Paper-Play

Benjamin Bartlett; Whitewater, WI—

When one begins writing passionately, it evokes a feeling of hunting prey. They lunge at the page, their pen talons piercing its skin. Inky blood oozes from thin scratches, staining the surface with their words. To many writers, this is not a mauling – this is their escape or their magnum opus or their outlet to discovery: it is a tool. And the paper cannot complain about their scars.

Yet, when treated as simply a tool, paper loses its richness. One cannot appreciate the paper they sacrifice as “their tool” when only considering their impassioned speech. That richness disappears in the scrawled blood and mangled skin left in one’s fervor, left to rot in notebook cages on mildewing shelves in abandoned rooms as meaningless as those pages. One cherishes only the scars when they are apathetic to The Tool. Instead of simply taxidermying a page to celebrate a stroke of genius, writers must appreciate the powerless page they sacrifice; they must acknowledge those working to enact their stroke of genius. The scars may describe the writer’s feelings, but the paper allows for an exploration and recording of them: it is the translation to physical reality.

Even if one recognizes that a paper and their written thoughts are inextricably linked, meaning is still lost. Recognizing one’s thoughts entering reality on a page is different from acknowledging that the page is an extension of oneself. If acknowledged, the paper becomes intimately linked to the writer. The words become as important as the paper; both belong and are elements of the writer. One then can feel comfort in scratching their stories and semantics and purpose on their paper—as they are reflecting to themselves.

Of course, the bastardization of objects as “tools” is common. From pens to notebooks; from shelves to rooms; from houses to homes. Whenever one interacts with an object, it becomes an extension of themselves. The pen carves one’s thoughts and feelings onto paper; the notebook stores one’s papers; the shelves house those notebooks and the memories of oneself; the rooms are a direct link to one’s character and mannerisms; the houses one stays in are their temporary refuges, which may become their homes, where one will cultivate and foster their lives. 

Peoples’ environments and possessions are them. Disregarding them leads to a loss of purpose and respect. Many objects and experiences become estranged from the person; they simply become things one has and things one does. It becomes challenging to reason why one owns what they have and does what they do. Acknowledging the intimate link that these are extensions of oneself inherently gives them meaning. Since that chair is owned by someone, it has meaning because it is an extension of their want for comfort. Since working that job is an opportunity for someone to use their God-given gifts, it has meaning because it is an extension of one’s efforts.

There are obviously scenarios where people do tasks against their morals and own things they don’t want. These are done for personal reasons: a college student may be disinterested in a class, but it may be necessary for them to graduate—it’s an obstacle blocking a goal. Unless forced under duress, actions are done with a personal intent. These can be indirect extensions of a person: not all purpose is tattooed on an object’s sleeve. If still regarded as an extension, these actions and ownerships still have meaning.

Thus, when writing passionately, the writer must remember that they are extending themselves into reality. The paper and the words are equally linked, as they are both part of that writer. If unacknowledged, they lose their meaning and simply are a piece of paper and words on a page; they are ideas akin to oneself but not intimately linked to them. The paper will then yellow and decay and shrivel up.  

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