Today Cara and I wont be sitting with the nice folks at the Stillpoint Zen center because we are going to get some lasering action. So far my left arm has really started fading in earnest and I’m beginning to see hope that i will be able to get a sleeve started within a year or so. Tattoos fade naturally over time (and rather quickly once their owner stops existing in time), and this is one of the things that appeals to me about tattoos. From the moment we apply a tattoo the clock begins ticking, change, ever-present, is made manifestly visible by a tattoo and its natural evolution and dissolution.
A few years after I began tattooing I began meditating and reading up on buddhism. I came across the idea of “Right Livelihood”, one of the eightfold ways once can live to decrease suffering in your life and I became concerned. Was tattooing “right livelihood”? After all, tattooing is purely a luxury, no one ‘needs’ a tattoo so it can be considered superfluous to daily life. besides doesn’t it encourage a kind of vanity? and attachment to ones self?
Of course, like much about buddhism in my early experience, I was taking things too literally. The notion of right livelihood I now take to mean a living that doesn’t cause harm to others,( for example selling crack) AND is done with the intention to reduce suffering. Often right livelihood is brought out as a weapon for someone to admonish someone else about what they do (vegetarian Buddhists unfortunately often do this to shame people who are non-vegetarian cooks and the like). but like much else in Buddhism it was not intended as a way for one person to direct the life of another person.
I came to terms with the idea of tattooing as right livelihood when i realized that each tattoo didn’t just make its wearer happy (which is good enough for me) but that each tattoo is also a mini-reminder about the constant change and impermanence that is a part of life. What is more Buddhist than that?
So today I get to experience this flux and change compressed into 20 minutes of really crappy feeling lasers on my arm. Most experiences when they are focused into a pinpoint become somewhat uncomfortable and 20 years of natural fading squished into the point of a laserbeam is no exception. Hopefully this blog will soon be about the progress of my new sleeve instead of being about the disappearance of my old one.