The Ötztal Ice Man, a mummified corpse found on the Hauslabjoch in the Tyrolean Alps in September 1991, had tattoos—sixty-one of them, in fact. Otzi, as he is affectionately known, offers glimpses of the first tattoos known to humankind. Tattooed mummies and remains have been discovered in forty-nine locations around the world, confirming that tattooing has been practiced all around the world for literally thousands of years. The oldest evidence of tattoos is from between 3370 BC and 3100 BC. My point: the recent popularity of tattoos is nothing new.
Today, Goth youth, hillbilly grandmas, bikers with a violent streak, and sensitive and tender young poets share a propensity to have tattoos. It’s interesting that each of them seems to view tattoos as their own personal modes of expressing uniqueness in a bland, ordinary, and common world.
Still, though, I have no tattoo. And I may never have a tattoo. But I might get one on a whim, giving the matter about as much thought as I might give to picking which fruits to buy from the greengrocer. Odd; the idea that a decision about something so permanent and so personal might be made with almost no thought. No planning. No consideration of the repercussions. With regard the latter, I wonder what possesses a person to have a cross tattooed across his forehead or the image of a cartoon character imprinted on her cheek.
While tattoos maintain negative images in many quarters in this era, they are becoming more acceptable. Not long ago, when I went to the hospital to determine whether I might have a pulmonary embolism (I didn’t and don’t), I encountered a young ER doctor—a first-year resident—who had a tattoo around his ring finger. In response to a question from my inquisitive IC, he explained he had gotten the tattoo in lieu of removing his wedding band before engaging in various medical procedures. Subsequent to that experience, I have had vague recollections of seeing other medical doctors with various unobtrusive tattoos.
So what? Why write about tattoos? I honestly can’t say. The subject just arose in my mind earlier this morning and I followed it. Online, I explored a little about the history of tattoos and I examined images of tattoos. I saw what I consider hideous full-body tattoo sleeves. And I saw photographs of women with small, discreet tattoos; images that aroused a wish that I could have known more about these delicate people. Of course, they may not be delicate at all. Tattoos do not necessarily reveal a great deal about a person, any more than do the earrings someone may wear. But the mere fact that a person displays a tattoo—or wears an earring—says something. It says “I am not the average person next door.” It invites questions. It suggests an interest in human interactions. I suppose a tattoo or an earring (or bracelets or necklaces or…whatever) is the equivalent in humans of mating dances or feathered strutting in birds. It says “look at me.” Not necessarily for mating, but for acknowledgement or recognition or simply engagement.
I wish I could harness my curiosity. I wish I could channel to stay focused on a specific subject for longer than a minute. If I could do that, I might know far more than I do about the world in which I live. But I do not stay focused. Instead, my mind flits from subject to subject like a bee zips from flower to flower. The bee is after pollen. But what am I after? I’ve said it a thousand times before: my interests are wide but shallow; I know a little about many things but I know a lot about so very few. I cannot stay focused for long. I get bored or, perhaps more precisely, I encounter a wall that informs me I am not disciplined enough or smart enough to become more proficient or more knowledgeable about a subject. So, I flit on to the next one, always hoping to find one that will be sufficiently interesting to me to enable me to stick with it for a while. But I know better. I am afraid I always will be the impatient bee. He will try to experience every flower, but he will know almost nothing about every one upon which he lands so very briefly.
I’ve said before that I might one day get a tattoo of a dragonfly or a scorpion. I might consider a bee, as well. The dragonfly would have special significance as a reminder of my late wife. The scorpion would suggest something of my false bravado, I’m afraid. But the bee might reveal something of my personality; inherently prone to skip from idea to idea, never stopping long enough to really understand anything.
We bought a large ribeye roast the other day. We chose the prime grade, despite its premium price, because it is for a special dinner. Never in my life, until now, have I spent more than $100 on a cut of meat. This better be damn tasty! In addition to the beef, we’ll have a salad and some nice vegetable sides. Before Thanksgiving Day, when I cook the huge piece of meat, I will buy some prepared horseradish to serve as a condiment. And we will have wine. And there will be music and conversation and laughter.
I’ve written several times before about my ambivalence toward eating meat. While I love the flavor, I loathe the history of the food before me when I am about to eat beef or chicken or turkey or lamb or…whatever. Even fish, sometimes, causes me to wonder whether I would be happier and healthier as a vegetarian. That’s exactly how some people want me to feel. They might say “See! I’m right about this! You should swear off meat in favor of a happier and healthier diet based on gentle sweetness instead of violent dominion!” Or something like that. But I have mixed feelings. I think humans evolved as omnivorous creatures. That is not to say that we could not continue to evolve so that, eventually, we remove meat from our diets. But would that truly be natural? And why does the idea of humans as vegetarians seem natural when, in the world beyond the ends of our noses, other animals are decidedly carnivorous? Why is it okay for a leopard to stalk its prey and to kill and consume its flesh, but not for humans? Why give eagles a pass when they dive into rivers or lakes, their talons snatching fish they will consume? Why not endeavor to persuade the birds to feast, instead, on seeds and nuts?
I don’t know. Like I said, I have mixed feelings. I think I could get used to eating a primarily vegetarian diet. For example, I could be perfectly happy with the pumpkin and black bean soup my sister-in-law made and brought over recently (even without the chicken she included in the dish). And I could easily survive on the vegetarian chili she made and shared with us shortly thereafter. (She makes some incredibly good food, just to mention.) But would I miss steak and seafood and sausage and pork and fowl? No question: yes. But I could get used to their absence. The planet might become a gentler, more healing place for it. But not in my lifetime. I wish I could return for a visit in 500 years to see what, if anything, has changed in human behavior. Will we be just as greedy, just as selfish, just as ugly and violent and vicious as we are today? Probably. But maybe not. Maybe if we just stopped…
The universe is bigger and more powerful than I. It can crush me if it wants; if “want” is within the collection of emotions available to the universe. I doubt the universe has any desires. It is a massive “thing” so incredibly complex that a debate with it would be impossible. There’s no arguing about “want” with this universe. She will get her way, no matter what. The weather forecast could call for molten meteorites to rain from the skies, tsunamis to shred coastlines worldwide, and ice crystals the size of cruise ships to form in the prairies of Canada. There’s just no arguing with Mother Nature. She is crazy and dangerous.
I just drifted off to sleep as I sat in front of my computer screen. In my stupor, I dreamt I stood in front of my kitchen sink and looked down at the floor to see quite a lot of shredded cheddar cheese on the floor. I blamed myself for eating cheese while standing over the sink. But I realized I do not tend to do that. I was mislead on this matter. Goodbye.