Jun 272016

Tattoos appear everywhere and on everyone these days. When I was young, only sailors, Marines, and felons sported tattoos. You had to be tough to get a tattoo. It was a painful – and potentially dangerous – process.

Now, thanks to modern technology, health regulations, and advances in anesthetics, every teenage girl wants butterflies on her butt or a ringlet of flowers around her ankle. And a growing number of men and women want to turn their bodies into a walking art gallery or personal history exhibit.

Which is why I am offering the following five rules for anyone considering permanent body art.

1. Don’t.

The first rule is simple – don’t get a tattoo. Follow this rule and you can ignore the rest. If you are considering getting a tattoo, stop. Don’t do it. Turn around and walk the other way. Don’t listen to anyone trying to talk you into getting a tattoo. They are not your friend.

If you think turning your body into a canvass for body art will make you more attractive, think again. Take the long view. Take a close look at someone fifty, sixty, or even seventy years old sporting a tattoo.

Bodies change. Tattoos change. Seldom does either look better as a result. Fashions change. Tattoos don’t. What if you couldn’t change your hairstyle and clothes? Look at pictures from 1986. Do you think that tattoo will still work thirty years from now?

The Rest of the Rules

I realize some people get tattoos to prove their “badassness”. These people want to be cutting edge. They cross boundaries. They need to break rules. If you’re this kind of person, make this first rule the one rule you break and follow all the rest. Otherwise, follow this one rule and ignore the rest.

Now for those who, despite the drawbacks and warnings, decide you can’t live without being illustrated. You have something to prove and you want to prove it by having ink permanently injected into your skin. You just need to decide what and where.

2. Remain nameless.

Avoid names of anyone still living. Better yet, avoid names completely. Not even Mom. It might make your mother happy, but what about your girlfriend? What if she wants equal space? What happens when you break up? It’s even more foolish for a woman to get a tattoo with her boyfriend’s – or even a husband’s – name. Men just don’t look at it the same way.

The ban on names includes celebrities. Relationships can go south, and so can a celebrity’s reputation. Think Bill Cosby. The meaning could change as well. Think Bruce Jenner.

3. Location, location, location,

If you must get a tattoo, keep it hidden. Put it some place where you have to show it, not in plain view for everyone to see. This may not fit well with demonstrating your “badassness” and edginess, but a few years from now when you take your future kids or grandkids to the pool, “badass” might not be the message you want to be sending.

4. Make it small

Big tattoos make bold statements. Statements difficult to retract. Remember, the statement you want to make today might not be the statement you want to make five, ten, or twenty years from now, and bigger means more to remove. Besides, if you need to keep it covered – and there will be times when you will want to keep it covered – small is better.

5. Take the long view, make it a selfie

So make it small, in a normally concealed place, and avoid names. Also, take your time. Never get a tattoo on an impulse. If you want to place a permanent image on your body, make sure it is something which reflects you. And not just you right now, but you several years down the road.

If you must get a tattoo, get it for yourself, not to impress someone or with the hope it will make someone like you. You’re the one who has to live with it every minute of every day for the rest of your life.

In a sense, you are marrying your tattoo. The two of you will become one. And just like a real marriage, getting a divorce will be expensive, painful, and leave a nasty scar.

So, would you get a tattoo? If so, what and where?

Jun 202016
Sailboats by skeeze via pixabay.

Sailboats by skeeze via pixabay.

In his classic Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis attempts to explain the basics of Christianity – the parts on which all Christians agree. Leaving the complex and controversial theological arguments to the experts, Lewis concentrated on what “has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.” That he succeeded is proven by the status Mere Christianity has achieved since it was first published in 1943.

The success of Mere Christianity also owes much to Lewis’s writing style and observations. Perhaps the most famous quote from the book concerns progress. “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

Liberals, progressives, and especially Marxists adopt a view of history which sees Man forever marching onward and upward towards perfection. (This is actually a corruption of the Christian view of history.) Unfortunately, a real study of history shows Man can move forwards, sideways, and even fall backwards, not just in technology, but in morality as well.

Minimum Morality: The Golden Rule

C.S. Lewis points out most cultures in most times have had some form of the Golden Rule as a moral compass. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Many – perhaps most – believe this is as far as morality should go. Morality sets boundaries, defines the limits, outlines the rules for interaction between people. Morality simply provides a way for people to interact constructively, beneficially, safely.

But in Mere Christianity, Lewis points out interaction is only one realm of morality, and not even the most important realm. Those who insist, “It’s OK as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else,” miss the big picture.

A Fleet in Formation

Lewis uses the example of an armada sailing to a distant shore. The ships must stay in formation. To do so, they must obey rules as to how far to stay from each other, what position they should take relative to the other ships, who to avoid collisions if they need to change direction of speed.

But each ship, in order to follow the rules necessary to travel together, must itself be seaworthy and controllable. How can a ship unable to steer sail in formation with other ships?

How can an individual, unable to exercise self-control, successful interact with other individuals. The alcoholic, the pedophile, the self-centered SOB who only looks out for number one – how can these individuals successfully interact with the rest of humanity?

Does it really matter if I eat a little more than I should? What’s wrong with a little gluttony? But if I can’t control my appetite for food, what other appetites might I lose control over? Self-discipline makes it possible for us to sail the seas of human interaction. Self-control is the first step in avoiding collisions with others.

