Why have tattoos become so popular in recent years? To solve this mystery, we must first uncover the psychological appeal of tattoos. A tattoo is a form of self-expression, a way of displaying to the world one’s identity. Clothing is certainly a more common means — similarly on the level of physical appearance — by which people express their identity. It would make sense, then, that tattoos would be popular in prisons, since prisoners must wear uniforms, disallowing clothing as a mode of expression. But if we, who are not incarcerated, are free to express our identity through our clothing why, then, the need to make our very bodies into vehicles for self-expression? Apparently, tattoos promise to accomplish something, psychologically, that clothing cannot. What might it be?
The ease with which we can divest ourselves of our sense of our identity and put on a new identity, through a simple change of clothing, has its appeal. It is the appeal of freedom from the limits of a fixed identity. Of course, who we decide to become is influenced by the vicissitudes of fashion. But the very fluid identity that clothing allows can also seem unreal and empty. Like water, an identity predicated on appearances never becomes anything solid. The contemporary interest in becoming tattooed is indicative of a craving for a permanent and abiding identity.
The present zeitgeist is, indeed, one in which people suffer a lack of identity. Apropos is Natan Sharansky’s new book “Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Defending Democracy.” (PublicAffairs, 2008) The book is a defense of national and cultural differences, in the face of globalization, the United Nations, the European Union, and most generally, the rise of internationalism. Previous generations of Americans had a strong identification with being American. Similarly, they identified with the region of the country in which they lived. They identified with their family, with their profession, with their interests, and all else. But ours is an abstract age, in which the very notion of having a strong sense of identity is judged to be naïve. Or else, it is viewed as dangerous, for it is believed that such identifications are divisive and lead to conflicts and to wars. Not everyone has negative feelings about identity. Certainly, those who are politically liberal tend to have much stronger anti-identity proclivities, but the animus against identity has affected our culture at large.
Without a sense of identity, people feel lost, disconnected from life, like Camus’ stranger. It would appear, then, that the present faddish interest in tattoos is indicative of a craving for identity. But, from a psychological perspective, there seems to be something desperate about needing a tattoo to have an identity. Apropos is a famous passage from Leviticus 19:28, which states: “And you must not make cuts in your flesh for a deceased soul, and you must not put tattoo marking upon yourselves. I am Jehovah.” Why the biblical prohibition against tattoos? It is because if one’s identity is to be legitimate, it must come from God. Rather than being on the mere surface, one’s true identity must reach the depths of one’s soul. It is expressed in all that ones does, in one’s entire way of life, from morning till night. An identity bereft of inwardness, i.e., a identity that is merely on the surface i.e., on one skin, is mere idol worship. Hence, the biblical prohibition. Although relatively permanent, it is as superficial as declaring one’s identity by wearing a tee-shirt that has on it the insignia of a company, a clothing designer, a certain city, etc.
Now we come to a related mystery: the present popularity of tattoos among women..
Would you like to read the rest of this insightful
essay? Then download a copy of Mysteries in
Hot off the virtual presses, after four years of intense research and writing! Dr. Mark Dillof has essentially written a detective manual, for those seeking clues to the most perplexing enigmas of everyday life. He initially planned to sell it at seminars, for $75, but a friend recommended making it available to a much larger audience of readers, by offering it as an e-book, for only $9.95. Read more about this amazing new book, at: www.deepestmysteries.com
Or you can…
Mysteries in Broad Daylight contains:
- Powerful essays — like the one you’ve been reading, designed to help you decipher the meaning of everyday life, who you are and what it’s all about.
- Exciting dialogues — they will entertain you, but also make you think deeply about life.
- Exercises and questions designed to teach you the art of uncovering the deep meaning of everything — from the foods we eat to our conflicts at the workplace, from our problems on the golf course to life’s ultimate riddles.
- And much, much more!
Mark Dillof’s new book will awaken you to the mysteries of everyday life. Indeed, it’s likely to expand your consciousness 100fold, illuminate your world and blow your mind!
How much is a life-changing insight worth to you? $1000? $10,000? Priceless? Mysteries in Broad Daylight is overflowing with life-changing insights and all for only $9.99!
Read more about this amazing new book at www.deepestmysteries.com
Mysteries in Broad Daylight will soon be available in paperback, for $19.99.
Copyright © 2018 Mark Dillof