side of musical notes).
  • Space is variously a framing device, and visual pause, a comma between clauses, and a moment of respite.
  • The simple act of setting up a work in a vertical plane transforms your relationship to, and apprehension of, it significantly. By I’ve never been able to adequately define in what ways.

 

 

 

 



May 12, 2018

7.00 am: Awake. My back had become unmanageable last night; so, I stayed in bed for an extra hour and a half, and postponed my swimming class until next Saturday. Breakfast:

8.00 am: A communion. 9.00 am: A second cup of PG Tips (decaf.), as I pushed on with the day. My (cost an arm an a leg) back chair in the study is better suited to my condition, when it’s problematic. (Which isn’t often.) I spent the morning at the mixing desk reconsidering the work that I’d ‘accomplished’ (well, ‘done’ anyway) yesterday. An attitude of openness was required. One must observe the dictates and limits of the work.

One must also admit to oneself the likelihood of failure, as soon as its realised … and then to act with urgency. So … . I tore the whole composition apart. I recalled the glee of smashing my Lego models when I’d got tired of them, as a child, in order to build something new from the same components. This was no different. The text to ‘Born Blind’ (John 9) was too long. Therefore, I interrogated what had drawn me to it in the first place. It was the following extract: [H]e spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay (John 9.6).

Christ could have healed the blind man with a word; instead, he made clay from the soil using his own spit and applied it to blind man’s eyes. There’s something so fundamental (earthy, literally), human, and intimate in that gesture. Touch is a language of love. Perhaps Christ discerned that the man needed to have something done to him – an outward and tangible act – in order for his faith in Christ’s power to become effectual. I thought of Adam being formed from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2.7), and of Naaman the leper, whom Elisha requested to wash seven times in the Jordan in order to be healed (1 Kings 5). Sometimes, to receive from God, we have to do something – however mundane and against the grain of our pride and natural inclination – obediently.

Thus, I reduced the text material, severely, to the following verses:

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. 

11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.

25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see

Interestingly, like the texts used for ‘Saul>Paul’, verses 6–7 and 11 provide two complementary accounts of the same event: one from the perspective of the Gospel writer and the other, from that of the man born blind. I now had some clarity regarding the way forward. The two texts were then dissected and interleaved:

Verse 25 suggested a defining argument (a coda) that cuts to the core of the debate between the man, his parents, the Pharisees, and Christ concerning the latter’s identity, and the authenticity and legitimacy of this miracle.

After lunch, I headed into town. (It happened one week ago today: the recidivists reunited, briefly.) There were as many on the streets as had been last Bank Holiday weekend. The weather today was its equal too:

2.30 pm: Back at my desk, I continued with ‘Born Blind’. I’d stripped away the proposed beat-track (not that it had a beat) and replaced it with one that was more ‘gritty-gluppy’ – hard to describe: a cross between the sounds of small pebbles being rolled by the sea and chips frying in deep fat. Towards the end of the afternoon, having written-off yesterday’s efforts (more or less), I tentatively began to manoeuvre the dissected elements around spikes in the rather informal loop. Periodically, I’d observe some ‘downtime’ on the study floor, in order to reset my lower-back muscles:

5.15 pm: Downtime of a different order.



May 11, 2018

6.15 am: A twinge in my back persuaded me to stay of the exercise regime one more day. This condition can be so physically draining. 7.15 am: Another supine communion. ‘Oh, Buddy!’ 8.30 am: I walked to the School under the suitably grey, motionless, and dense ceiling of the sky to retrieve materials to mark. There was no one about; every room was locked. (That concept has an unsettling resonance for me, presently.):

Over the past few days, I’d revived my on-line personal diary. In an analogue form, it was the mode of reflection that began my diaristic commitment, back in 1982 (about which, I’ve written elsewhere.) The last time I engaged a digital version was in 2013-14. The practice was undertaken over a period of three months, before the contents were erased. The diary allowed me to track and observe my responses to a given situation. I’d no intention of reading it ever again. Too personal. Too painful. I didn’t wish to remember.

9.30 am: Studiology. ‘Saul>Paul’ was 80% in the can. The next pass would adjust the relative volumes of the samples and their relationship to the beat-tracks. The final pass would be concluded only when all the compositions for the ‘Blind’ suite are completed. There was one other track that I’d only tentatively addressed, and without any confidence that I could pull it off. But, then again, that’s often when unconsidered alternative approaches emerge. There’re times when you’ve a problem but not a solution, and times when you’ve a solution that doesn’t fit the problem.

