Changing the past, now ….

1984: Big Brother is in control

“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,”‘ repeated Winston obediently.

‘”Who controls the present controls the past,”‘ said O’Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. ‘Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?’ ….

O’Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’

‘No.’

‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’

‘In records. It is written down.’

‘In records. And –?’

‘In the mind. In human memories.’

— George Orwell, 1984, Part 3, Chapter 2

One of my favorite tattoo shops now offers tattoo removal, and I will admit I often have mixed feelings about that endeavor. I understand if you got a shitty tattoo and you want to cover it, that being you need to lighten it up in order to change it, but what i struggle with is someone who wants to erase their tattoo period. I tend to be the one who says that you should only tattoo things on your body that you will love forever, and that also your mind should be very strongly decided before you tattoo whatever it is on your body (this includes knowing the artist you have picked isn’t terrible at his or her craft). But, that being said, I do know a few people who have put things on their body that they have since regretted. In short, at some point everyone experiences an error in judgment, plus with age our personalities and tastes change, and one should be allowed to do what they can to correct what they feel they need to (e.g., if you tattooed a picture of Vanilla Ice on your forearm, you should have the opportunity to remove it … not that the public shouldn’t shame you for that choice ever onward, but remove it so we don’t have to look at it any more). Every time I see something about tattoo removal, I always end up asking this: Can a tattoo really be erased? A tattoo is more than ink after all: it’s an experience between you and the artist, between your body and the ink filled needle. If you cover up a tattoo, is it ever really gone or truly hidden? Once again, the experience is still there, underneath the new experience and the fresh ink. But what is the experience but the past alive in the memories of you and anyone who witnessed the tattoo? In a way, tattoo removal is like Winston from 1984, in that it provides the gift of control over the past. A tattoo is a concrete example of the past: it is a moment in time sealed in ink on your body, and if you remove/cover it and no one else remembers it was there, then you have successfully changed the past (in a relative way, of course). But can the person with the tattoo actually forget the original application? Does the artist ever forget it as well? That’s a tough question, and baring any head injury or major trauma it is really hard to say.

If you ask Parmenides, the past is a myth … in fact, he writes that change is illusion, a deception of the senses: “[What exists] is now, all at once, one and continuous… Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike; nor is there any more or less of it in one place which might prevent it from holding together, but all is full of what is. (B 8.5-6, 8.22-24)” Sensory perception provides us with illusion, and only Logos can reveal truth — the truth of the One. The One is timeless, changeless, and uniform, this is the truth of the universe. What exists must always exist (something cannot come from nothing), and what underlies some thing (i.e., it’s Substance or it’s soul) never changes or dies. Does a tattoo have some substance or some soul? I want to say yes, I want to say a tattoo has some substance to it beyond ink, but really for Parmenides the answer is most likely No. For Parmenides, it seems, the tattoo would be an illusion since it involves change to your body. So, now worries then about removing it then. (But hey, as far as Pre-Socratics, I always liked Heraclitus better. Everything in flux and originates from fire.)

Lasering away the past ...

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