“After two years we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too—‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Do thou.’ And this was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ ‘Thou mayest rule over sin.’ The old gentlemen smiled and nodded and felt the years were well spent. It brought them out of their Chinese shells too, and right now they are studying Greek.”
Samuel said, “It’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?”
Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’”
– John Steinbeck, East of Eden
East of Eden is my favorite book of all time, and I knew the moment I first read these three paragraphs that I had encountered something profound. I think the words “thou mayest” are emblematic of the balance of free will, equal parts all-encompassing possibility and personal morality, and that’s an emblem I don’t mind having on my body forever. 2012 was the year of no regrets, and getting my first tattoo hasn’t upset the year’s theme: I love my tattoo, and I’m glad I did it. Now, on to the next.
My tattoo was done by Chris at Liberty Tattoo in Seattle, Washington.
Posted in 24 Before 25, Literary Giants, The Life de la Kendall
Tagged 24 before 25, east of eden, free will, freedom, john steinbeck, liberty tattoo, morality, possibility, regret, tattoo, thou mayest
People often say “better safe than sorry,” but I think there’s something to be said for throwing caution to the wind every once in a while.
Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m a cautious person by nature or if I was just conditioned to be so. But I’ve found that my logical and cautious mind has barred me from experiences that could have been magically profound. For example, when I was in South Africa I had the opportunity to bungee jump off of the highest jumping off point in the world (the WORLD!) and I passed it up because I could not get over the notion that the cord could possibly break. I watched my travel companions leap off of a bridge and spring back up with joyous smiles on their faces; I watched. That was a once in a lifetime experience that I said no to, and I regret it nearly every day.
Even in everyday situations where death is not a possibility, I’m prone to play it safe. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been taking baby steps toward a carpe diem lifestyle, and it has yielded really wonderful results thus far. It helps to constantly be asking myself “why not?”; Why not go to a SXSW show by myself at 1 in the morning while I’m on vacation in Austin? I could get abducted, but I could also have a really great time meeting new people and grooving to excellent music. Why not go to breakfast at Beth’s Cafe at 5am with some people I don’t know very well after staying up all night drinking and listening to people read aloud in the dark? My hangover may be creeping up on me and I could definitely use the sleep, but I’m enjoying their company and I don’t want to miss out on communing with good people. And I can catch up on my sleep some other time.
There are always reasons to say no, but I want to start embracing the reasons to say yes. Not to throw caution completely to the wind and abandon all reason and common sense, but to just be open. It may not seem like a lofty goal, but for me, it’s pretty huge. I’m teaching myself how to seize the day, one all-nighter at a time.