Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Sunday, August 16, 2009




Committing My Mid-Life Crisis to Ink and Flesh



I have been contemplating a tattoo for a while. I'm not wanting to jump on the band wagon of fashion, but must say that there is a slight sense of tribal draw that causes me to commit something of personal symbolism in permanence on my body. I love Art, and, while not a very good artist myself, enjoy conceptualizing things and think that it would be very cool to make this design take shape. I do have a small maple leaf tattoo inscripted with "Made in Canada" on my left shoulder. I got that one for three reasons some 20 years ago: 1.) to commemorate my Naval service, 2.) a statement of pride as I backpacked extensively throughout Europe for a few years and 3.) to celebrate my two international appearances for the Canadian Rugby League National team.

This is the basic design that I'm looking at. It needs to be cleaned up quite a bit (I basically cut and pasted a bunch of stuff together to give the general concept using images from the web). The font and proportions are also requiring some adjustment. In terms of size, it will most likely end up just under 6"X6". The main modification that I am contemplating is not having the centre cog solid black, but, rather go for a metallic shading effect. I would also like to look at having the elk's head in the centre be transformed into a Chess Knight (substituting the horse's head with the elk's).

As for the meaning/symbolisms, there is the obvious representation of my favourite activities: cycling, hiking, kayaking and rock climbing. These are the things that really provide happiness for me and to my life, outside of family and friends (and made even better when family and friends are participating in these activities with me). But there is a much deeper symbolism tied to each part of the design, and I've attempted to subtly incorporate elements of my Eastern Philosophical ideology but in a relevant cultural context...

The bicycle cog in the centre with the teeth represents both the circle of life and the small ups and downs/ goals, etc. that life offers us. The cog also perpetuates motion and a forward direction. The circle is strong and demonstrates not beginning and no end - such is my philosophy of life in that change is the only constant. This also echoes my beliefs in Taoism and Buddhism - a slight play on the mandala is present as well in the overall pattern of the cog, but done so to reflect an image that is culturally relevant to me. As much as I admire many of the symbols of Eastern culture, I felt a need to make it resonate with my culture and who I am. This is a vital personal point in my overall design concept.

The elk is my spirit totem and an animal I've really come to admire and feel a connection with. When I go camping in the Rocky Mountains, I always tend to see at least one elk, if not dozens. A few years ago, I participated in a pagan ceremony which, much to my surprise, revealed to me that the elk is my spirit animal. Since then, I have developed quite an affinity for this majestic creature.

The reason that I would like to modify the elk into a Chess Knight is to represent the mind in the centre of the circle, which would, in effect, entwine the spirit and the intellectual at the centre of the circle or web, thus illustrating how all of these things are interconnected and are integral in devising our "moves" in life. I've also contemplating omitting the elk and placing a Yin Yang in the centre, but, again, that seems to be such a common image that its true meaning has been lost to a sense of fashion and style.

The climber represents dragging one's self up from the bottom, much like I feel I have done with my life, not just from my family origins (lots of abuse there), but also through the vistas of depression and PTSD. We all have issues that we need to battle through, and, quite often, we feel like we are simply hanging on for dear life. I know the sensation of hanging from a rock wall, grip failing, and having that sense of either digging into the bottom of the tank and not quitting, or to simply slip and fall away. Obviously I'm tied in when I am climbing literally, but that element is often missed out in the metaphorical - symbolised by family and friends. Life has been amazing the last few years, but it was tough navigating many of the darkened vistas that lead me here...

The hiker represents reaching a summit and goal and is significant to those things that I have achieved in life. It's also symbolic of enjoying the process, as opposed to solely focusing on the end result. In life we are always heading toward our next destination, but we need to enjoy the journey and take breaks, enjoying the view along the way.

The mountain biker represents the thrill and ecstasy of coasting in life after working hard to accomplish something. The sense of freedom attained on a bicycle, for me, is amazing. The same applies in life - when it's smooth sailing we need to savour every instant because we all know the impermanence of emotion. Equally, when thighs burn from pedaling uphill or we traverse an incredibly technical area, metaphorically speaking, we know that these struggles can be fun and are not forever!

The kayaker represents the whole "still waters run deep" concept and represents both the varied surfaces upon which we sail - the depths and the shallows. I've had some amazing moments of tranquility in my kayak, as well as having faced extreme and treacherous situations.

Finally, the quotation comes from Helen Keller - a teacher. Being a teacher myself, there is a connection here. Most importantly, however, these words resonate powerfully and represent my attitude toward apathy and mediocrity. I firmly believe that pushing yourself - even scaring the crap out of yourself - is what it is to be alive. I'm not a macho maverick type who is all about being extreme. What I do advocate is that life is about living, bettering yourself and experiencing amazing things.

...And that's just about it! It is my hope that when life gets hard, I will look at this and remind myself that this is not the first time life has taxed me to my limits. It is a memorial to all that I have survived and accomplished and a beacon that I will continue to do so.

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