Humans have been applying permanent markings to their skins for over 5000 years. Whether for self-identification, honor or art, tattoos have made an impact for a long time, and they continue to do so in modern times.
There is certainly something poetic about sacrificing one’s self for art, particularly in the case of tattoos. People are willing to sit through hour-long, painful sessions of being poked repeatedly with needles in order to adorn their skin with something for which the removal process is even more painful.
When I was younger, I thought tattoos were morally wrong somehow. My parents always told me I could never get a tattoo because they were disgusting and permanent, and I couldn’t handle that kind of commitment.
As a six-year-old, I probably couldn’t. Most children should not get tattoos, because I, for one, would not have hesitated to immortalize the beaming face of Bob the Builder on my torso. The way they talked about tattoos, however, didn’t make me think about child tattoos, but rather how wrong it was for anyone to ruin their bodies with pictures.
As I grew up, I grew more accustomed to the idea. The argument of deterrence used most often by adults became “it will sag when you get old,” which I believed and feared still. However, by spending long periods of time on the internet, and in real life as well, I was exposed to a different use for tattoos: remembrance.
Many people seemed to get meaningful tattoos when they lost their friends or family or were in the Olympics. It became a permanent reminder that they needed to be happy or proud or loving or otherwise a better person. I was far more accepting of this reason, but this was not my final opinion on the matter.
My current opinion on the matter is far more accepting. Sure, my parents can try to deter me from getting any adornments of my own, but who cares if someone wants to decorate themselves in a permanent fashion?
It’s all about artistic sacrifice. The human body can be as much a canvas as a piece of paper, and the permanence is what makes it so special. I like to doodle on my hands often, drawing bones and hearts and words all across my fingers, but the doodles doesn’t compare to the commitment that tattooed people have.
Tibetan monks are famous for their ideas on permanence when it comes to art. They spend hours or days creating intricate and colorful designs on the ground with sand. These sand mandalas, once finished, are swept away with a broom. The days they spent seem almost for nothing, because the art is gone.
I look at tattoos the same way the monks look at their mandalas. I am wholly impressed with the commitment and the finesse of tattoo art. It’s another level of appreciation for art when you agree to have it permanently plastered to your skin, and I respect that wholeheartedly.
I don’t know if I will ever get a tattoo myself, but as of now, I think that tattoo artists and those upon which they practice should be respected and free to do what they want with their bodies without fear of ridicule. After all, art is meant to last.