No matter what I recollect or reference, I can’t completely understand what has caused the relatively sudden popularity of tattoos. During my college years and thereafter, we found ways to express ourselves that had nothing to do with ink or skin. Right now, I need to spend quite a bit of time to identify people who have no tattoos.

This is not a position statement for or against tattoos, although there is no possibility of my investing in one. One reason is my dedication of many years to Holocaust studies. My people at Auschwitz had no choices about their tattooed numbers but I do.

The second reason concerns permanence. Most of my philosophies and ethics are constant and immutable. But other tastes change, and I would never color my skin with anything that could (thankfully) wind up in my past.

Finally, neither do I want all those who see me to see my beliefs, dreams and fantasies; nor do I want to know that much about others. To me, tattoos are the obvious displays of our feelings or passions, for all the world to inspect.

When I meet someone, I’m not interested in reading someone’s body in order to get to know them. And if I do, how much of the information is current? How much is obsolete? And ultimately, how much is none of my business?

In my distant past, tattoos were for sailors or women of ill-repute. That reference is in the category of archaic, with only the memory remaining. Very often, I see tattoos that are tasteful and sublime. But as a student and educator of life, I often find myself saying, “Did you really think this through before you did it?” It might be illuminating or picturesque to hear the responses. Shalom.

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