August 13, 2015

Getting Inked: The Deeper Meanings of Tattoos.

tattoo inked art

“Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past”. ~ John London

I had my first tattoo when I was 17 years old. It’s a hideous butterfly on my right hip. I was young, foolish and most likely longing for attention.

I got inked again at 23 and the reasons were absolutely different. I’m covered in 10 tattoos now and I can tell you that getting inked has far more meaning than merely being a body art.

I have personally grown fond of tattoos throughout the years. In addition to my fondness, I conceived seven deeper meanings only people with tattoos will relate to.

1. Every tattoo has a story.

Johnny Depp once said: “My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” I can personally say the same.

Whenever I meet someone with a tattoo, I instantly ask him about the story behind it before getting to know him. Tattoos tell a lot about us. Most of them are reminders, lessons, experiences and memories. We might lose the reminder or the memory we have written down on a paper, but we can never lose the ink on our skin.

Looking at the tattoos on our bodies is like reading the story we have written—no one can read it better than we can, for we have done it for reasons only our soul knows.

2. Tattoos put us in the present moment.

Tattoos are associated with pain. The pain differs depending on the part of the body being tattooed, but no matter how painless the body part might be, we will still feel a little tingling on our skin.

For ages, it’s been known that nothing better than pain can put us in our present moment. Hence, I call tattoos a “spiritual experience.” Every time I get ink, I promptly focus on the needle and its sensation on my skin. My mind doesn’t stray. Instead, I enjoy the present moment we all yearn for in our daily lives. Not that we should get a tattoo just for the purpose of being in the present moment, but the “now” is one of the things that tattoos offer us.

3. Pain is temporary.

One of the tattoos I have on my hands reads “this too shall pass,” which is one of the greatest lessons that tattoos teach us. Whatever pain we experience in our life—whether physical or emotional—we believe that it’s going to last forever. But just like tattoos, pain is temporary; it never lasts.

Besides, pain is mentally subjective. We subconsciously decide how much pain we want to feel. We can feel a whole lot of pain and we can feel none. It’s up to us.

4. Realizing impermanence.

Believing in impermanence is a pivotal aspect to living a better life. Unconsciously, on a daily basis, we operate out of a belief in permanence. We take care of everything around us as if it’s sticking there forever.

Our body is one the things we believe we shouldn’t “ruin.” Thus, we treat it well with sun protectors, anti-aging creams and other products to keep it sound. What we don’t realize on a conscious level is that this body will one day turn to ashes. Getting a tattoo is a firm belief in impermanence. When we get inked, we know that this body of ours doesn’t really belong to us; we’re just not attached to it or to the idea of how it should look like.

5. Freedom.

To get inked is to be free with our bodies and to do to them what we see fit. Despite the fact that some people find body art appalling, tattooed people prove every day the freedom they possess over their bodies. Also, it’s a freedom of expression. Like I said above, there is a story to every tattoo. We express ourselves and our opinions with the ink on our skin.

Just like there are people who express themselves through a pen, there are others who express themselves through a needle.

6. Believing in all kinds of art.

Who said art can only be portrayed in paintings and music? Art is unlimited; it can’t be defined. Just like oil on a canvas is called art, ink on skin is called art as well. Personally, I believe that tattoos are the highest form of art. Our skins are already beautiful; they are sacred. Adding any form of drawing or letters on them is solidly artistic.

7. Strength.

Getting a tattoo requires strength and courage—the courage to tell our story through our skin, the strength to let go of the attachment to our bodies, and the strength to feel the present moment with the needle. Thus, I consider people with tattoos strong. Not only strong, but courageous and different too.

Getting a tattoo is definitely not a must in life. Just like it is pivotal for me, for others the whole idea is absurd. Whether we like tattoos or not, ink should be respected as it is an expressive form of art. It’s intimate, yet at the same time global. We shouldn’t worry about the pain or what people might say. And most importantly we shouldn’t worry about getting bored of the tattoo. Tattoos on our bodies become like moles on our skin; they become an intrinsic part of us.

We are free beings with free opinions who are visiting planet earth for a short period of time. Why not get inked during the visit?



6 Things Tattoo Artists Wish You Knew.


Author: Elyane Youssef

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Benjamin Balazs/Flickr

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