Fragmentary thoughts about fragments

Fragmentary thoughts about fragments

I’m working on understanding what it is I want to express through the fragments theme, and I think it is something about perception. I want to explore the way we perceive some fragments as precious objects, and/or the way many fragments of perception form our experience and make up our stories. Underlying that, I’m particularly interested by difference and how often we struggle to acknowledge it or even recognise it.

Three stories

  • the fragment of Brigid’s mantle in Wales where the fragment is discarded because the beautiful outer wrapping is assumed to be the relic.
  • the hand towel I wove for Mum which she would not use for its physical purpose, but laid on a table (only) to be looked at; and her fragile handkerchiefs, worn to holes.
  • the woman who is healed by touching the hem of a garment Jesus is wearing, the part that frays, drags in the dust, is closest to the earth.

Precious fragments, precious containers, empty containers.

Use, unuse, disintegration, preservation, ‘Too beautiful to use’, ‘Not worth keeping’, ‘Wear and tear’.

Fragments of bone, shards, pieces. Bodies dismantled and discoloured, mummified remains, fibres, leathery remnants, the decayed treasure held within jewelled golden reliquaries. And how often it is only the reliquary that remains, the inner emptiness infused with the holy.

How relics are venerated, how the saints are dismembered and reconstructed, how tiny pieces of what they were and things they touched become objects of sustenance.

How the relics of the true cross, so many more than are physically possible, are like crumbs that feed thousands, abundant, available. Every splinter imbued with energy by the interaction of perception and worship.

How fundamental embodiment is to my perception of spirit: incarnation, material, matter, “quotidien mysteries”, touching.

The things we keep that belonged to our ancestors, our beloveds, especially the remnants of things, worn by the veneration of their use, that which is handled.

“a universal human impulse to cherish physical objects that are somehow felt to be imbued with the character or personality of the individual who once owned or touched them” – James Robinson, Preface, Matter of Faith

Robinson, James, ed. 2014. Matter of Faith: An Interdisciplinary Study of Relics and Relic Veneration in the Medieval Period. British Museum Research Publication 195. London: British Museum.

How stories are a kind of relic, contained in the reliquary of the imagination, touched by the breath of telling.

How our stories and myths are made up of multiple overlaid, overlapping perceptions and fragments of memory, of many voices, inner and outer. How we connect them to imagine a whole, and what is it that inhabits the gaps?

double weave shed and mirror

Fragments of words and lines, scraps of my mother’s poetry, half-heard refrains singing into my memory. Lost words.

How I apprehend truth, catching wisps of thought in a net of threads that somehow holds them together, for a while, until they escape through the holes and float away.

How important it is to know, at the deepest level of knowing, that we all experience the same things differently.

How we are enfolded so completely in our own layers of perception that it’s hard to notice.

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