I heard that word, “fragments”, used by a historian in a podcast recently. He was explaining that history wasn’t fixed, was never “complete”, that in every event, every circumstance involving human beings there are multiple stories to tell, multiple, often entirely contradictory experiences to explore. He used the term fragment, to communicate that. That all of history is fragmentary, and all human stories are too. I liked and disliked the word “fragment” equally at the same time (I don’t think there are any fragments, in the sense that there is nothing which isn’t connected to anything else, but, on the other hand, as it seems impossible to ever know “the whole”, maybe fragments are the very essence of reality), but it’s wormed its way into my mind and I’m turning over this issue of fragments ever since.
Here’s where I’ve got to so far – I see two different kinds of fragments in the world. There are pieces, like pieces of iron, or pottery, or whatever, that archeologists might find. These are pieces which have lost their connections. And it’s the archeologist’s job to piece the pieces together. Like putting together a jigsaw. Once the pieces start to fit together, the connections become clearer. The picture emerges. We can say, oh, I see now! So there’s that kind of fragment.
But there’s another, something more dynamic, more fluid, almost a kind of perceptual fragment. You know like when you go to the movies with a couple of friends and in the conversation afterwards the experiences can be so different that sometimes you even wonder if you all saw the same movie? Well, that kind of fragment.
And that kind of fragment is what every single story is. It’s what every single relationship is. It’s what every event and experience is. No single story is something called “the whole story”. I don’t know if such a thing as “the whole story” exists, but, if it does, I don’t know how any single human being can know it. For instance, it wasn’t unusual for me to find that several months, or even years, into an ongoing therapeutic relationship with a patient, that they would reveal something fundamental about themselves, tell some story which suddenly explained mysteries about them. This would happen with people who I had really convinced myself I had heard and understood. At times, the new story, previously untold story (commonly the patient would say “I’ve never told this to a single person before”), would be nothing short of a moment of enlightenment. With experience, I grew to understand that even these moments were never the final ones, that there never was something called “the whole story”.
I see the Self like that too. Whether that’s the “community of selves” idea (The Scottish Psychologist, Miller Mair coined this term – “His 1989 book Between Psychology and Psychotherapy was subtitled “a poetics of experience”, and this theme recurs throughout his written and spoken work. He saw therapist and client as reaching towards understanding through conversation and metaphor, through engaging with the “community of selves” of which they were personally constituted, and through striving to “tell stories” that would illuminate the conditions of their lives.”)
or the idea of multiple facets, roles or aspects of the same person – differences which are so different that sometimes that we wonder if there can be a ‘thing’ called “THE SELF” – and, I don’t think there is. Whatever a SELF is, it’s not an object, not a thing. It’s a subject, a complex web of woven threads, a continually changing, evolving, dynamic host of energies. And maybe, just maybe, one of those aspects overwhelms the others, at least for a while, but they all exist, all come into being, all ebb and flow….all “interfere” with each other, in the way that waves and ripples “interfere” with each other.
I guess at times some of the threads that make up YOU pull or rub against each other in uncomfortable ways and you think “wouldn’t it be simpler if I had less threads?”
And maybe it would.
But would the tapestry be as beautiful?
Only you know.