On a particularly rainy day in Boston, I was just exiting CAS onto Marsh Plaza. There was no wind, and the rain was falling straight down, creating puddles large and small all over the uneven surface of the plaza. I had on my new boots, so the puddles didn’t concern me as much as being drenched to the bone by the fat drops of mid-November rain.
About halfway across, next to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, a small speck of matte white gave me pause. In one of the puddles lay a small piece of paper, as if ripped from a reporter’s notepad. I don’t know why this piece of paper, of all the pieces of trash that grace the city of Boston, caught my eye. I picked it up, and saw that despite the water the writing was more or less intact. Is there such a thing as water resistant ink?
Realizing that I was quickly failing in my hope to stay dry, I held on to the limp piece of paper and bolted for the GSU. When I reached cover, I stuck the paper in a notebook to dry, and hoped that the paper wouldn’t completely disintegrate. I have to say I had trouble focusing in my meeting, too curious about the note to devote much of my attention to anything else.
A few hours later, this is what I saw.
What could it mean? What is the story here?
Jean-Luc Goddard said, “A good story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… But not necessarily in that order.” I don’t know whether this is a good story, or whether it is the beginning, the middle or the end. But it was clearly important enough for someone to write it down.
There is a term in Jainism: anekantavada. Like all terms in foreign languages, and foreign religions, it is difficult to translate accurately. On the most simplistic level, it means “non-one-sidedness.” The belief that to any truth or reality, each person’s perspective is only a piece, and usually not the same piece. I know the story I am piecing together from this note. I also know it probably has nothing to do with the author’s intent, or what you, dear reader, might interpret the story to be.
And perhaps that’s the larger lesson here: that each of us only ever gets to see a piece. We aren’t given truth, or context, or certainty. Just bits and pieces.