Writing Wednesday: Wearing your history

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tattoo 001

Recently I read a novel about a society where people tattoo their skin with every event in their lives. Just by looking at someone’s skin, people can see who they are related to, their occupation, their accomplishments and their mistakes. They can see every relationship they’ve ever been in, including if they are cheating on their spouse. They can see crimes they have committed, tragedies that have happened in their life, joyful times, and whether they are happy or not.

The idea is that nobody has any secrets, and you can know everything about a person just by looking at them. People without tattoos are known as Blanks and cannot be trusted, because they must be hiding evil secrets if they are too ashamed to have them tattooed on their skin. (But the reality is, everyone has their secrets.)

After a person dies, their skin is removed, preserved, and made into a book. It sounds gruesome, but the purpose is to keep each person’s life history as it is printed on their skin, and to remember one’s ancestors. After the skin is made into a book, the book is evaluated and a decision is made: if the person has lived a worthy life, their family gets to keep the book and the person is remembered. If something is discovered that is deemed bad or evil, the book is burned and no one is allowed to speak of the person again; they are intentionally forgotten.

The story is about truth vs. lies, mythology vs. religion, government vs. citizens, and who decides if someone has led a good and worthy life or not.

The book is called Ink by Alice Broadway. It’s my daughter’s book. I picked it up to have a look at it, and I literally did not put it down until I had read the whole thing. It’s one of the few times in my life when I’ve read a book all in one go.

I found the whole concept fascinating. Imagine everything you would write in your private journal, tattooed on your skin for everyone to see, your whole life. You will literally be judged by what is printed on your skin.

How would that make you live your life differently than you otherwise would? What kind of fears would that instill in people?

I know I would be more risk averse. I wouldn’t want my mistakes printed on my skin, never to be forgotten for all time, by myself or anyone else, even after I’d died.

I can imagine a sort of opposite effect on some people: they would go for glory to have that permanently emblazoned on their skin for all to see.

What would your life be like if all of your deeds were tatooed on your skin?

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