PD has been posting some GREAT questions in the comment section of the previous blog. Its amazing that there are people who care this much about tattooing, and I appreciate his enthusiasm. However what Buddhism has taught me is that its far too easy to lose the forest in trying to tend to our one favorite tree. Anyway here is my response to his blizzard of posts 🙂
The problem is that , In my opinion, you are looking at the wrong things to worry about. The question isnt “what should WE do to make tattooing like we want it to be?” because thats a rediculous notion. It doesnt need a WE or golden rules to ‘fix’ it. Tattooing is, quite frankly, not worth expending that much time and effort over pondering “big questions”.
So what IS that important? This moment. Have you taken your dog for a walk today? Have you told your loved ones that you love them? Were you courteous on the road or did you scream at the lady at the bank when she made a mistake? Are you making you best effort to do the next right thing? Thats important. Its ALL thats important. I promise you that if we all just do the next right thing, and then the next right thing, and then the next right thing, that all these “problems” we spend so much stress and (and typing) over will take care of themselves. Ive seen it over and over in my own life and others. My own tattooing grew by leaps and bounds when i put away my worries about who else was being as respectful as i thought I was.
Im not apsychic, but I can make one prediction about this thing we love called tattooing. It is never going to stop, something about being human makes us want to do things like tattooing to ourselves. We always have and we always will, from cavemen to businessmen it never ends. When you talk about traditions to uphold you are taking an arbitrary set of patterns and deciding they are more important than those other patterns over there. Its All in your head. All those old time guys were just trying tomake a living, they did what they had to do and if there was any tradition they followed it was by accident. If you want to revere those guys then do it for the fact that they didnt sit around worrying how ‘authentic’ and pure what they were doing was, they just fucking did it. We need to take THAT lesson from the past, do what you do the best you can and stop worrying about what the other guy is doing.
And as for the “secrets” of tattooing, its bullshit. Its pure grade A bullshit. It doesnt exist, its not that hard to figure it out and since there has been modern tattooing there has been books and people willing to tell anyone how to do it for a dollar (including many of your beloved Old timers) It isnt a secret society, its not a cool club, there are no rules and there is no governing body. its a herd of cats, it always has been and dear god in heaven please keep it that way. Because the second, the very second you codify and petrify tattooing into a set of steps, rules, regulation, and formal traditions is the moment you turn it from ART into a commodity. If such a horrible thing were possible then every tattoo shop would be a McDonalds like chain of repetition and rules written down in three ring binders. We NEED chaos, we NEED slop room, we NEED there to be unscrupulous hacks AND conscientious innovators. We need tradition and we need to throw tradition on the fire. In Zen there is a saying ” a student who achieves his masters level of understanding, has only gained half of his teachers merit” We need to go BEYOND our teachers, we need to excell personally and individually and hamstringing yourself by worrying about what some dead old guy would think is stupid and retards tattooing. Look at a tattoo magazine from 1980. Would you wear one, ANY one of those tattoos now? NO fucking way. Now look at one from 2009, fuck I can pick out a dozen i would be flattered and priveledged to carry on my body. Tradition is a mile marker, not a map. its a record not a blueprint, dont mistake the finger pointing at the moon FOR the moon itself.