June 13, 2016

Maxim: Put yourself down, before someone else does. And be the butt of your own joke, before you are of another’s.

June 13 is 170 days before and 195 days after Christmas Day. Not exactly half-way, but close enough. When in primary school, I was the envy of many … especially those whose own birthday was so perilously close to Christmas Day that it risked being sucked into the larger mass — like a planet into a black hole — so that only one big-day of presents would likely ensue the collision.

June 13, 1960. My first birthday party. I really knew how to let it all hang out in those days:


On this day in 1525, the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora, against the celibacy rule decreed by the Roman Catholic Church for priests and nuns. He always misbehaved in the most principled manner. To Luther, the following quotation has been misattributed: ‘If I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today’. It sounds very Lutheran, but there’s no evidence of it in his writing. It came to light as late as 1944. Some scholars believe that the saying originated in the German Confessing Church during the Second World War, which used the sentiment to inspire hope and perseverance during its opposition to the Nazism. Personally, I’ve found the quotation to be a antidote against a type of world-denying dualism (which has sometimes plagued Christianity) that refuses to attribute significance to what we do in the here and now. My take on it is this: If I plant a tree (or accomplish something worthy) in this world, this life, I expect it to be there in the next. This is my metaphysical ecology.

The perennial discomfiture of the derriere that is the postgraduate monitoring round is coming to the end. A morning of finalisation against the background of Miles Davis’ magnificently unsettling Dark Magus (1974)60s-singles nostalgia, and happy reflection.

Party on! After lunch. I, and my family, made our decisions on the postal voting forms for the EU Referendum. For my part, I’ve not been swayed either intellectually or emotionally by the arguments put forward by either side. (The debate has been nothing short of a disgrace.) In the end, my response was decided by the conviction that this time is not the best time for a referendum. The world is currently and dangerously unsettled. Coherence and cohesion are the call of the hour. Better, then, to maintain the status quo. (Rarely have I acted so conservatively.)

After a brief trip to retrieve mail and parcels from the School I drove more admin over the clifftop of completion. Thereafter, I finished refiling digital documents while listening, for the last time before it’s sent to the record company, the master of the double album. The mental images evoked by the ‘Image and Inscription’ composition have grown more vivid with every hearing. This afternoon, I recalled a small drawing that I’d made in 1989, in response a narrative associated with the Welsh Revival of 1904-5. At the time, one chapel goer related a vision that he’d received of an angel and a devil wrestling above the town of Llanhilleth in the Ebbw Fach valley, where I lived. This, he interpreted, was a visualisation prophesying the battle between opposing spiritual forces for the souls of those below:

John Harvey, Vision: Angel and Devil Fighting Over Llanhilleth (1989) pencil, 8 × 6.4 cm.

After dinner, we sat down as a family and I received my birthday gifts: a treasure of entirely practical things (like sound cables), holiday reading, music CDs, DVDs, and dark, dark chocolate. We ended the evening together watching the BlueRay director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, Blade Runner (1982). A perfect film.

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