I resigned myself to the possibility that nothing would be straightforward today. Most things would take several attempts to get right, and some things would not be put right. I set up the rig in order to pass the ‘dry’ signal output of the recorded text from one computer, through modulators, and into another, where the ‘wet’ signal would be recorded:

My intention was to improvise on the modulators while the capture was in progress, and then combine the most serviceable parts of my attempts in the final recording. By lunchtime, I’d made interesting things. But were they relevant to the textual interpretation? And how can a sound be interpretative without being also illustrative ?

After lunch, I generated several more modulated versions of the text, while fighting off emails and waging war on myself. Throughout the day, I’ve also been doing battle with equipment and software. There’ve been explicable problems. I determined to press on regardless. It’s possible to resolve a problem without fully understanding it. (A lesson for life.) On such occasions, intuition trumps reason. I lined up the tracks in readiness for composition:

5.oo am: The mixdown of the session was aligned with a track (a stretched version of all the references to ‘blind’ in the Bible, spoken by Scourby), which would be in the front row of the composition. This inverted the usual relationship between spoken text and beat track in the other works of the suite.

7.30 pm: Marking, with King Crimson’s Beat (1982) in the background. (Great song; dreadful video.) I invariably return to the year of its release for either refuge or to establish a point from which my, now, known future can be observed:

Our history can teach us a great deal about how we should meet the issues of the present, how we’ve responded to similar situations in the past, and what is our likely trajectory in respect to such towards the future.

The Holy Trinity Church Newsletter has published that part of my text to the intercessions of April 29 related to the death of a dear sister, friend, and member of our congregation:

 

 

 

 

 



May 10, 2018

6.15 am: Woke. My lower back problem had improved considerably. I may return to running tomorrow morning. 7.45 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Admin. Some students get the jitters at this time of the year. Pacification, confirmation, explanation, and sympathy are always to hand, and applied with immediacy.

9.15 am: I had some time, before a engaged a tutorial, to review the ‘Saul>Paul’ composition, and to organise the ‘Write Up the Vision’ rig in readiness for an initial recording of the inscription. Over the next few weeks, I’ll need to eke out studio time as and when I can. Continuity, of some sort, is a necessity:

11.00 am: I readied for my journey to the Old College. From the Promenade, I looked outward. The light was crisp, drawing out the full saturation of the colours:

Anastasia’s studio:

1.30 pm: Following lunch, I focused on arranging the two beat tracks for section 4 of ‘Saul>Paul’. The whole composition has a greater sense of urgency, now. A drawing of sounds:

7.30 pm: I hope to attend my first swimming lesson on Saturday morning. I’d messaged my boys to ask for ‘hand-me-ups’ – trunks and goggles – in advance of buying my own. (I mean, what design of trunks would ever suit me?) I LOVED the goggles: seriously dangerous and intimidating – a bit Keanu Reeves in the Matrix crossed with Dr Strange, but with salt and pepper hair rather than striking silver temples. I shall wear them always from now on:

The donor son remarked: ‘Looking sharp! … Yeah, really embrace the quirky artist look!’ What can the boy mean?

Afterwards, I began preparing marks derived from my assessment of the presentations delivered during the past few days. Charts were drawn in readiness for the entry of marks. During the next week, I need to keep on top of things on a day by day basis.

The end of ‘page 1, Chapter 9’.

 

 

 

Anastasia Wildig, Marmite, oil on canvas, 2016

 



May 9, 2018

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 58. 8–9)

It’s not that God’s opinions about, and approach to, the issues of our lives are necessarily contrary to our own. Of course, they may be on occasion. What Isaiah addresses is, rather, the comparative difference between God’s view of things and ours, in terms of both perspective and scope. In Google Maps you can gradually pull away, upwards, from a view of your house to the … street … town … county …  country … and, finally, the world. Thereafter, you can survey the whole planet, as though suspended in space like a satellite. From up there, I more clearly appreciate my place within the larger context; my orientation to what, ordinarily, would be beyond my field of vision; and my connection to other things and people around about me:

God’s eye-view is neither earth bound nor time bound. He sees everything and, more importantly, each one of us in relation to it. (We’re none of us insignificant in his eyes.) Our rationalisation and intuitions about things, however sophisticated, informed, and well-counselled, are limited in their scope and point of reference. For example, we can make what appears to be a right decision; but, in truth, we’ve little understanding of its consequences for ourselves and others beyond the present. A decision may be our best guess on the basis of the available information, in many cases. We are all partially sighted, in this respect. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, seeking God’s guidance is, in part, predicated upon an awareness of this deficit. Only he can direct our paths in the light of all that can be known, as well as what’s unknowable to us. He sees the biggest picture. That’s a huge comfort.

