On Fragments and Wholes

I keep thinking about fragments and wholes.  On my walk this morning, in fact, the strange thought came to me "I am a union soldier."  (Don't judge - for you, too, have random declarative voices in your head...right?)  After checking myself to be sure that this puts me on the right side of history, I let the weird thought unspool...

It is true that my core sensibility is to see how things are wanting to be whole; my core drive is for unity.  As an assemblage artist, I gather fragments and find a way to hold them in a frame or place them in a story, where they can be seen and recognized and given meaning.  And my Creative Constellation project expresses my desire for union too, just in a different way.  

By offering a system for identifying the different ways that creativity shows up in us humans, my underlying hope is that it becomes a tool for helping all of us move from a sense of inner fragmentation to a sense of wholeness.  I want the Creative Constellation tools to help us gather our inner fragments together in a new frame - I want to provide a way to sit our inner parts down together at a table over a lovely fragrant beverage to talk about what they want and need and how they can work together to form a powerful, satisfying whole life.

So here's the challenging edge for me:  The task of building a community around my creative work - as an artist and a thinker and a teacher - requires me to be diving into the social media/content marketing insanosphere (I just made that word up, but I'm sticking with it - blends insanity with o'sphere, like a crazy irish uncle round thing...).  And, what I'm learning about this world is that it is a world of fragment-exchange.  It is a loud, busy zone in which fragments are shared and traded and commented upon at lightening speeds....and fewer and fewer of us have the time or the patience to try to put the pieces together or step back and see what kind of shape they are collectively trying to form. 

This could also be because I am old, but my whole-loving nature finds it all very...partial.  I struggle mightily with the idea of putting out little bits of this and that here and there; I resist the idea that these crumbs might somehow lead "my people" to my world of offerings and make them want to someday buy what I have to sell.  When my friends and advisers tell me "just blog about your process!  let people in!" I mumble "OK sure" and proceed to painstakingly, time-consumingly craft another whole lecture in blog post form.  (You can take the girl out of academia, but, as my wickedly funny coach Diane said to me in our last call, "you've still got an academic street gang on your ass..."  I'm still laughing.  Because it is so true.)

But, a funny thing is happening as I go further and further down the "share your fragments" path.  I'm starting to get it.  I'm seeing that the "share your fragments" model of building community requires three forms of trust that are a bit underdeveloped in my sweet little control-seeking heart:

1.  Trust others to connect the dots in their own way.  Fragment-sharing requires trust not only that the "audience" will put the parts together in their own idiosyncratic ways, but that allowing them to do this actually makes them feel closer to your work.  Novelists, of course, know this deeply - if they give us a solid wall of this-is-what-happened-and-here's-what-it-means, we lose interest quickly.  But, if they give us a swiss-cheese, lacy fabric of partial perceptions and clues and symbols and things characters say juxtaposed to glimpses of their behavior...Now we're hooked!  We have a job to do.  We have discoveries to make!  We are the whole-makers!

2.  Trust that the fragments have their own intrinsic beauty.  Now, I know I should already get this one. I mean, finding a rusty bottle cap in a parking lot can make my day.  My studio is overflowing with bowls full of fragments I find beautiful and enchanting.  Shards of pottery, free-floating letters waiting to form words, bits of sparkly thread, etcetera ad infinitum.  Surely I can come to understand that someone could find a bit of complete beauty in a facebook post or a tweet, or an instagram pic... or a sketchy sort of blog post for that matter.

3.  Trust that whatever counts as a "whole" to me is ultimately just a fragment of a much larger conversation anyway.  If there's one thing the internet makes visible, it is that no one of us can master or control or own anything, we can only contribute to the vast conversations already underway.  We are brought right back to wisdom of one of my facebook memes:

So, I am trying to relax and trust the wisdom of fragments in the larger hive-mind of the insanosphere.  No, wait.  Trying to relax is not right.  The trying gets in the way of the actual relaxing, doesn't it?  How about this:

I AM RELAXING.

I trust that my beautiful, partial, incomplete fragments will wander the world as ambassadors for the larger wholes that matter most to me.  I trust that each one carries a whiff of the essences of the larger vision of which they are a part, enough to entice those whose noses are sniffing for just that kind of scent to twitch a little in my general direction.

I trust that I can make a contribution to the vast ongoing human conversations about creativity and purpose and identity and self-acceptance...even long before my work is complete or perfect or refined.

And - thanks be to all the Gods - I can retreat to my studio when I require a restorative immersion in a world in which fragments come together under my own two hands and find their place in a harmonious field of wholeness that I can smell and see and feel and touch. Aaaaah.


If you have read all the way to the end of this post you deserve a reward...here's a slightly blurry studio pic of a recent "whole" assemblage (which is, of course, itself just a fragment of the set of assemblages I'm working on for the August studio tour...) 

"I need to be silent for awhile, worlds are forming in my heart" - Meister Eckhart.  Assemblage by Sara Saltee.  Professional-quality images on the way soon!

"I need to be silent for awhile, worlds are forming in my heart" - Meister Eckhart.  Assemblage by Sara Saltee.  Professional-quality images on the way soon!