I think about tattoos a lot and go back and forth between wanting to get one. There’s a million and one different reasons people give for getting their tattoos, but I think it boils down to a human need to define things as a means to give life, ourselves, whatever meaning and understanding. That song lyric or symbol or date or piece of art resonates with you somehow and it’s something you want to remind yourself and others is a part of your psyche. In my mind that is as powerful as it is limiting.
In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes, “To define is to limit.” I’ll admit, there is little I’m more fearful of than confining myself to a definition of who I am moment to moment. As a somewhat whimsical and volatile being, I can’t trust that I will want the constant memory of a part of myself I have since shed since needle met skin. I prefer the anonymity of the blank canvas in its infinite potential. It makes sense. I have ALWAYS been one to value possibilities and somewhat gun-shy of commitment. And yet…the allure is there, a constant subtle nag to shout this is who I am, or was, from my skin.
I find little fun in the finite, at least when thinking theoretically, and yet I realize the finite is where the action happens. All of my best growth has come when I’ve leapt off the cliff with only the confidence that I’ll figure out how to swim on the way down.
It’s the god damn brave who commit to something being the truth and then act with foolish daring in the name of getting shit done and moving forward. This is the foundation of the human race rising above all other creatures. We turned sounds into words to give meaning to our surroundings and rubbed sticks together to give birth to flame, not knowing why exactly we needed the burn. We are lunatics seeking the light in an impossible-to-perfect environment with too many variables to ever have any hope of being accurate.
Seriously, whoever thought mixing flour and water together and then heating it up was a good idea had no fucking clue they were creating a food staple for much of the modern world. Or what about the entire experimental field of medicine? Cutting people open, injecting foreign substances, removing and adding pieces…see? We are insane risk-takers.
We are constantly at war with each other and within ourselves seeking the balance of controversial ideas. And I think that is the allure of definition. Life is a complex beast. We lean into what feels right or seems logical given whatever information is at hand and continue adding blocks here and there building, what we hope, is a better future, more representative of who and what we are, seeking life, seeking meaning for whatever time we’re given.