Tattoos and Ripped Jeans

A Joke – From Reader Digest (May 2023). This was written by a woman.

I was running late for my flight and trying to get through security when the agent asked me to remove my jacket. I whispered to my friend “That was covering up my coffee stain.”

The older woman behind me in line made me feel better about my sloppiness when she said, “Don’t worry about the coffee stain dear. Your shirt’s on inside out and backward.”


I want to mention that my talks are my Best Guess about what is happening on my Spiritual Path. You may hear something and think, ”I don’t believe that or I am not sure that is true.” This is very valuable because you can then ask, “But what is it that I believe?” And we can be open to exploring new possibilities. I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak because I often “cannot see the forest for the trees.” It is very powerful to answer the question, “What is happening on my Spiritual Path?”


The title for this talk came from my negative response to Tattoos and Ripped Jeans. The title rose spontaneously and I thought, “That will catch people’s attention! I feel it is a Spiritual Lesson.”


After sending out the title and description, I start gathering thoughts and information of what might fit. I find this part of creating a talk painful, but fascinating. Fascinating because there is magic. I start with very little and amazing things show up.


One morning, a few days ago, I had a nightmare. I was taking a test and in trying to solve a math problem, nothing fit. I realized that the nightmare was about this talk. When I thought of the talk, my mind was blank. All I had was the title. I started wondering if the title had come from ego. I didn’t think so. But I was reminded that dreams are not always intuition. When I remembered the big blank area, I asked for help.


I know that many of us in this congregation are about the same age, so I imagine that we had similar experiences growing up. However, in telling my personal experiences, I want to mention that my parents were older than usual when I was born. My Mother was almost 40 and my Father was 44. We skipped a generation. But I don’t think that the specific experience is what is important, more the recognition that cultural norms change with time. Like when I heard that the Oldie’s radio station that played hits from the 50’s and 60’s, now plays hits from the 70’s and 80’s.



My perspective growing up was that tattoos were horrible. The Nazis had tattooed numbers on the arms of Jews. Tattoos were worn by gangs, and people in the underworld. Certainly by men, never by women. Pain is involved in getting a tattoo, and they were permanent. It seemed logical that someone would have to be drunk to get one. In fact, I have a memory of associating tattoos with drunken sailors and had seen men that wore long sleeves to cover tattoos from their wild days.


I was aware that attitudes about tattoos were changing and was relieved that none of my three daughters had said anything about getting one.


I have a long-time friend from school. We are essentially the same age and share very similar views of Life. He told me that his daughter was considering a tattoo and shared how upset he was. I don’t remember what we said, but it was obvious that we viewed the situation exactly the same. A disaster. A nightmare. I was so glad that it was not my daughter. I had no idea what to do. My friend lives some distance away and it was some time before we spoke again. I asked about the tattoo, dreading the answer. He said that she had gotten a tattoo and spoke very positively about it. I was shocked! How could he have so completely changed his opinion? I couldn’t possibly do that. So I had to ask. I reminded him of our previous conversation and how we shared the same opinion. Then I asked, "What happened?" He laughed and said that his daughter would go jogging every day on her lunch hour through a park. So she was there every day at the same time. When she finally decided to get a tattoo, she did it on her lunch hour and did not jog that day. That was the day and exactly the time when a pipeline through the park exploded, killing several people. Getting the tattoo saved her life.


Carole Glenn has recently taken the approach of admiring someone’s tattoo and asking about it in a non-judgmental way. Everyone seems to have a meaningful story that makes their tattoo special. The results I have seen have been astounding. Often this brings joy, a feeling of mutual understanding, and acceptance. It is so amazing that I have been temped to try it. But I haven’t had the courage.


Carole’s approach reminds me of a Buddhist saying, “Take joy in the joy of others.” To me, this is not about understanding, or liking something. It is about appreciating the power of joy.


Ripped Jeans

My perspective growing up was that rips in pants were a result of wearing them for a long time, or getting them caught on something sharp. Wearing pants with rips in them indicated you did not care for your appearance. Rips or worn areas were repaired or covered with patches. Wearing repair or patched clothing was acceptable, but not desirable.


I remember when I was about twelve my Father had a pair of pants that he liked to wear because they were comfortable. He would only wear them around the house after changing out of his work uniform. The pants were old and had a worn area on one knee. The worn area was starting to rip. These pants bothered my Mother and she would tell him “Talmage, those pants are worn out and need to be thrown away.” Addressing my Father by his first name was a sign that she was not happy. My Father would say something to appease her, but inevitably would show up wearing the pants a few days later. One day, my Mother was not appeased by what my Dad said. She reached down and catching the open area, quickly tore the pants. I was shocked, but as I thought about it, not totally surprised. Her quick action enlarged the opening and left a large flap of fabric waving in the breeze. It was obvious to my Mother that these were now beyond wearing. However, my Father showed up a few evenings later, wearing the ripped pants and mentioned that they felt cooler. I don’t remember anything further, except that I never saw the pants again.