There was a helicopter out at sea in the early hours. Always bad news. In the morning, it was announced that a young woman had gone missing. 3.15 am: I stirred as night passed into day. Once my mind had begun to focus, the affairs of yesterday arose as out of the blackness of the bedroom. My body tossed and turned until 5.30 am, when I conceded defeat and got up for an early breakfast. 6.30 pm: A review of my inbox and a reflection upon an apposite passage of Scripture (above). 7.30 pm: A communion. My lower-back pain persists, but it’s improving. Periodically, I lie down on the floor and stare upwards. This morning, I literally prayed to the ceiling. (There are other times when I feel that this is really all that I’m doing.) Strangely, while supine, I heard a voice inside my head say ‘Chapter 9’. This was, likely or not, an auditory hallucination caused by tiredness. But my immediate instinct was to ask: ‘Yes! But what book, page, and line?’ Curious:

8.30 pm: Off to School to prepare for another day of presentations. On the way, I bumped into one of our former MA graduates. She’d gifted me a pug mug some time ago – an act of revenge, because I used to diss her pet dog so mercilessly in tutorials. Bless her! She’s missed dearly:

10.00 am: The start of the second day of presentations. The group comprised a younger age range than those who’d submitted yesterday. A distinctly different dynamic emerged. In the spaces between deliveries, I viewed the progress in the studios:

Raine was decked like a forensic pathologist at a crime scene. Sensible:

During my short lunch break, I walked down Plas Crug Avenue; the rain broke gradually, but never came to anything. 2.00 pm:

The last ‘batch’ of presentees, and a thoroughly rewarding afternoon. Those students who were finalising their third year of undergraduate studies this time twelve months ago have developed astonishingly. They’ve used the MA degree well, and exhibit an unusual maturity, confidence, and sophistication:

6.30 pm: At my desk. A difficult letter to compose. A strange evening. At the close, I felt like Abraham, having been prevented by the angel from sacrificing Isaac at the eleventh hour. Perhaps, this is just a stay of execution. Or else, the beginnings of a new chapter in managing a matter. Is this, now, ‘Chapter 9’, perhaps?

 

 

 

 



May 8, 2018

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2.19)

Tuesday. My feet would not be touching the ground over the next few days. 8.00 am: An early start. I picked up my lunch en route to the School and, on arrival, set up the assessment room in readiness for two days of MA Vocational Practice presentations. 9.00 am: I held a Skype call with one of our PhD fine art students:

There are times when genuinely incisive realisations occur via this media. In some respects, conversations across the ether are more focussed and concentrated than when held face-to-face. Perhaps I felt the ‘Eureka’ moment more than did they, on this occasion. Satisfying.

10.00 am: The first of the presentees laid out their stall. There was an abundance of snacks. (Nerves inhibiters.) I provided biscuits:

Above our heads, throughout the day, the noise of dismantling, hammering, and 8 × 4 foot wooden panels being walked from one part of the room to another, heralded the transformation of the studios into temporary gallery spaces:

1.00 pm: A pastoral tutorial. 2.00 pm: We reconvened for the afternoon’s offering of presentation. It’d been rewarding, sitting at the feet of the students, learning from them, and admiring their grasp of the work in hand, modesty and openness, and professionalism of delivery. 4.00 pm: I caught up on the admin that was blipping my phone’s inbox all afternoon and addressed a personal matter.

7.30 pm: I needed to catch up with my exhibition MA Fine Art students, the day’s dairy, and various emails of an academic nature that could be kicked into the long-grass for the time being.

There are times when the head and the heart are locked in conflict. They cannot agree on a sensible course of action. And neither seems able to arrive at a determination that’s either workable or liveable. And whatever choice one makes on the basis of their respective opinions, brings only doubt, restlessness, and suffering. My usual expectation is that a right decision ought to feel right, if not immediately, then, eventually. When made, a sound judgement more often than not reveals its own logic, moral rectitude, necessity, and inevitability. But evidently, there are some decisions that aren’t accompanied by an emotional, ethical, and intellectual sweetener. Such a decision is often made when all the other possibilities have been explored and proved futile. It’s, in effect, the final option; the only one that has yet to be tried. And the reason why this choice is considered only as a last resort is because it’s the most unpalatable, painful, consequential, potentially permanent, and, therefore, difficult to both make and unmake.

Is there always a right choice? Are the most difficult decisions necessarily for the best? There are times when decisions are made out of desperation. Hopelessness and despair should never be the only motive for choosing. But sometimes they’re an unavoidable factor. In the battle between the head and the heart I, in the end, tend to follow the former. And so the heart is left grieving and unsatisfied. In time, the head may yet persuade the heart to relent. Making a decision is one thing; keeping to it, is quite another.*

 

 

 

*For Amy Seed



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