6/9/12

Are Tattoos Evidence of Essentialism?


Are Tattoos Evidence of Essentialism?

I went to a Rockies baseball game recently; walking around, I felt as if I had stumbled into a tattoo convention. They were (are) everywhere. And this got me to wondering: what does this act of self-expression say about the underlying view of human nature?

There are two kinds of reactions people give me when I ask about their tattoos. One is pride that they chose a design (or words) which capture who they are and expect to always be. The other is regret (sometimes more than mild) that they got the tattoo--it bespeaks either a rash choice or an earlier understanding of themselves which they now have outgrown. (It's like looking at your marginalia on a Herman Hesse book that you read in high school. "Wow." "So true." "Meditation=Truth." You get the idea.) Both point--perhaps--to a motivating philosophical urge behind the choice for a tattoo which denies (consciously or unconsciously) the reality of change. The tattoo is a gesture at expressing and declaring one's essence, once and for all. Change of mind (about aesthetics, sentiment, etc.) and change of physical state (the effects of weight gain or loss, wrinkles, etc.) are implicitly denied by the act.

If this is all wrong, then my question has to be: If you got a tattoo and did not expect it to always speak a truth, why did you get it? Did you intend to remove it or do you have a "second act" explanation for what it means?