April 29, 2019

8.00 am: A communion. 9.00 am: A reckoning on the day and week ahead; I aim to make the most of my time, opportunities, and myself. I broke open the inbox and seized the nettles. The anticipation of a problem is often far worse than the encounter with it. Moreover, we expend unnecessary energy imagining scenarios and potential conflicts that may prove to be phantoms, and on self-justification in response to criticism and discomforting tones that were never intended to be so. Seek to be more suspicious of one’s own than another’s, motivations and dispositions.

9.30 pm: I took up the resubmission of a successful PhD thesis, after the candidate had implemented minor corrections as advised by the examiners, to ensure that they’d fulfilled expectations. Standards of clarity, precision, and rigour need to be upheld, scrupulously. 10.00 am: Tea time:

11.00 am: On with teaching and assessment prep. In this auspicious year (for me), I’ve determined to carve out time for what might be termed ‘whole-life reflection’. I’m a firm believer in regularly taking stock of oneself and one’s experience. There’ll be reasons for thanksgiving, celebration (as distinct from self-congratulation), and remembrance of every joy, success, and rapturous encounter. There’ll be ‘a time to mourn’ the loss of loved ones and friends, as well as the persistence of flaws, unconscionable discrepancies between conviction and action, and weaknesses left unchecked, which continue to dog the inner life. Some practices, habits of thought, hopes, and anticipations will be consigned to the waste bin, because they’ve either become stale and irrelevant or have no possibility of being realised. Other things will take their place, no doubt. I’ll not be defined by who I’ve been and what I’ve done. Sifting and change cleanse and revivify.

11.15 am: Studiology. I needed to hear again Saturday’s remixes:

12.15 pm: I took an early lunch in order to attend a 1.00 pm meeting at the School. Around this time every year, fine art staff allocate their students to spaces in the studio galleries, which have been carved up very dextrously by Mr Garrett. He’s a master without equal when it comes to this task. For the next few weeks he’ll work like a Trojan, along with the students, and enable them to put their best feet forward.

2.00 pm: Back at homebase, I continued listening to the central channel of all the compositions on the mid-field monitors. I got to the point where it became hard to see any virtue in the work. Familiarity had begun to breed contempt. Digital can sound too brittle at times. It rasps. I longed for the warmth of analogue. Perhaps I should work with reel-to-reel tape for the next project. Periodically, I returned to assessment and teaching admin and responding to emails.

The gardener said that the weekend storm had shrivelled some of the leaves on the trees in the back garden. They’d been traumatised by the incessant cold blast; the vitality had been beaten out of them. Likewise, we can endure only so many ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ for so long before adversity crushes us entirely. Little wonder that the Bible compares our lives to the fortunes of the natural world:

For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall’ (1 Peter 1.24).

By the close of the afternoon session, I’d reached the final composition.

After dinner, I’ve been watching BBC 4’s Looking for Rembrandt. While there’s clearly a guiding intelligence behind the three documentaries, the presentation is made by curators, art historians, and librarians, for the most part. The artist portrays himself as a deeply believing but utterly flawed Christian, who refused to attend church other than for baptisms and burials. His life was beset by the loss of a wife, a lover, children, reputation, and financial stability. And yet, he got better and better as a painter. And may have done so, in part, because of his suffering.

Rembrandt, Christ and the Woman of Samaria (1655)
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