Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
Blows the wind and it is gone.
(Henry Francis Lyte, ‘Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven’ (1834))
Over the weekend, my mother-in-law passed away after a short illness. She was 89 years of age, and the best mother-in-law anyone could have wished for. Even in her middle and late years, she was still a young woman at heart: cheeky, naughty, and full of laughter and lightness. During the final years of her life, dementia had begun to whittle away her memory and personality. Had she lived longer, more of her would have slowly faded. Sometimes, losing someone suddenly, but more or less intact, is preferable to witnessing the slow unravelling of their sense of self.
Auntie was a Christian. For those who shared that faith, sorrow and rejoicing joined hands at her departing. We’d lost her, but only in this world and for now, and to something unutterably better. I remember meeting Auntie on my first visit to Hong Kong. Before I could orientate to the city, she’d thrust a video camera into my hands. Thus, my initial sights were mediated through a lens. I’ve a feeling that a similar scenario will occur when I take my first steps upon the plains of heaven.
8.00 am: A communion. 8.45 am: I took up the cause of assessing the third-year, fine art, undergraduate Research and Process in Practice essays and blogs, again:
1.00 pm: Lunch. Art soup:
1.30 pm: ‘Back to it, lad!’ (In the background, King Crimson’s Starless and Bible Black.) I particularly enjoyed reading some of the students’ blogs. They provided an insight into their experience as art students that isn’t necessarily accessible at tutorials. Quite possibly, they weren’t fully aware of what had taken place over the previous three years before they began writing about it on-line. That’s one of the benefits of blogging: it encourages the writer to reflect upon their experience, and to realise how much of what seemed insignificant is, with hindsight, resonant with meaning.
Both the essay and the blog also discipline the students to think-though the nature and rationale of the work in progress and, thereby, to determine its future trajectory.
5.40 pm: Preparations for dinner. Leftovers presented themselves:
6.30 pm: The final two submissions. Some students do well by completing the project while adhering to the recommendations and stipulations of the brief to the letter. Others flaunt the rules while managing to deliver something that’s deeply personal, insightful, and imaginative. The world needs both types.