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Thou Mayest.

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“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.

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Artichokes.

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About a month ago, Danielle from Sometimes Sweet posted a writing prompt that went like this:

“The older we get, the more certain we get about who we are and what our purpose is. For me, a lot of it is still unknown, but as I make my way down my own path, I have begun to realize that there are indeed some inevitable truths that I know for sure. On your own blog, write a post that talks about “the one thing you know for sure.”

I didn’t use this writing prompt on my blog (although I guess I sort of am now), but I was really intrigued by the question, and I’ve been ruminating on it ever since. Most of the time, I feel like I don’t really know anything about anything, or when I think I do, it always ends up being turned on its head, so I started to wonder if there really was anything that I knew for sure. After thinking on it for the past month, I think I’ve come up with an answer: kindness.

Which is to say, Plato had it right when he said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Life is beautiful, but life can also crush people: there is no way of knowing what another person is going through in secret, and kindness or lack thereof can be a make-or-break factor in someone’s day/week/month/year. When I have bad days where life is crushing me, and someone fails (unintentionally or otherwise) to display kindness in their interactions with me, it can push me over the edge; conversely, when I’m having a bad day and someone displays unsolicited kindness toward me, it can be the turning point, the point where my spirit is buoyed by their acknowledgment of, and regard for, my humanity. I always try to remember that in my interactions with other people. Whether it’s my boss or a busboy, there is nothing I stand to lose by being kind to another person, no matter the situation. We are all humans and we all have hearts, so it makes sense that we should always try to behave as such, never actively trying to bruise each other but rather handling each other’s hearts with care. I truly believe, with every ounce of my being, that kindness makes all the difference.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while now and have been trying to decide on something I’d be happy to have on my body for the rest of my life, and something that also encompasses my striving to always be kind. Have you seen the movie Amelie?

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I think I’ve found my tattoo.