Summa: diary (January 22-27, 2023)

Everything is changing (Diary, Aberystwyth (October 8, 2003). / Nothing has changed (Diary, Loudenville, New York (October 9, 2003).

January 22. Sunday John:

1.00-8.00 pm

January 23. 8.30 am: Admin and a review of the week ahead. Conversations, consultations, and an examination feature. 9.00 am: I returned to the ‘Nothing is Without a Sound’ [working title] project, and the realms of manipulative ecstatic religion, speaking in tongues, orgasmic worship, spiritual abandonment, and psycho-emotional catharsis. The aesthetic of putative singing angels chimes with my own sonic sensibility. I’m reminded of both my When the Morning Stars Sang Together (Job 38.7) (2018) composition and the cumulative effect of multiple and superimposed recordings of the whole Bible read. The latter sounds like the gentle ululation of corporate prayer. 12.00 pm: On, then, to fearful noises from hell, supposedly, that emanated from a superdeep borehole in Siberia, supposedly. The stuff of urban legend, definitely.

2.00 pm: Conversation no.1: An over-coffee catchup at home with one of my former PhD students who’s proceeding to the next phase of their career. How hard it is to find the way. And, having found it, how hard it is to keep to the path. It’s a perpetual endeavour. The way is ever before us; never behind. Therefore, we should neither look back nor seek to return to where we came from. (‘Remember Lot’s wife.’) 3.30 pm: Back at my desk, I listened to recordings of the ‘voice of God’, online. It’s disheartening to realise just how credulous, uncritical, downright whacky, and too desperate to believe some Christians are.

9.00 am-5.00 pm.

January 24. 7.30 am: Diarism. 8.00 am: A communion. (Many friends with many problems.) 8.30 am: Putting the world to write. 9.00 am: A morning for ‘varieties of administration’ and ‘sundry devices’ (to quote the King James Version of the Bible). I bit the bullet and began with finances. I suspect that time wasted on online banking, and a myriad other computer-mediated facilities, far outweighs time saved by such. However helpful a chat assistant may be, they are in the end merely words flickering across a text box: the ‘ghost’ of the real person, engaged through a form of automatic-writing from beyond. I’m never going to buy my weekly eggs online, that’s for sure. 11.00 am: The thesis for the PhD that I’ve been asked to examine had arrived … along with a host of administrative documents. Firstly, I learned the rules of the game: twenty eight pages of ‘brief guidelines’.

2.00 pm: I began my initial reading — which is undertaken as though the thesis were a book that I’ve taken off my shelf for the first time. The ‘Dedication’ page of a thesis always reveals something of the heart, soul, and life history of the author, which may otherwise be occluded by the academicism of the text. Who and what we are is, in no small measure, the achievement of loved ones and friends who’ve believed in and encouraged us.

January 25. 6.30 am: Rise. 7.00 am: Diarism. There’re reasons why we forget. There’re times when we write down our experiences, in order to forget them. Thus, rereading the traumas of our past may reopen scars, breath new life into old heartaches, and awaken the sleeping dogs. However, diaries also remind us that our most dismal prognostications were often never realised, there was forgiveness and healing, and ‘grace is sufficient’ — even at the worst of times.

8.3o am: I took up the thesis where I’d left off yesterday. 11.10 am: On then to the Arts Centre for an over-coffee conversation no. 2. The artist Saoirse Morgan kindly showed me around Mary Lloyd Jones‘s exhibition. I warmed to the latter’s paintings from the 1970s. They belong to that minor but nonetheless qualitative strand of hard-edged abstract painting in Wales, promoted by painters such as David Tinker (1924-2000) (former head of the Visual Art Department, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth) and Jeffrey Steel (1931-2021). 1.45 pm: Conversation no. 3: I arrived at the Llanbadarn Campus and the studio of the artist Wayne Summers, who’s one of my former PhD Fine Art tutees, on a social visit. We talked about painting, galleries, magic, ritual, religion, belief, delusion, language, inscriptions, landscape, archaeology, standing stones, dreams, and spirits. I always leave his company with our discussion still going on in my head. The sight of undergraduate paintings on the easels and walls around us made me nostalgic for teaching. 2.30 pm: On with examining for the remainder of the afternoon.

11.30 am-2.00 pm.

January 26. 7.15 am: Diarism. I’ve reached 2004 and will take a break from reading the accounts from 1982 to 2011 at the close of that year. There’s only so much personal history one can bear. For I can neither undo nor disown my past — with its catalogue of unworthy motives, ungenerous thoughts, failures to act, wrongdoing, cowardice, duplicities, and self-seeking, (‘The day shall declare it’.) But today I can at least resolve not to repeat my previous mistakes and move towards betterment. 8.15 am: Perspectival writing.

9.00 am: Examining, once more. (In the background: Krzystof Penderecki, followed by Karlheinz Stockhausen.) 11.00 am: Having completed the initial reading of the PhD’s thesis element, I donned my ‘cans’ and began listening to the practice-based element. 2.00 pm: The second reading commenced.

7.30 pm: I attended the Creative Arts et al ‘January Show’ at the School of Art. This is an annual pop-up exhibition, organised by Miranda Whall, featuring undergraduate students working in a range of medium. Inevitably, these days, a number of them explored their experiences of mental health conditions, as well as other traumas, restrictions, and challenges associated with being in the body and in the world. There were only two other visitors present whom I knew. Thus, I wandered through the School, following sounds, as a stranger for the most part.

Project Room, School of Art, Aberystwyth University.

January 27. 6.45 am: Up! 7.30 am: The routine began. 9.30 am: On with the 2nd reading of the thesis. This needs to be completed by the close of the day. (In the background: Béla Bartók.) 3.30 pm: Finished! I left it be for now, so that the substance of the submission could stew in my imagination. ‘Creed’ [working title] came back into view.

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