7.00 am: Awake. My back had become unmanageable last night; so, I stayed in bed for an extra hour and a half, and postponed my swimming class until next Saturday. Breakfast:
8.00 am: A communion. 9.00 am: A second cup of PG Tips (decaf.), as I pushed on with the day. My (cost an arm an a leg) back chair in the study is better suited to my condition, when it’s problematic. (Which isn’t often.) I spent the morning at the mixing desk reconsidering the work that I’d ‘accomplished’ (well, ‘done’ anyway) yesterday. An attitude of openness was required. One must observe the dictates and limits of the work.
One must also admit to oneself the likelihood of failure, as soon as its realised … and then to act with urgency. So … . I tore the whole composition apart. I recalled the glee of smashing my Lego models when I’d got tired of them, as a child, in order to build something new from the same components. This was no different. The text to ‘Born Blind’ (John 9) was too long. Therefore, I interrogated what had drawn me to it in the first place. It was the following extract: ‘[H]e spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay’ (John 9.6).
Christ could have healed the blind man with a word; instead, he made clay from the soil using his own spit and applied it to blind man’s eyes. There’s something so fundamental (earthy, literally), human, and intimate in that gesture. Touch is a language of love. Perhaps Christ discerned that the man needed to have something done to him – an outward and tangible act – in order for his faith in Christ’s power to become effectual. I thought of Adam being formed from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2.7), and of Naaman the leper, whom Elisha requested to wash seven times in the Jordan in order to be healed (1 Kings 5). Sometimes, to receive from God, we have to do something – however mundane and against the grain of our pride and natural inclination – obediently.
Thus, I reduced the text material, severely, to the following verses:
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see
Interestingly, like the texts used for ‘Saul>Paul’, verses 6–7 and 11 provide two complementary accounts of the same event: one from the perspective of the gospel writer and the other, from that of the man born blind. I now had some clarity regarding the way forward. The two texts were then dissected and interleaved:
Verse 25 suggested a defining argument (a coda) that cuts to the core of the debate between the man, his parents, the Pharisees, and Christ concerning the latter’s identity, and the authenticity and legitimacy of this miracle.
After lunch, I headed into town. (It happened one week ago today: the recidivists reunited, briefly.) There were as many on the streets as had been last Bank Holiday weekend. The weather today was its equal too:
2.30 pm: Back at my desk, I continued with ‘Born Blind’. I’d stripped away the proposed beat-track (not that it had a beat) and replaced it with one that was more ‘gritty-gluppy’ – hard to describe: a cross between the sounds of small pebbles being rolled by the sea and chips frying in deep fat. Towards the end of the afternoon, having written-off yesterday’s efforts (more or less), I tentatively began to manoeuvre the dissected elements around spikes in the rather informal loop. Periodically, I’d observe some ‘downtime’ on the study floor, in order to reset my lower-back muscles:
5.15 pm: Downtime of a different order.