Please tell me what you think about tattoos... The subject came up at group last night, after one of our artists brought in two paintings of young women with tattoos--one an IV drug addict, the other a hooker. His theory--I trust I represent him accurately--is that tattoos, along with body piercings and other such practices, suggests a return to tribalism among young people in the context of a society whose systems they reject. One reader of these pages, I know, has been conducting his own informal poll about shaved heads. Are they related to the tattoo phenomenon, I wonder? I have a few ideas myself, but I'd be really interested to hear what you-all think...
Speaking of tattoos, there was a piece on CNN this morning about their growing appeal in Iraq, where they were previously forbidden. Some take it as new expression of freedom. Others, distressingly, believe that tattoos will help their relatives identify them in the event of their death and dismemberment in one of those all-too-frequent deadly bomb attacks. Faithful Islamists decry them as a desecration of the body given us by God. Meantime, according to the CNN report, the tattoo artists are doing good business.
I also watched the first half of Richard Engel's "War Zone Diary" after group last night--I admit I was too tired to watch the whole two hours, and I had forgotten to record it. But I found it to be a very moving account, precisely because it was so personal. Interspersed with mini-interviews with himself recorded on a personal hand-held camera, the piece took an up-close look at people in dire, life-threatening situations and listened without slant or judgment to their stories.
It was a harrowing experience, just to watch this footage. Aside from the gore, the burned bodies, the severed body parts--and there was no shortage of these--the reality of war was brought home in the "band of brothers" intimacy and courage of American soldiers separated from their loved ones, as well as in the pain and grief of Iraqi war victims. There were those who had lost or were forced to abandon their homes, the dispossessed and the refugees. There were those who were trapped by their circumstances in the middle of the battle. There were those who were maimed in body or in mind. There were those who had chosen to take up their own weapons to join in the fight. All people. All living in close, first-hand proximity with suffering and death, and seen through the lens of a camera that seemed to want to get beyond the news and beyond the emnities, to the very human heart of the matter.
Kudos to Richard Engel for this "diary." Like this diary of mine, in its more fortunate, sheltered way, "War Zone Diary" tries to look out on the world with an honest gaze, and to take things--in a good way--personally.
LES'S GREENS: a dream
Ellie and I are visiting my good friend Les. He shows us the greens he has been cultivating in the basement of his home with great love and care, and of which he is genuinely proud. Arugula? Perhaps. They are exotic, highly prized greens, a rarity and a special culinary treat. Les has been planting them in stages: some are young and tender, some advanced in growth. As he tells us about them with great, affectionate pride, I casually reach out and pull one of the taller ones from the ground, with the suggestion that we share it three ways between us. Les is devastated. He can't believe I would be so thoughtless and insensitive. He can't see how our friendship can ever be renewed. Ellie, too, is appalled. I realize now what a dreadful thing I did, and feel mortified by my action. Les has taken refuge under one of the shelves in this greenhouse he has created, and is too distressed to speak. I try to apologize. I beg him to accept a make-up, some act of service that will restore the good faith between us. I am still unable to reach him as the dream comes to an end.