April 16, 2018

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139.23–24)

Courtesy of WikiCommons

This was the psalmist’s prayer. He beseeched God to look within, search, and test him regarding his motives. God’s comprehensive and forensic knowledge of our hearts and its desires is a source of both disquiet and consolation. For what we desire is not always either good, ennobling, or helpful. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 19.9). Well, God certainly can. It’s a cess pit for all sorts of evil. Christ elaborated: Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness (Mark 7. 20–23). Our hearts are broken in the most profound and wide-ranging sense of that term. But it’s not a right-off. The heart, along with every other aspect of our humanity, having been made in the image of God, is also capable of acts of beneficence, honour, altruism, and self-sacrifice (Genesis 1.26). (Blessed are the pure in heart (Matthew 5.8).)

God fully and tenderly comprehends the height, depth, complexity, ambiguity, and vacillation of our desires, even before we utter them. This is an immense comfort. For not all of our desires are articulable in words. Some take the form of intense feelings rather than definite thoughts. We can pour them out before him only as sighs, tears, and an aching that radiate from our inner-most being into our bodily frame. They may be feelings that we struggle to comprehend ourselves, even as they sweep us off our feet. It can be a confusing, disconcerting, and utterly exhausting experience. In desperation, we may pray that God will either fulfil or remove them, and that right quickly. He can change even the most profound and deep-seated desires of the heart. But when, in response, he doesn’t, what then? Interpreting their persistence is problematic. It may mean that those desires are God given, legitimate, and to be poured out before him until such time as they’re fulfilled. (Ache on!) Alternatively, the time is not yet right for their extraction, because we’ve still lessons to learn from our suffering. In either case, all we can do is wait and trust – which is of the essence of prayer.

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: After yesterday’s ‘assault’, I felt, today, as though I’d been kneed in the abdomen. Lassitude, mild nausea, and a generalised unsteadiness characterised my disposition. This was a day for working at home, keeping warm, hydrated and medicated, propped up at a computer screen. I devoted the morning to administrative tasks and teaching preparations: dispatching emails, commenting upon students’ statements for the forthcoming exhibition’s catalogue, updating news feeds, and planning for the final section of the term.

The initial announcement has been published for the Visual Theology 1: Transformative Looking Between the Visual Arts and Christian Doctrine (1850– Now) conference. I’ll be a keynote speaker at the event. (If I live that long.):

2.00 pm: After lunch, I re-recorded (a third time) the narratives of the Apostle Paul’s conversion, in Acts chapters 9 and 22, from the discs. The first account describes Saul’s conversion, and the second, Paul’s recount of that conversion:

The compositional process began, as for the other pieces comprising the suite, with the segmenting of the spoken text into discrete package – usually either sentences, clauses, or phrases. The parts divorced from the whole reveal the musicality (the pitch variations and the rhythm) of Scourby’s delivery more immediately. This is a complex pair of texts: disproportionate in length, narratively dense, and with some protracted phrases comprising many words spoken relatively quickly. A challenge to dissect.

The background track is made up of two samples of looped recordings of the spit and crackle of the record’s surface as it tails towards the centre of the disc, each played at a different speed. They meshed perfectly, first time:

In between periods of work, I’ve rested and reflected. Pace is of the essence today, tomorrow, and for the remainder of the week. In the evening, I continued to amend students’ submissions of statements, caught up on emails returning a response to my morning’s post, and began to consider a way forward for a composition for voices, independent of the project at hand, that I’d conceived at the beginning of January. For personal reasons, I’d not had the heart to go on with. Today, I felt honour bound to breath life into it again.



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