Life needs an injection of passion
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
THERE’s been a bit of a commotion about tattoos lately because a famous
footballer has been adversely affected by them. As a doctor said, the hepatitis
B virus can be transmitted through dirty needles, or hasty exposure of the
vulnerable skin after treatment.
There are also longer-term concerns over the psychological damage to those
who come to regret their decision to be tattooed. Perhaps Rosy has now gone off
with Ben, or Spiderman doesn’t do it for them in quite the way he did when they
had the large web plastered across their backs.
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that the National Health Service will
help them remove what is now an unwanted stain on their body. Words and
pictures, once much loved, can, in time, become a peculiar prison.
The trouble with tattoos is that they narrow life, when life should be
spacious. It is the same as walking into a cathedral hoping to enjoy the
majesty of the space, and finding yourself cordoned off into a low-ceilinged
corner. Your visit to the cathedral has suddenly become a cramped affair.
And my feeling in the summer on Southend Pier, where natural skin is at
something of a premium, is that people have sold themselves to some pretty
narrow gods, like Rosy — or Spiderman.
Words and pictures are given to us briefly. They have no meaning in
themselves. Only when something within them manages to find and interact with
something inside us, do they begin to have life.
So they are a fleeting glory, engaging with our interior for a moment, but
then waving goodbye, not wishing to become mere wallpaper to our lives.
Perhaps they will return, but, if they do, it will be a fresh event, for we
will be different people by then, and receive them differently. The idea of
deliberately returning again and again to the same word or image is as sad as
people who hang around their old school gates 20 years on from graduating.
Words and pictures find us so that we might stop crying. When we have
stopped crying, other words and images will come to guide us on.
Unless, of course, they are tattooed on our neck, in which case we are
frozen in time — its own sort of hell — trapped in our overly serious and
Beautiful existence, including words and pictures, is simply to live, feel,
and experience that which is. This is true worship. We need always to be
surprised, and so we should join Rilke in his light-hearted and spontaneous
passion for receptivity and openness. It beats getting needled all the time.