March 27, 2018

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us (Psalm 61.8)

Even in good times, trusting in God is not without its difficulties. We’re beguiled by the ease of living; the way in which things work out, almost effortlessly; the surfeit of provision (‘I nothing lack’); the unsought opportunities that come into view; our rude health and brimming optimism; and the abundance of family, friends, and lovers in whom we can confide and find our deepest sense of significance and happiness. Under such conditions, we can become oblivious to the source of those benefactions and, worse still, assume (against common sense) that they’ll characterise our experience in perpetuity.

But when all these things are stripped away, as they were for Job, then trusting in God is tantamount to trying to scale Everest wearing only a pair of Flip-flops. We have to continue believing, against all evidence to the contrary, that he’s still loving and good, ‘touched with the feeling of our infirmities’, El Roi (‘the God who sees me’), fully in control of our circumstances, and able to intervene in and change them, for the better, when he sees fit (Job 42.2).

In times of plenty, we should pour out our hearts in thanksgiving. In times of want, loss, loneliness, heartache, or distress, we must learn, like the psalmist, to complain, lament, spread out our troubles before him, yell in his ear, beat our breasts, and break a few plates. There’s no place for stoicism when it comes to trusting God.

8.30 am: Out of the front door and into a fog that had been borne by the sea and spread over the town. It cosily insulated us from a larger and less reassuring reality:

9.00 am: The last full day of teaching before the Easter recess. My first MA tutee had, quite rightly, returned home at the end of term. There was time for admin catch up. 9.30 am: Until 11.10 am, I held tutorials with those in either full time or part time mode. The former would be exhibiting in May. The pressure was on. But they are, to a woman, conscientious and ambitious. They’ll arrive at their destination. On the white board of one of the former chemistry labs at the Old College – a hand-drawn Periodic Table. The drawing (for that’s what it was) reminded me of my pedalboard schematics. Beautiful in its own way:

11.30 pm: Back at the mothership, I talked with one of Dr Forster’s charge. Teaching and being taught by someone else can be a refreshing and an illuminating experience for both participants. 12.00 pm: A Skype tutorial :

12.30 pm: I walked into town (I’ll have walked far by the end of the day) to pick up a bite to eat, before holing up, briefly, in Starbucks to address admin. Then, onto Marks & Spencer:

It’s so much easier to shop for oneself than for others. ‘Oh! Fruit jellies’. ‘And, proper Turkish Delight!’ (‘Now come on, John!’) 1.45 pm: Back to the School (nothing is very far from anything in Aber) to prepare for the afternoon’s teaching. While waiting for a student to turn up for their appointment, I looked again at some of the gems in the exhibition that opened last evening:

2.45 pm: Back, then, to the Old College, for the final two tutorials of the day. The wind was up.

7.30 pm: Tomorrow, I’d have a full day in the studio. This evening I wanted to clear the revised pedalboard off my desk:

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • The self-imposition of restrictions liberates rather than limits.
  • Intent and reception shouldn’t be confused: What you wish for your audience isn’t necessarily what they want for themselves.
  • Reckon upon the ambiguities and multivalence of your visual language and imagery.
  • Often, we don’t experience distinct emotions but, rather, a fusion of fugitive feelings: neither happy nor sad, neither joyous nor melancholy. Instead, our sensation is of both, felt either simultaneously or subtly and quickly shifting from one to another and back again. The interplay of opposites (as with complementary colours) gives rise to ‘neutral’ emotions. These aren’t bland, as the term might suggest. They’re indefinite, yet, nonetheless, distinct offspring of the parents from which they’re formed.
  • Covertly and effortlessly, our past experiences seep into the work. But it takes an outsider to recognise it, sometimes.
  • Walking away and not looking back is preferable to backing away and watching the object of your affection diminish as the distance between you grows ever wider.
  • Writing is another way of drawing.
  • Begin modestly, continue with moderate ambitions, incrementally increase the level of ambition, and end remarkably. Do this over a broad arc of time, while exercising patience, care, and understanding towards yourself.