When two people meet one another for the first time they must begin to create their relationship. That tenuous first few moments between potential friends, lovers, employers, etc. is complex and occasionally chaotic.
I once envisioned, as a way to deal with my personality quirks, the concept of the Paper Theory. At the first encounter with any new person there is a piece of paper that represents our future relationship with them.
Now, if nothing were to come of the encounter the paper is relinquished to the circular file. Well, that’s the assumption anyhow. However, it’s not quite that cut and dry. Typically, the paper probably does end up in the trash if the encounter were enough in passing. However, experience has taught me over and over that rarely is an encounter chance enough. The page may remain “blank” but it still gets filed somewhere in the index of the binder we carry around as the storybook of our lives. I believe these “blank” pages are waiting, ostensively, exist in perpetuity, awaiting the opportunity to actually become defined by one of the next two.
The next thing that can happen with the paper, which is the anticipated response, is the paper gets written on. We would all like to think this is the neatest, cleanest, chronology of our existence with another person. We would like to assume that we are beginning something in the upper left corner and moving symmetrically, coherently and deliberately to the lower right hand side before appropriately flipping over the page and repeating the feat on the opposing side until time has passed and the page is filled with the acute subtleties of our time together and it ends when the page is completely full of structured notes. We would like to believe this is how all of our relationships worth documenting would be done.
I doubt that’s true though. First off, I doubt this is how we actually define the closest and most precious relationships around us in reality. Secondly, I doubt any of the writing on the page occurs anything like that which the assumption is of.
This image is our projection of the perfection we want, rather than the reality of the relationship. We want our most important relationships to make logical sense. We want them to follow a sensible pattern, fall among the stereotypes and guided lines of a page. But, that’s not the way it works.
Those pages we are writing on are probably not our closest relationships. They are people we need to keep the notes on, remember random things for and have a general recollection of. We start with a scrawl on the page like a kindergartner checkering a page with a crayon. Eventually the writing may establish itself on the page, but mostly, it’s not taking and fact keeping. More times than not, what ends up happening is the chaos of the notes becomes black on the page as layers and layers of the experiences build up an compete for space.
The final way we can use the page is to tear it.
Yes, that’s right. Rip it. Right in half.
This probably sounds so counter-intuitive, but really, this is what most of us do with most of our relationships. We split them into pieces like we would in tearing the paper and then end up creating something unique and new out of them as we put the paper back together, not unlike how we’re different after every time we have a special encounter or interaction with the person. It is easiest to see the analogy in the context of each disagreement or fight since the idea of ripping the paper probably sounds so destructive and the taping it back together would, in theory make it stronger and less prone to rip along that same line. However, it delves further into human relationships that just the forcefulness of a fight. If the paper is the relationship, and relationships are, in fact, no linear like what writing on the paper might be, than tearing it up and re-taping it back together in a more appropriate fashion meeting our interpretation of the person is more apt to be correct. We recreate the paper in the unique way we interact with this specific person. It is a statement to whom they are with us, not what we need to remember or know about them.
Why, then, are so many people afraid to tear that piece of paper? Is it that they can only see the tearing as some kind of termination, unable to envision it being retaped in a different way? Are they afraid that a piece might be lost in the process?
It is probably a function of both of those, along with the more traditional cliche of writing chapters in one’s life. Yet, again, writing the way most of us are taught is a sequential flow of thoughts transcribed to a page, which, is fine if you need a chronology of your life, but not always the dynamic analogy when discussing the finer points of subtle human emotion which waivers and wanes in no particular time-honored order.
I personally find myself tearing a lot of pages with people only to have them be unable to help tape them back together in a new way. In response, I stopped tearing pages except on more and more rare occasions until there was at least something written on them first, proposing that writing would let them into one part of the binder and then when it was time, tear the page and reconstruct it in a new fashion placing it in the other when they felt comfortable to. The success of this approach has not much worked either.
From a business perspective, I have found it much easier to tear and tape relationships because it feels more constructed and conducive to having to create successful situations, to help the product develop and the company grow. If it comes across as this is for the betterment of the end result people are more apt to buy into the Paper Theory and go beyond merely the collecting facts on the page step.
However, more in my personal life, the radical notion of tear and tape has only worked with limited success and almost never in a romantic setting. I lament this fact most because this is actually where tear and tape should work best. After all, it is supposed to be two people striving to create something unique and special between them and yet, this is where the most struggle with the Theory seems to occur. As if the collection of facts (or worse, the plain blank page) might suffice enough.