Becoming-Shem

Virginia Woolf Tattoo

“we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself”

And so my body is tattooed (again).

Growing up in a religious culture that frowned upon tattoos, I was always hesitant if not judgmental but also intrigued when it came to people with tattoos. They looked dangerous, sinful, hip, and I loved people that wore their masochistic art like a manifesto for the world.

After coming to college and transforming into the magical being that I am now (*humble*), I now have four tattoos, although in my mind they are only two (since they are in pairs). My first two (“Yes.” and “the”) are a testament to my love for James Joyce (Ulysses and Finnegans Wake (Shem), respectively). My newest one, split between my two forearms, is a testament to my undying love for Virginia Woolf. The quote is from Sketch of the Past, which is her autobiographical/memoir essay that she wrote a few years before her death. It was written during the beginning of WWII where the entire world and her life started to deteriorate and fall utterly apart.

To me, the context and the quote itself are almost a summing up of my entire college career–this is why I got my tattoos a week before graduation, that, and I had to have it immediately.

There are moments for Woolf and I that we call moments of being. It can be an extraordinarily good or bad moment that shocks our reality into letting us know that we are alive. For Woolf, writing is a way to keep herself alive, mentally healthy, and meditating on life, existence, and reality. Something that I do with writing but also, more generally, thinking. She calls into existence a type of ontology that is foundational to reality itself (something I just wrote about in connection with Deleuze and Guattari). But, interestingly enough, she takes it all back by proclaiming, “But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven, certainly and emphatically there is no God.”

We are it. ‘We’ remains ambiguous, which is beautiful and perplexing and why I love Woolf’s identifications. We are language (which I take to be a later meditation on Lacan and psychoanalysis at large), we are the music (something that Deleuze and Guattari theorize about that has important metaphysical implications by destabilizing us), and we are the thing itself (and every philosopher rolls over in their grave because Woolf just layed down some truth).

For me, this quote means that we are it in the most positive way. We are transcendent, we are immanent, we are the best, we are the world, we are existence, we are it and that is beautiful and comforting and earth-shattering.

And it just so happens that this is my last blog for Arts,Ink. I start my rounds of graduation next Thursday and I’ve never felt more alive. Not because I’m graduating, not because of UofM, not because of any of this.

But ever since I was in 7th grade I was planning my college experience. I planned out college applications, future course plans for high school, course plans for college (that all fell through . . .). And I realized three days ago that I had just successfully completed and lived one of my longest dreams that I’ve ever had.

Every day now I try to remind myself that no matter how lost or sad I am that I am living my dream. I am living my form of happiness.

And today, April 25th, my favorite date, is a day that’s not too cold, not too hot, all you need is a light jacket, umbrella, Woolf tattoo, impending graduation, and being surrounded by existence, loved ones, and infinite poetry.

Writing to you all has been such a blessing, a treat, and something that I will always cherish. Thank you infinitely.

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