Friday, June 5, 2009

Spirituality, Pirates, and Tattoos

One of my dearest friends (Pooh) spent a few moments standing in a tattoo parlor the other day contemplating getting some ink done. She never did say what she was thinking of getting - though my suggestion was the phrase, "Respect My Authority!" based on some recent drama in her workplace. As it turned out, she ended up not getting anything done, and the matter became moot.

Still, my mind has been turning on the subject

You see, I stand with my feet in vastly different worlds. Whereas I was once a spiritual leader of sorts, I'm now simply a civil service worker. My interests vary, as you have undoubtedly noticed if you've read this blog before, but tend to swing between spiritual issues (Buddhism, Christianity, and some philosophy) and less serious pursuits (history - particularly pirates, horror fiction - particularly the works of Lovecraft, and some arts and crafts such as music, candle making, origami, and so forth).

Occasionally, those two ends of the spectrum collide with interesting results. Take tattoos, for instance. They're incredibly popular, and depending what social circle and sometimes what socio-economic class you move in, it's almost required that you have one. Musicians and tattoos go hand in hand, obviously enough, and Whirling Dervish and I joked that we needed to get some ink, because most of the staff and nearly all our patients who had some sort of military background were heavily done up. And of course, sailors - especially pirates - and tattoos go together like pirates and, well, rum.

However, most spiritual traditions have prohibitions of some kind against tattoos. For Jews and Christians, the big one is in the book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 28 ('Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.'). For Buddhists, there are the teachings on nonattachment - which basically states that suffering is caused by focusing on things that will eventually end and obsessing about them, and impermanence - which states that nothing lasts forever, so we should enjoy good things, but not expect them to last, and deal with bad times understanding that they're not going to last either. Impermanence and nonattachment are connected, of course, so my interpretation of these and other teachings can best be summed up by saying, "Look, you're not going to last forever, so why spend the money on getting ink, obsessing over what design you're going to get when that design is going to fade, stretch, and look crappy when you're 90, and experience the potential regret and suffering that may occur if the artist screws it up or you end up changing interests in the coming years and no longer like the design?"

But then I see pictures of Buddhist monks and lay leaders who are covered in tattoos and I wonder if I interpreted that correctly. Of course, there are almost as many different types of Buddhists as there are Christians, so interpretations vary widely! I also know tons of Christians - minsters and lay people - who have tattoos, and they're faithful and good.

I guess in the long run it doesn't really matter. So long as it doesn't hurt you, hurt others, and is a design you can live out the rest of your days with. I guess I now have to find a design that would sum up my Buddhist / Christian / Pirate / Lovecraftian / guitar / candle-making / origami lifestyle so I can get one!

Still, I have been looking at a few designs, just in case the disposable income, midlife crisis, and courage all come together in the same place and time. Here's what I've found:

This is the Buddhist Dharma Wheel. Each Spoke represents one part of the eight-fold path. Honestly, it also looks like a ship's wheel, so that gives this design points for double meanings

Speaks for itself. Arrr! : )

Origami crane. Obviously I would choose a different style, but this is the general ideaThe odds of me getting a tattoo are slim, but for some reason, I still think about it from time to time. Anyway, that's enough rambling for this morning. More later. And happy Friday!

1 comment:

Cory said...

I would definitely say that Jews would fall into the category of "rebellious" if they get a tattoo, but Christians are saved by grace, not by works and righteousness has been attributed to us by Christ, not by any work of the law. Pending interpretation of Scripture, some say that Jesus' second coming on the day of judgement, where Revelation records Him as being "written" on as being tattooed. I'm not sure that it's a 100% accurate interpretation, but definitely worth consideration. That's just my two cents. Grace and peace.