As C.S. Lewis points out, ships which aren’t seaworthy or controllable soon collide, and ships which regularly collide are soon unseaworthy and uncontrollable.

The Final Destination

But in Mere Christianity, we find we haven’t even reached the most important realm of morality. While interaction with others and control of ourselves certainly cover the majority of morality, the most important consideration is the destination.

What good does it do to have an excellent fleet sailing in fine formation and arriving in New York when the destination was Bombay? The most important issue isn’t how we should treat towards others and how we should treat ourselves, but what are we trying to achieve?

Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia both had a highly developed code of moral behavior. So does North Korea under the Kim dynasty. Everyone knows – or knew – how to behave and what to do. But somehow, even for many of those living under such a system, something doesn’t seem right.

If you don’t think it matters, if it is all just relative, if morality changes with the times and the places, millions died defeating the Nazis for no good reason. Hitler’s extermination of the Jews and other “undesirables” was no big deal and should have been allowed to continue. After all, as some would say, it isn’t our place to judge.

Perhaps we can’t judge individuals, but we can judge societies and their moral codes – including our own. And if we find we have set sail in the wrong direction, or made a mistake in our navigation and are steaming full ahead towards the wrong port, the sooner we change direction the sooner we will once again be making progress.

What do you think? Does our morality need a course correction?

Jun 062016

symbol-35597_1280I will most likely anger both sides and surprise family and friends, but I have to speak out against the North Carolina transgender bathroom law.

It’s not that I disagree with the intent of the law, or have become a supporter of transgender rights – or by extension the rights of those with same-sex attraction – it’s just that the bill as it stands is completely unworkable.

Transgendered individuals must be respected as human beings even if they and those who encourage them suffer from a disconnect from reality. If it helps, think of it as an alcoholic who refuses to admit he has a problem and is surrounded by enablers. Banning the sale of liquor will not solve the problem.

Neither will forcing people to use the restroom corresponding to their biological gender.

I have sympathy for a young teenager or even pre-teen who has been enabled all his (or her) life in believing he (or she) is really a female (or male) in a male (or female) body.

A twelve year old who has spent the better part of his childhood wearing dresses, leggings, ponytails, and hair ribbons has no business going into a Men’s Room dressed that way. I see no reason to force a fifteen year old boy wearing a dress and a bra because he’s been receiving hormone treatments the past two years and has significant breast development to go into a room with a urinal simply because he still has a penis.

Think about it. If a male who wants to be a female goes into the Ladies’ Room, he will go into a private stall to do his business just like everyone else and no one should see anything. Likewise, if a female who wants to be a male goes into a Men’s Room she will also have to occupy a private stall to sit and do her business.

Obviously, this is not the problem. This is why the North Carolina transgender bathroom bill is a bad bill, it makes this a problem when it really isn’t. So what is the problem?

There are several. Let’s start with locker rooms. Locker rooms, especially men’s locker rooms, especially men’s locker rooms with gang showers, provide no privacy. But will you force the aforesaid fifteen year old with his significant breast development who attends school in a dress, has long hair, wears make-up, and so on to shower in a gang shower?

On the other hand, if the girls’ locker room doesn’t have private dressing and showering facilities, he shouldn’t be over there either. And where do you send the girl who wants to be a boy, who might have facial hair but still has a vagina?

restroom-304986_1280And what about adults and private gyms?

Another problem exists because of those who start transitioning later in life. When Bob at work wants to be known as Jessica and use the Ladies’ Room. Or goes shopping for his/her first outfit and wants to try it on.

Bob might self-identify as Jessica, but everyone else can still see Bob is Bob.

Then we encounter Alison who wants to be known as Trevor. The short hair really doesn’t offset the bra.

Then there’s Alex, or maybe it’s Lexi today. Alex/Lexi doesn’t really know if he/she is male or female. Sometimes it just depends on how he/she feels in the morning. Alex/Lexi is androgynous, and may never settle on a specific gender.

But many of these late blooming transgender individuals might not even be transgendered at all, according to research at Johns Hopkins. At least when it comes to males. Research showed some so-called transgendered males want to dress as women to mask their same-sex attraction. While it might not be technically correct, this seems to fit the drag queen stereotype.

Other so-called transgendered men derive sexual satisfaction from wearing women’s clothing. Again, it might not be technically correct, but these men fit the stereotype of the classic transvestite.

surprise-161248_1280Not all drag queens or transvestites are transgender, and certainly not all transgendered are either drag queens or transvestites. Unfortunately, the overlap and confusion really muddies the water.

In fact, while defining and even identifying a drag queen or transvestite proves easy, defining or clearly identifying transgender individuals proves elusive. It deserves a discussion of its own.

The North Carolina bathroom law attempted a simple, one-dimension solution to a complex, multi-dimensional problem. The ultimate solution requires society as a whole to snap back to reality and come to grips with the truth of biological gender and gender differences. That’s not a quick fix.

In the meantime, the law should focus on making it illegal to expose your genitals to others in a public restroom or dressing area, especially if those genitals do not match the particular gender specific facility you are using.

Or to spy on someone else’s genitals.