I've been thinking about tattoos a lot lately. Much of this is due to playing Otojiro, my tattooed monk for larp but that is only the catalyst. Specifically, I've been thinking about this tattoo:
In short, I want it. Given that I'm Jewish this is problematic. Currently I'm debating whether it's worth giving up being buried in a Jewish cemetery for this. It might be. Allow me to explain.
If I get a tattoo it won't just be something that looks cool. In fact a tattoo should never be something you just think looks cool but for what this will cost me it can't
be that. But it must go beyond having a profound meaning to me, it needs to be something of equal or greater spiritual value to my religion's funeral rites. The dragon does this.
The dragon is the penultimate symbol of strength, spirit, and wisdom. The dragon unifies them into one being. This dragon, in particular. There is no doubt from the long, sinuous, scaled body of his physical power. But at the same time he is a spiritual being, by definition. And the eyes belie an inner wisdom more profound than near anything I have come across. And yet he smiles. This is no fearsome beast, not a guardian, not even a guide. The dragon is a companion. He travels with
you, offers assistance but does not make the journey for you. For me.
In l5r the ise zumi use tattoos as a reflection of the person's soul. The artist does not know the shape of the tattoo until it is completed. The tattoo is the person's soul called forth, made ready. If I get a tattoo that is what it must do. I don't mean to confuse real life with roleplaying - though I've learned more about Buddhism and the Tao since I began researching them to play Otojiro - but the foundation is solid. The dragon is in me. I wish to call it forth.
But why my back? Because my back is where I can never truly see the dragon. Just glimpses out of the corner from craning my neck. Or reflections in a mirror, but that is a reflection of a reflection. The tattoo will always be as hidden from me as the true dragon.
The Way that can be experienced is not true;
The world that can be constructed is not real.
The Tao Te Ching
Turn to meet it and you do not see its face.
Turn away and you will not see its back.
Interpretation of the Tao by Robert Pirsig
Even more important than having the dragon with me is the idea of having him on me. To turn him from a mental and spiritual presence to a constant companion in a physical way so he is with me in all three forms, that is the purpose of the tattoo. Wherever I go he will follow. He shall always guard me from behind. I shall never see his face, nor he mine, but we shall be linked.
That is what the tattoo means.
As for the cemetery, what am I giving up? Cemeteries are for the living, not the dead. We don't have a family plot. Whoever I marry must be accepting of my choices and it'll only be an issue if I marry Jewish anyway. I will have to do more research into the Jewish theological significance of remaining unmarked, but barring any relevant discoveries I may well go ahead with this.
I have decided to give myself five years of contemplation and research. Until New Years Eve, 2010. If on that night the dragon still calls to me I shall seek him out and mark him on my flesh.Edit:
So I found this
article about Jews and tattooing. Based on my Conservadorm attitudes I think I'm okay with transgressing the Torah for this. It wouldn't be wounding me but helping me and it wouldn't be hostile.
Yes I believe one can break Talmudic commandmants. The Talmud tells us that we are not to accept anything in the Tanach without testing and questioning it. I accept the phrase but I don't accept the normal interpretation. While there is a specific prohibition against tattooing Maimonides tells us that every commandment is given for a reason. I believe I understand the reasons here and don't consider them to be pertinent in this instance.