January 8, 2018

‘What’s with the “communion” thing you write about?’, someone asked. Well, here’s what it’s not: the sacrament of bread and wine, Transcendental Meditation, a period of self-admiration, positive thinking, mental detox, and mind emptying, or navel staring. Rather, ‘communion’ is my shorthand for a discipline of reading, reflecting upon, and praying through a passage of Scripture that extends back to the meditative practices of the psalmists. This daily engagement (and it needs to be, ideally) takes place within a triangulation of Scripture, God, and oneself. Out of this process may arise new insight into either one or all three. The outcome may not be uplifting, necessarily. Often, the heart’s dissimulations, hypocrisies, callousness, and perversities are brought to light. (This ‘spiritual selfie’ can be very unflattering.) That’s no bad thing. When the problems are identified, the work of repentance and reparation can then begin. We are, none of us, what we’d like to be or could be. But, mercifully, our deficits, conspicuous though they may be, don’t put us out of the market for doing some good in this world.

8.30 am: A communion. 9.00 am: Postgraduate and week-ahead-type admin, along with plans and telephone calls regarding impending medical procedures, took up the first hour. This is day one of the new term, as well as the continuation of Semester 1. (These two systems of dividing the academic year will forever remain unresolved, I suspect. Life is often messy.) 10.00 am: Back to Abstraction essay marking:

My pace was uneasily slow. The myriad mouse movements needed to mark up on-screen were the chief cause of my discomfort. I was aware of the muscles in my upper arm objecting. Ibuprofen and a mouse with a different ergonomic profile came to the rescue! What I’m suffering from is, technically, an ‘industrial injury’: a compound repetitive-strain caused by an over use of, and a dependence upon, computers. The problem is … the job demands it. My shelf-life is diminishing.

Following a light lunch (the diet has resumed after the festive interlude; not that I have the constitution to indulge), I pressed on with the essay marking. I downloaded Joni Mitchell’s Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977) – the second of her jazz-folk fusion outings. The late Jaco Pastorius (a troubled soul and a remarkable bass player) gave of his most considered on her albums. The music helped ease body and mind through the process of work. Sound can be therapeutic.

In between essays, I exercised my limbs and another part of my brain, looking in on the studio where a test of external digital processors, integrated into and in/out loop of a MacBook, was set up. I need to know whether plug-in software for modulation, delays, and reverb produce a more coherent digital sound than using boxes outside the system:

On this day, ten years ago, I was facing down essay marking for the, then, Contemporary Art 1 module. I also visited my GP to check on an ‘orrible e.coli infection of my bladder and receive a further course of antibiotics. A conference paper was being drawn up, too. So, a combination of assessment, medical, and research commitments that mirrored what I’m presently doing. (Tomorrow, my contribution to the Digital Past 2018 conference will be on the drafting board.):

Consistent diarists (especially those who, like me, re-read their dairies religiously) observe the regularities, routines, and repetitions that mark out our lives. What, for me, are the most memorable events and encounters (for better or for worse or for both), often occur outside this framework. As I leaf through the pages of my dairies – which go back as far as 1981 – I find myself, having alighted upon a surprising (and sometimes alarming) occurrence, berating myself for not having either anticipated it or dealt with the aftermath particularly well. The pattern of our failures is discouragingly consistent throughout life. And I’m a slow learner too. Forgiving ourselves is far harder than forgiving others. But forgive we must, both.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s assessments:

  • Without references in an essay, it’s impossible for the reader to verify your sources, and sometimes difficult to distinguish your views from those of other authors.
  • State ideas simply. Don’t try and dress them up in academic language unnecessarily.
  • A students’s intelligence is sometimes most conspicuous in their ability to recognise an appropriate structure for the essay.
  • As the irate film directors says: ‘Cut! Cut! Cut! Therefore, Edit, Excise, Economise ruthlessly when writing.
  • Don’t over use of same word in close proximity.
  • The more you’re taught, the more will be expected of you. You may plead inability but you can’t plead ignorance.

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