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Great American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters, compared to what lies within us.” But what about what lies permanently engraved upon us? I’m talking, of course, about tattoos.

The tattoo is splendorous thing, and we’ve watched its evolution across the passing of a century with all the vim and verve that an art form deserves. From vaudeville to Sailor Jerry, and permanent makeup to Ed Hardy, the tattoo has become an integral part of popular culture in the Western world. 

Figures taken in the 2000s suggest that approximately 16% or one sixth of all adults in the United States have at least one tattoo. What’s even more impressive is that those who are counted among that percentage cannot be characterized into any particular set of demographics. Basically, tattooing transcends the barriers of race, age, gender, and economic status to become one of the most popular means of human identification and expression worldwide.

Now back to the great Mr. Emerson. Tattoos for most are an expression of some part of us that would otherwise remain hidden. We mark our bodies with things we choose specifically, things that speak to us, or that express our personalities or indulge our secret passions. So in that way, what we ink on the outside can represent what lies within us. Our tattoos can become the expression of our inner strength, the proof of our bravery, or an emblem of our values.

My tattoos are a statement that I’ve chosen to represent my love of simplicity, of Eastern culture and enduring symbolism, and in many ways of keeping my private thoughts. I put them in places that most people will never see, not because I want to appear “un-inked,” but because I’m a very private person. I can count the number of people who know where my tattoos are and what they translate to in English on my two hands. And in that way, they also symbolize the strength and depth of my closest friendships, and the spiritual element that I feel is inherent to permanently marking myself.

What do your tattoos stand for? I understand if you don’t want to tell.

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