December 21, 2017

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy (Ps. 126.5).

8.15 am: A communion. This would be the final diary entry before the Christmas vacation. My activities will continue until the close of Friday. I don’t find it easy to move from work to rest suddenly. It’s like coming to a dead stop in a car that has been moving at speed: an uncomfortable ride. A gradual deceleration is preferred. My best energies – intellectual and constitutional – are now expended. I need to stop. As the HAL 9000 computer reflected: ‘My mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it.’ (2001: A Space Odyssey). As for my soul and heart …. well … .

9.45 am: I’m now far more content (‘far less discontent’ isn’t quite the same measure) with the mix of the latest composition. Isaiah rotated on the deck in the background:

I extended what will be the first composition in the I. Nothing. Lack suite to include repetitions (or, rather, MacMillan’s several restatements) of the phrase ‘I shall not want’. This is the King James Version of the Bible’s translation of the works’ collective title; therefore it ought to be included. There’s one composition, which involves a gradual deceleration from 0% to 200% of the minister reciting Psalm 23, that I’ve not been able to pull off. This is a classic instance in which the concept is appropriate, but its application simply doesn’t engage the ear sufficiently. Perhaps the idea is too obvious, too predictable. It lacks aesthetic surprise. ‘Let it be’, John. Some battles aren’t worth fighting. I needed to conceive the final titles for the compositions.

12.30 pm: The second and final funeral of the week at Holy Trinity Church:

By 12.45 pm, the building was full. The Old Testament reading was from Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, and verses 1 to 8:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

The longer you live, the more likely you are to observe (if not directly experience) this pattern of oscillations and oppositions. This side of the veil, these fluctuations in life’s conditions are an unalterable principle. Today it’s winter; tomorrow it’ll be spring, and so forth. We move from one to the other and back again, cyclically. At times, it may seem to us as though we are being batted, arbitrarily, between contraries. However, each change is as purposeful as it’s inevitable. We may not, however, discern the underlying rationale; life (and God) are often disconcertingly mute when it comes to explanations for the best and the worst that befall us. So, if (to use John Bunyan’s imagery) you are in the ‘Slough of Despond’ presently, lighten up. This too will pass. Likewise, if you are on the ‘Delectable Mountains’ … don’t get too comfortable. Make ready for your descent.

2.30 pm: I moved back into the study, where I began work on the text for the I. Nothing. Lack. suite, while listening to the mixdowns on my computer’s sound system. In the background, I posted an image, made during the first year of my MA Visual Art degree. It’s based upon the area at the rear of the, then, Art Department on Llanbadarn Road. (The building now houses Gorwelion.) At it’s centre is the entrance to an underground cavern that had been bored into the rock in order to house and protect artworks from enemy bombing during the World War II:

Entrance to the Strongroom (Study 2)
(1983) pen, ink, watercolour, and gouache, 20.3 × 17.2 cm

(1983) mixed media, 17.8 × 12.7 cm

7.30 pm: I picked up the text once again, while listening to Philip Glass’ opera Satyagraha (1985).

I’ve often wondered how many peers from my undergraduate and postgraduate days are still practicing, as either artists or art historians. Perpetuating a profile, however modest, is one of the most difficult challenges we face. There’s every legitimate excuse to give up. It’s distressing to hear of practitioners who have, for whatever reason, thrown in the towel. But it’s far more painful for them, because they’re giving up on themselves too. And don’t they know it. Part of them dies. They feel diminished. Some have told me as much. And there’s no substitute for what has been forsaken. So if you really don’t need to surrender your gift, then – please, please – don’t. Once the continuity has been broken, it’s even more difficult to re-establish the practice than was to maintain it.

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