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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

EMS: Courage And Compassion In Action

By Shawn Godfrey
06:43AM / Monday, April 16, 2007

Shawn Godfrey is the operations manager for the Village Ambulance Service Inc. and a certified paramedic. [Photo by Sue Bush]
Tattoos: Personal Choices, Professional Symbols

The word “tattoo” is said to have two major derivations - from the Polynesian word ‘ta’ which means “to strike something”
and the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means “to mark something.”

It was widely agreed that the art of tattooing originated in various indigenous cultures thousands of years ago but based on recent anthropological and archaeological evidence, this approximation has undoubtedly generated further research and discussion.

A Personal Insignia

Although the motives for tattooing may vary, there are commonalties that exist between the earliest known tattoos to those applied today. Whether it’s a tribesman’s rite of passage or simply a mother adorning a flower on her ankle, the inarguable link is the inspiration for a tattoo is personal.

Some ancestral cultures created tattoos by cutting designs into the skin and rubbing ink, ashes, or other substances into the subsequent wound; some contemporary cultures continue to practice this technique, which is more commonly known as scarification.

Mainstream Art Form

The latest and most commonly used device available for tattooing is an electrically-powered device commonly known as a “tattoo-gun.” This machine imbeds approved inks or dyes under the skin's top layers via needle clusters that rapidly and repetitively penetrate the skin. The needles typically pepper the tattoo area at a rate between 100 and 150 times per second.

The resulting skin trauma produced by the needles fully heals in approximately 2 weeks. Depending on the existing skin condition of the recipient, some tattoos require treatment with special ointments for a bit longer.

Tattoos have always held a significant role in ritual and traditional factions and were typically adopted by many groups considered on the fringes of society, like gang members, prison inmates, and circus or carnival workers. The Western culture is currently experiencing a shift away from the idea that only this demographic is tattooed.

To date, society's impression and acceptance of the tattoo has transformed positively. Its popularity has expanded to new heights and many of the designs have broadened to not only accommodate cosmetic, spiritual, or tribal customs, but a variety of everyday occupations as well.

A Symbol of Dedication

Emergency responders, including policemen, firemen, and EMS workers are no exception. Many emergency providers acquire specific tattoos to symbolize their dedication to their respective profession, and often reproduce their trade-specific emblem as a tattoo to signify this allegiance.

For example, a fireman may display the “Maltese Cross”, or an EMT(emergency medical technician), the “Star-of-Life.”

Primal, Intense, Deep Motivation

When I acquired my first tattoo, it was something I wanted and knew I needed to do for myself. It wasn’t to join a growing mainstream tattoo trend or a rebellious attempt against my parents, or some inner-angst requiring resolution; it was a permanent reminder of all that is important to me: my son, my career, my faith, and a collection of other things considered of monumental value and precious to me.

My tattoos are constant reminders of the times in my life when I struggled to find myself in both my personal and professional life. Although these emotional motivators are honest, I believe there is something far more primal, intense, and deeper responsible for the inclination to allow my flesh to serve as an artistic canvas.

Tattoos are not for everyone. Getting a tattoo is a significant life-choice and should be only entered into with a great deal of forethought. Some questions to ask when considering a tattoo are:

Am I of a legal age to get a tattoo?

Would I still want this particular image when I get older?

Would this tattoo be in an area of my body that would be plainly visible? Many people unfairly judge people with tattoos as harboring undesirable characteristics.

Do I feel convinced that I truly want a tattoo?

Can I live with a permanent body alteration?

It appears that tattooing will continue to grow in popularity and become increasingly acceptable in today’s society. It is likely that tattoo applications will evolve considerably over the coming years.

Your necklace may break, the fau tree may burst, but my tattooing is indestructible. It is an everlasting gem that you will take into your grave.

-Verse from a traditional tattoo artist's song
Your Comments
Post Comment
Tattoos are not for me but it seems that if something like your job is that important then get whatever you want on your skin. Its your body and you should do what you wish. I applaud the bravery of you guys.
from: Haleyon: 04-19 00:00:00-2007

It's ironic how a medical professional would advocate something so risky or unhealthy. Are tattoos something that should be comended?
from: Jenon: 04-19 00:00:00-2007

I'm a firefighter and have a Maltese Cross on my arm. It signifys a great deal for me. Good writing.
from: Timon: 04-19 00:00:00-2007

Very interesting article Shawn..... keep up the great work.
from: Suzyon: 04-16 00:00:00-2007

Shawn, another great article with lots of thought. Keep it happening, read ya in two weeks.
from: Beakeron: 04-16 00:00:00-2007

I never realized people in your profession aquired tattoos to pay homage to the work. Pretty cool column.
from: Mikeon: 04-16 00:00:00-2007

Neat article!
from: Louis (Lou)on: 04-16 00:00:00-2007

Another great article. It's seems since 9/11, many "emergency providers" have gotten tattoos dedicated to losted loved ones or their respective profession.
from: Stephanon: 04-16 00:00:00-2007

Shawn! It is obvious you put a great deal of thought and research into your articles. I appreciated this one because,(as YOU know)I bear many "tats" on my skin! Each represents someone or some time in my life that has merited permenant remembrance. My next one will be dedicated to a certain paramedic..... keep up the good work!! ;)
from: gold duece girlon: 04-16 00:00:00-2007


 
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