Tattoo Parlours and Surface Tension (3/16)

Given the fact that virtually all the (generally crappy) furniture in our minds has been acquired from our local or national (film-TV-internet) ‘culture,’ it should come as no surprise that we seldom or never think, feel, or do anything sparklingly novel, original, or unanticipated.  The native language we speak—in the very terms of which we clothe or formulate our thoughts; the customs of socially acceptable (or legal) behavior; the procedures we follow in the performance of our jobs and daily tasks; the way we attract and court mate prospects—practically all of these formal and structural patterns, routines, and materials are acquired from the outside—given to us during the course of our ongoing education as adaptive, mimetic creatures.  In every sense of the word, these inherited structures, patterns, conventions, rules, and materials are ‘pre-scripted’—and, as we internalize and enact them we are being ‘con-scripted.’  The structures and materials are prescribed and our souls, hearts, minds, and bodies are being in-scribed.  They are being ‘written’ or etched into us.  And it is not uncommon for many of us to feel elated and proud of our ‘accomplishment’ after we have submitted to this drawn-out, fate-shaping ordeal of having every square inch of the surface area of our souls indelibly tattooed with textual material produced and sold, for the most part, by distant strangers.

These ‘tattoo artists’—the original designers or poet-authors of the textual material that will eventually be injected or burnt into the epidermis of our shallow-obedient young souls by (often equally) shallow-obedient, unquestioning mediocrities commonly referred to as ‘parents,’ ‘teachers,’ ‘preachers,’ ‘leaders,’ and ‘celebrities’—are, in most cases, long since dead and gone.  But if alive, they are not uncommonly contemptuous of the spineless, obliging passivity with which we, the generality, are superficially inscribed by watered-down versions of their originally pungent thoughts and challenging aims.  Are we deserving of their contempt?  Are we not dropped—as innocent babes—right into this gigantic, 24-hour tattoo parlour of a world, surrounded on every side by enthusiastic, tattoo-gun-slinging, rapacious rivals for every unclaimed patch of our unstained flesh—into which they seek to plunge their inky-stinky proboscides?

Do we really want to remove these tattoos—assuming such a feat is possible?  Perhaps some of the more unsightly or embarrassing ones (that we got while we were drunk on love-passion, ‘high’ on Jesus or ‘possessed’ by the devil), but a far more worthwhile and consequential move is simply to descend deep beneath that epidermis where the tattoos are imprinted—and learn to navigate in the subcutaneous regions below.  Here, the superficiality and relative insignificance of much of our ‘imprinting’ can readily be seen.  Merely seeing the imprinting for what it is often suffices to loosen its tenacious grip upon us.  We may not yet know our way around in the as-yet unexplored depths—beneath the etched-out surface of our ‘outer lives,’ but at least we have found a viable alternative to servitude to the surface world of automatic, habitual forms of thought, feeling, and behavior.

So, we see that the problem is not so much what’s on the surface, but how to get below that surface and move with greater ease and assurance in those unpopulated depths.  Those among our friends and family who refuse—either from fear or inability—to accompany us as we dive into those hidden, murky depths will inevitably be reevaluated in the ‘dark light’ accessed through our repeated delving and probing.  Long acquaintance with these sub-surface regions of psychic experience results, in most cases, in the development of a kind of X-ray vision where surface phenomena are concerned.  Those endowed with this flesh-and-muscle-penetrating vision must learn an entirely new code of etiquette.  Surface-dwellers, as a rule, do not take kindly to having their skeletons, sclerotic organs, and other private parts exposed—even to those closest to them, let alone strangers whose intentions are unknown to them.

Thus, it is often the case that the possessors of this surface-piercing vision are sensed to be vaguely menacing or disturbing by the throngs of surface-skimmers darting and flitting about around them.  An indiscreetly uttered comment or piercing psychological observation that betrays his ability to read and decipher hidden agendas or ulterior motives is enough to scatter a crowd of ‘water-bugs’ who rely on the magic of ‘surface tension’ to avoid being swallowed up and drowned, from one moment to the next.  Certain words and phrases disrupt that precarious surface tension, so the denizen of the sub-surface realm must learn to respect the cherished superficiality and mental shallowness of those who are either unready or unwilling to leave the busy, familiar, tattooed surface of human affairs.  He must learn and come to accept the deep truth that most persons will always greatly prefer to lose themselves, daily, in surface-level activities, duties, and amusements.  One might even draw the sobering conclusion that 99% of surface activity is really no more than a thinly veiled means of avoiding the depths at all costs!

If we fancifully liken this surface level to a screen in a movie theater, the surface dwellers are like persons who go up to the screen and attempt to touch, talk to, fight, and even couple with the cinematic figures that are being projected onto the screen.  It’s all pretty sad and pathetic, once we begin to see this delusional behavior for what it truly is.

If Jesus or the Buddha could see what is currently done in their names—and not merely by the falsehearted frauds, but by many sincere believers—we can only wonder if, given the choice, they would ‘do it all over again.’  Would they decide, instead, to refrain from ‘going public’ with teachings that were doomed to be deformed and debased by surface-dwellers?  And why was that deformation inevitable?  Simply because translating their teachings into the terms of vulgar apprehension is like trying to render three- or four-dimensional objects in two- or one-dimensional terms?  Practically everything substantial or important is lost or sacrificed in ‘translating’ a sphere into a circle on a plane.

4 thoughts on “Tattoo Parlours and Surface Tension (3/16)

  1. I have been thinking about your analogy of beliefs being tattoos for the last 24 hours. It’s got me thinking about some of my own beliefs. I also like your metaphor of people in society being water bugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lost, perhaps much of the time, but still SWIMMING (in my 20th century swim trunks). But, in reflecting upon your observation, Martin, I think my prose style (which hearkens back to an earlier era) is a direct challenge or assault upon the cognitive and expressive patterns that are emerging from widespread reliance upon Smartphones.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I mean more that the things you talk about are typical of someone who has been marked by the events of the 20th century and by the reactions of major thinkers of that time, particularly the existentialists. It is a time of romanticism, psychology and individualism. I get the feeling you have led a life of experiences that are yours alone-experiences you feel the necessity of sharing with others in individualistic prose. Something is nagging at our innards that won’t leave off without being expressed to whomsoever. I haven’t thought this through carefully and deeply enough. This answer is not exactly what I want to say.

    Liked by 1 person

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