February 24, 2021

Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me (Psalm 139.11).

WFH: DAY 38/LENT 7. 6.30 am:

There’re days when the dawn cannot come soon enough to vanquish the night’s terrors. 5.45 am: I awoke, too early, from a dismal dream in which I was ‘closing in on death’ (to quote Lou Reed). The bed in which I lay was in an upstairs room at my maternal grandparents’ house in Blaina, Monmouthshire. I used to sleep there as a child, when staying overnight. At the close of my life, the heavy curtains before me had been drawn closed. (Darkness was sucking the life out of the room.) Through them, I sensed the parting light of a grey and dispiriting day. My mind was gripped by the suffocating fear that I was slipping into oblivion, where there’d be neither the memory of what had been nor consciousness of self.

7.30 pm: A communion: ‘even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you’ (Psalm 139.12). 8.00 am: I collected my poise and thoughts, reviewed the day ahead, scanned my ‘To do’ list, and posted emails. 9.00 am: The beginning of the day’s PhD fine art tutorials.

Why do the things that we make endure, when we cannot? Are we not more important than art? ‘He has also set eternity in the human heart’ (Ecclesiastes 3.11). This is our (many people’s) instinct. It can’t be proved or persuasively argued; the conviction is a matter of faith, and that faith is received as a gift. We were made for forever, embodied or otherwise. Who would not wish to grow in knowledge, wisdom, love, relationships, and joy without end? 11.30 am: The close of the second tutorial. For the remainder of the morning, I propagated postgraduate admin.

2.00 pm: My final PhD tutorial of the day. The end of a journey is in sight. This is an eminently satisfying state of affairs for both tutee and supervisor:

3.15 pm: A Faculty meeting to discuss what aspects of the university’s current online provision could usefully be retained when things return to normal. I would have been happy just to find a means of ‘raising my hand’ on Zoom. Teams is SO much better. Some of the contributions that I’d pitched:

There have been occasions where I’ve needed to deliver a class online and face-to-face simultaneously. In theory, this is a possibility, but in practice the teaching room technology isn’t flexible and sophisticated enough.

Like some school pupils, university students don’t always have the requisite hardware to engage in online teaching. We need to ensure, first, that there is equity in terms of advantage and readiness. I know several students pursuing their studies on mobile phones. Some, because the internet in their area is inadequate.

As a university, we need to explore the health and safety dimension of staff spending large portions of their time on online delivery. We already spend a great deal of time undertaking research and admin on computers, under normal circumstances.

4.30 pm: Time out. I met two acquaintances on my walk. Face-to-face conversations online are a pale and shallow substitute for real-world encounters: voices in the cold air, under roaming clouds, in changing light, unamplified. I returned home via the Great Lady:

7.30 pm: I was a little ahead of my week’s schedule, so I began programming next week’s teaching in advance and preparing questions for next week’s PhD viva voce.

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