InkMe
March 17, 2015 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I am looking at getting a small tattoo in the near future, and am running into a wall when it comes to figuring out what exactly to get.

I'm coming to the end of a therapy program that has been very helpful, and would like to permanently mark the occasion. The major theme that has helped has been the idea of radical acceptance/trying not to fret about things over which I have no control.

I'd like to capture that concept in a tattoo, and really can't figure out how. My requirements:

- no words from any language; graphical only
- not a solely/dominantly religious symbol (e.g., typical Christian cross would be right out, ditto Star of David, Pentacle, etc)
- one solid colour, no shading
- about an inch square (it's going on the inside of my left wrist)
- ideally relatively abstract, not directly representational, but I'm flexible there if something really resonates

Has anyone got any ideas? I'm coming up empty everywhere.

(I'll be asking local friends for recommendations on specific artists; I know wrists are generally considered a no but in my line of work visible tattoos are the opposite of a problem)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
The caterpillar doesn't have control over becoming a butterfly.
posted by dywypi at 8:52 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Old tropes like memento mori and tempus fugit have a lot of searchable graphic representations that are popular in the world of tattoo. And any good artist worth their salt will be able to have a conversation with you about how they'd interpret your challenge.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:53 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


radical acceptance/trying not to fret about things over which I have no control.

The chaos symbol perhaps?

Or infinite radical.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:54 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're surrendering to reality, so how about a little white flag?
posted by theodolite at 8:54 AM on March 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


A picture of Alfred E Newman, What me worry?
posted by 724A at 8:55 AM on March 17, 2015


How about a feather, or a leaf? Things in the category "nature that is vaguely geometric" are very appealing to me personally, and usually very tattoo-able. Feathers and leaves both float in the wind after they're shed from their host--you could interpret it either as the feather/leaf itself, floating without any control over your direction; you could also interpret it as the host that's shed its leaves/feathers, seasonally, without control over where they may go.
posted by witchen at 8:59 AM on March 17, 2015


Best answer: What about a maple seed (the "helicopter seed?") - which doesn't choose where it goes, or where it sets down roots, but thrives even so.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:00 AM on March 17, 2015 [19 favorites]


Images that came to mind for me:
steady/calm in a storm
tree that bends but doesn't break
rock that's unmoved even though it's dashed by waves
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:00 AM on March 17, 2015


Best answer: A few parallel wavy lines, to represent a river?

A single heartbeat, as in an EKG?

Both of those seem potentially meditative to me. The river keeps flowing/your heart keeps beating, let the rest go.
posted by tomboko at 9:02 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Best answer: If I were you, I'd get an en. Simple, beautiful, and profound.

For bonus points, you could pick up a little pot of paint and a watercolor brush and make the design yourself (maybe on your last day, pre-graduation?) before you bring it to the tattoo shop.

Congratulations on completing your therapy program!
posted by divined by radio at 9:05 AM on March 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


1) Yin-yang

2) Starfleet
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:10 AM on March 17, 2015


I enjoy this Pinterest board that features a lot of small tattoos. Perhaps you will find it helpful.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 AM on March 17, 2015


Newton's Apple.

You can fight things out of your control no more than you can fight gravity.
posted by argonauta at 9:25 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Best answer: What about a maple seed (the "helicopter seed?") - which doesn't choose where it goes, or where it sets down roots, but thrives even so.

If you do this, I humbly suggest using Louis Sullivan's seed-germ.
posted by theodolite at 9:30 AM on March 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


A little palm tree. They bend (but rarely break) even in ferocious winds that crack mightier trees in half, and they're also a symbol of relaxation and general well-being.
posted by saladin at 9:33 AM on March 17, 2015


Best answer: A wave. Water is essential for life, goes through state changes in response to surrounding forces, and is able to be part of larger forms like waves. Here are a few.

About water Lao Tzu says,
"The best way to live is to be like water for water benefits all things and goes against none of them."

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”

posted by cocoagirl at 9:58 AM on March 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: Wow. You people.

I'm particularly struck by the maple seed (which carries the additional benefits for me of also being Canadian, and also reminiscent of a dragonfly's wings, and dragonflies are the prettiest thing; something like this would be ideal there), the ensō (for which I have paints! and carries the idea of mindfulness; I just wonder whether detail would carry over at the size I'm considering, but this one resonates), and the representation of a river. I kind of want all three tbh.

...and, theodolite, wow on your second suggestion. The white flag is a very cute idea too. I do like the Newton's Apple suggestion, and the palm tree, but both are slightly too representational for what I have in mind, and abstracting them out still leaves them instantly recognizable as what they are, for me. Definitely the ideas I'm trying to encapsulate, though! Yin-yang is a great idea, and captures the concept of dialectics, though I feel like I'd be appropriating something that isn't really mine. Starfleet strikes me as something I'd probably regret sooner rather than later.

Please keep suggestions coming.. there will be several best answers here! Thank you!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:58 AM on March 17, 2015


Response by poster: Oh and the chaos symbol, maybe. I think an infinite radical might signal me as being way more mathy than I actually am.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:00 AM on March 17, 2015


Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

Yeats
The Second Coming

Those lines might be too worn, overuse.

And I'm not even sure how it could be envisioned, particularly in a tatt that size: what comes to my mind, what took me to those lines after reading what you're looking for, the image of a wall being ripped, forces unknown. Or perhaps the wall of a dam, that tide loosed.

Hesitating to hit "Post Answer" because hey, overuse. But you did ask, and that's the image that came my way.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:07 AM on March 17, 2015


A wug. Because, well ... wugs.
posted by scruss at 12:38 PM on March 17, 2015


...radical acceptance/trying not to fret about things over which I have no control.

Be brave and let someone else choose.
posted by teremala at 1:42 PM on March 17, 2015


The one I have considered is the "half-smile." I know it calls to mind Buddha, but iirc from other comments you've made, that phrase will resonate.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:07 PM on March 17, 2015


I Ching hexagram 11 ("Peace", "Harmony"): ䷊

One interpretation, from here:

Do not forget your friends as you succeed in life. Do everything in moderation. Retain your individuality and be realistic as you examine the situation, looking for new opportunities, accepting the risks within reason. You will change, for progress means change, change brought about by your dealing with situations and people. This should make you aware of your personal development. Be friendly to all, regardless of their position or relationship with you. Taking aggressive action may be appealing, but bad times will pass and being belligerent brings even more trouble than before. Accept what is inevitable; try as best you can to calm the situation. Regardless of how it looks to you, know that there is more good at work than evil.

Success is linked to tranquillity. This is a time of peace, prosperity, contentment, blossoming and good fortune. Be flexible, but be true to yourself.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 9:09 PM on March 17, 2015


Only a person who is mentally and spiritually complete can draw a true ensō. Some artists will practice drawing an ensō daily, as a kind of Spiritual Practice.
posted by flabdablet at 9:31 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Be brave and let someone else choose.

That's an interesting idea. I think unlikely for me to do, though, because radical acceptance isn't about giving up things where you do have control.

Only a person who is mentally and spiritually complete can draw a true ensō.

That actually pushes me further towards selecting that option--as a reminder of imperfection, while still striving.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:41 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


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