Not long ago, I was ridding with my daughter’s family to a College Choir Concert. I wore pants, not jeans, and a nice shirt. As we gathered, my grand daughter, who is fourteen, showed up in ripped jeans. These had a number of rips on both legs, and the open gaps were really large. I decided that they had been purchased that way and were most likely pricey. My first thought was that her parents had no doubt shared their opinion with her, likely several times. I decided that my role was to keep quiet.


I am reminded of the story of the Three Umpires:

Three umpires are sitting in a bar, sharing a beer together. They begin talking about their job and the difficulties they face in calling balls and strikes.

The first umpire states quite confidently, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call them as they are!”

The second umpire, with a slight look of disapproval says, “No, no, no, there’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call them as I see’em.”

The third umpire says, “You know, you’re both wrong. There’s balls and there’s strikes, and they ain’t nothin’ tell I call’em.”

And like that, nothing is inherently good or bad, until we label it.


Here is an email I received in response to the title of this talk:


'Tattoos, ripped jeans and I add music  ----  is not my generation. BUT, it belongs to my great-grandchildren therefore should be tolerated just like women wearing pants, using make-up and listening to swing were tolerated for me. Life goes on. My grandmother wore hats that were at least 2 feet across. The hatpin was a status symbol, [She wore] acres of fabric from her never viewed ankles to her chin, and never listened to “country-western.”


This enlightened perspective, and Carole’s taking joy in other people joy, are uplifting. Like the exploding pipeline, they can change how we view the World. A Spiritual Lesson for me.


At this point in writing the talk, I was not sure how to proceed. I recently read Michele Obama’s second book, The Light We Carry. I got her book from the Kitsap Library and found it very inspiring. I recommend reading it. In her book, she tells about “going small” in order to “go big.” This is how she handles big questions. For her, “going small” is knitting. For me, it could be trimming bushes. So I went out and trimmed blackberry bushes for a while.


In my last talk, I mentioned how Brian Jones, our Course in Miracles leader, used his clasped hands (with the fingers intertwined) to illustrate how our minds are connected as One. This is a powerful visual for me. We are One.


These clasped hands could also be a visual representation of a cultural norm. That is, a culture norm is formed by people’s opinions. Creating new opinions changed the cultural norm for tattoos and ripped jeans from undesirable to desirable.


For me, there is a deeper spiritual truth. I am “fooled by the physical.” This changing of our shared mind can be about tattoos and ripped jeans, which are seen. But it can also be about the Spiritual, which is unseen.


Fred Rogers had a children’s program on Television for decades. Mr. Rogers said, “The unseen is what is important.” II Corinthians 4:18. advises that we “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”


A concept that I shared in my last talk was, “By meeting together in Church, we can help change our shared Mind.”


Here is an example of changing my conscious mind. Brian Jones has long been a student of the Course in Miracles. He once told me that one concept in the Course is, “GOD did not create the Universe.” His experience is that this concept may be the main reason that people leave the Course.


When Brian first said, "God did not create the Universe," I was shocked. One of my cherished hymns from childhood is “This is My Father’s World.” It immediately came to mind. I was familiar with some of the Course, but not this concept. While I could understand why this would really upset many people, I set it aside. I was finding other concepts in the Course that were helpful, so I would focus on them.

Over time, I came to realize that concepts that bothered me about Life, disappeared or were explained if GOD did not create the Universe. And some that did not make sense, made sense. No single thing was convincing, but they started to add up.

This week I had another shocking experience. I started reading Stephen Hawking’s book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions. The first question is “Is there a God?” I read a Kindle when I go to bed and often I am falling asleep while I am reading. So I was sort of drifting along and not paying a lot of attention. As a result, I missed some important points. All of a sudden, I read, “I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing, according to the laws of science.” This shocked me. I set my Kindle down and went to sleep. The next few days I reread, highlighted, and thought about the chapter. Eventually I realized that Steven Hawking, considered one of the most brilliant minds of our time, was saying what Brian had said, “GOD did not create the universe.” This was based on his knowledge of Physics.


I am not going to try to discuss Hawking’s journey through Physics to his conclusion. I suspect that this would be like the woman in the joke at the start of this talk; I would be trying to hide my ignorance only to discover that my thinking was inside out and backwards. Nor do I want to discuss if GOD created the Universe.


Instead I want to continue to encourage a congregation where we listen to and appreciate each other. Where we would rather be happy than insist on being right. Where we can change our minds and explore new possibilities.


One possibility is that is our shared mind is like our shared culture. It can be changed. Together we can be a positive change in the World. We can do more together than we can do separately.


Tattoos and Ripped Jeans are visual indications of our interconnection. Our interconnections, which are largely unseen, can be used for good.


I need to remember that I am fooled by the physical.


I would like to end with the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.


Meditation (as a Mystic, I consider this to be more important than the talk) - Just as I can be fooled by what I see, I can be fooled by what I hear. The sound of the didgeridoo can be like spiritual WD-40. The didgeridoo can help get energy moving. “Feelings are the language of the Soul”. So I focus my attention on feelings and the movement of energy. The sound will be whatever it is.


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