Friday, August 27, 2010

The Ink Beneath Your Skin

I moved most of my things into my new apartment today. And by most things, I mean everything but my bed. So now I'm at my parents' place, having decided that traveling a little bit out of my way to pass out on their couch--and to use the treadmill tomorrow morning (marathon mode, kids) before letting work suck out my soul--is well worth the gas money and the preservation of my sanity. I do not like moving. Do not like it probably because my OCD wires in on everything that's immediately out of place, imbalanced, scratched, scattered . . . anything and everything that's to be moved, essentially.

It's the process, obviously, more so than the end result, or the thought of perhaps leaving something behind. In truth, I'm actually pretty excited about this new place: capacious, less neighbors, more scenery, less concrete and more green, sidewalks . . . a place where you can be in the middle of everything without being in the middle of everything.

My new roommate got his first tattoo today. Some thoughts: it's rather odd, I think, how tattoos have become so ubiquitous and yet so taboo. But let us suppose that this is the only reaction one should expect from a nation governed, more or less, by a structured, corporate, typically conservative outlook. I do not think that conservatism is, by any means, a 'bad' mindset, anymore than I think that a 'liberal' philosophy is one for wishful thinkers or closeted hippies. But the idea of judging someone--minutely, blatantly, intentionally, accidentally--by his, or her, appearance, seems to me to echo some kind of fear or bias or dread, the basis of which is probably the anxiety of misunderstanding or of no understanding whatsoever.

Without objection, you may argue that judgements are passed everyday and on every person--the overweight, the malnourished, the dark or light skinned, etc. The list can go on and on with the unfortunate reality of prejudice and partiality manifesting itself greater and greater and greater.

But the Arizona-based Hispanic cannot choose his skin color any more than could the African American man of the pre-Civil Rights Act America.

The tattooed person can--and does so with every decision, every second of the needle's buzzing.

Perhaps this is why they are so dreaded: the simple fact that they proffer--usually--some kind of insight into your person. Tawdry or titillating, they are what you so choose.

But God forbid us if we were to ever accept humanity in all of its myriad persons and personalities. What kind of people would we be, really, if we were to judge people based on everything but their clothing, hair style, skin color, age, sex, weight . . . the ink beneath their skin?

And so among the four of my own, I think my Eliot tattoo is probably my favorite--the same line for which this blog is named. Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

The line in question is taken from Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." I chose this particular line because it's always seemed to echo as much frustration and angst as it arguably did upon its publication in the 20s. Eliot saw the country--perhaps the world, too . . . I am not sure--as defined by the ideas of waste and decay, as if our very refusal to actualize ourselves--to wake up--has left us blindly clinging to the secular and to the superficial. And so since Prufrock is conscious of the society in which he lives, he feels ostracized--foreign and alien, as he cannot pretend to know less than what he already does. And what he knows is exactly what he must not become: something likened unto those around him and the world in which they live. A people and a place of no direction. So, alone and isolated, Prufrock struggles with the bold and unmitigated question: do I dare disturb the universe?

In essence, do I dare speak up, shout, make my presence known and show those about me how superficial, how mannered and vacuous, they and their lives have become? Do I disturb this parade of pomp and pretense, act differently, truly to be true, to protect myself and make a change, to err from the mindlessness and adhere to what is true and what is right?

. . . I try to disturb the universe every day. As much as possible. Indeed, it's the only wake the world up, to keep from falling asleep yourself.

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