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Defending One's Choices
Topic Rating: +19 (19 votes) 
March 9, 2012
10:00 pm
vampyremage
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For many, one's spirituality isn't something that one wears plainly upon one's skin.  Aside from a small symbol such as a cross, pentacle, ect., its difficult to tell what any given individual believes without talking to them first.  With those of us who hold body modification in high spiritual regard, however, I believe it is a little bit different.  Body modification, largely by its very nature, is a noticeable and visible thing, from a small monroe piercing to full body tattooing.  While an observer might not be able to divine the meaning behind the mods just by looking, they are nevertheless often displayed openly for the world to see.

 

My question here is, have you ever felt the need to justify the changes you've decided to make to your own body?  Although gradually becoming more acceptable, in a lot of places body modification still isn't the most broadly acceptable activity to engage in and there is still a lot of stereotype and discrimination based upon one's choice to modify one's own body.  Have you ever been challenged on the things you've decided to change and, if so, how did you react to that challenge? Beyond simply being challenged for modifying your body, do you feel the need to defend your own right to spiritual expression?

March 9, 2012
10:39 pm
Jamesryan
Utica, USA
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Being a bit of a writer, I've always had excellent responses to inquiries about my modifications. For them as a whole, however, without specifying one, I detail how I am a practitioner of tribal shamanism and I fall under the category of Modern Primitivism because I use the ancient rites, including body modifications rites of ancient tribal societies and spiritualities. I generally explain the idea of reconstructionism if the conversation warrants it.

James R. Somers ModernPrimitivism.com
March 9, 2012
10:42 pm
vampyremage
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When you mention their spiritual significance, do you find you get much of a push back? 

March 9, 2012
10:55 pm
Jamesryan
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Constantly. haha. I have to remind them that those holes in their ears (a majority of the time) came from the same basis as all of my modifications in antiquity. 

James R. Somers ModernPrimitivism.com
March 9, 2012
11:04 pm
vampyremage
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I know for me it can get a little frustrating at times.  Actually, the majority of the attention I receive is either positive or neutral but it seems like those who give the negative attention tend to be the most persistent about it.

March 10, 2012
5:45 pm
lmoseman
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I recently attended the American Craft Council show in Baltimore. As a ceramicist, and a student, this was a beautiful thing to be a part of. I met a lot of wonderful people who welcomed my questions and me as a person with open arms.

I have facial modifications and dreads, and tattoos that aren't easily seen, but regardless. Modification is a large part of my spiritual system as well as belief in extraterrestrial life and self expression.

But, the first person that I met, whom I was deeply interested in hearing him talk about the volcanic glazes he used on some of his pieces, would rather talk about how "god" hates what I have done to my body.

While he was an elderly man, and he continually stated how beautiful I was, the fact that he would rather berate me about the choices I have made for my body and how god is so disappointed, than talking to a ceramic student about his processes really hurt me deep down.

I can't be angry at him, nor can I be angry at what he said to me, I can merely be disappointed that that way of thinking is still live and strong.

I simply told him that if I am to be judged by god when I pass from this life, that my character will shine brighter than any earthly modification I have done.

The soul can't be modified, but but it can be broken and bruised by people who don't understand. 

My thinking is, they don't matter; if one is a true christian, they wouldn't try to shove the word of "god" down someones throat.

If that were true, no one would ever cut their hair or eat shellfish. 

To finish, I just remind myself to feel bad for them, that they only feel spiritual fulfillment by berating others. 

I'm happy with my temple and no one can ruin that for me :)

March 11, 2012
5:01 am
strommer
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i find its the people who are the most closed minded that are the most persistent and the most harassing about peoples outward apearence and as to the gentleman claiming your going to hell for having mods should research his religion cause they used to pierce there ears to show they where slaves to christ witch was stolen from slaves who where pierced on the ear at that time to show they where slaves so in fact his god is ok  with the act of piercing and your not going to hell just for a few mods Wink

March 20, 2012
11:08 am
indi
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every where i go…people always ask what mine mean. it gets rather aggravating to explain cause for me…the explanation of my modifications are very personal and i don't believe just any human that asks should have the trust in knowing. due to the fact that i just say they are personal to the ones i don't believe are worth the explanation, they give me hell and snicker that it's so personal to me. stating things like…it's just ink…you'll regret it in a few years. there is nothing that ticks me off more…every marking on my body is so i will remember a certain area of my life and what it meant for me…they can't understand this. i volunteer at the red cross and the animal shelter in my town….i'm naturally around a lot of older religious people and middle age society who still don't get it, but i don't feel i have to fight or explain what they mean for me because they are for ME…just for me and i am proud of them.

March 24, 2012
2:33 pm
Ignacious
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When I first started with mods, the only people I felt a need to explain my choices to were my parents. Because they were so advent to me NOT doing it. But eventually, I just didn't care to anymore. I am me, I do me, I like me. You are you, you do you, you like you. That's how it is, that's how it should be. If people don't agree with the things I do, they can either suck it up, give me a chance, and judge me on ME. Or they can turn and walk the other way, for I have no kindness to people who will look down upon me for my appearance or choices. 

Although its conflicts are not as.. dangerous as racism or homophobia (or any other ignorant hate filled beliefs). Its the same type of thinking which is "I don't agree with your choices, I don't agree with your life styles, I think you're less then me because of the color of your skin or who you love". 

These type of people breed an already over grown and dangerous poison, that humanity ignores and calls a weed. I will not deal with people who refuse to be opened minded. 

 

A few years ago I was riding home on the bus, and a girl looked back and told me, I would be attractive, if I would just take out those things in my ear. At the time I was sporting 1/2 plugs. I just stared at her, I had heard much worse from people, but that.. it pushed my buttons. I blew up on her. It was not pretty. Beyond her, I'v ignored every other ignorant being on their questions and/or comments.

 

Don't get the wrong impression though, if a person has a willing ear, and curiosity on their tongue. I will more then gladly explain myself to them, anything and everything they'd like to know that I have knowledge of. I like being able to talk to people of different paths about my own, and hear their choices as well. I enjoy the diversity that exists in our world. Without it, I doubt living would be very worth it.

March 24, 2012
3:02 pm
vampyremage
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As pertains to those with an open ear and curious mind, I actually really enjoy discussing my mods with those types of individuals.  I have encountered a surprising amount of genuine curiosity just while out and about.  I find the more visible my modifications become, the more of this curiosity I receive.  I think there is a surprisingly large segment of people who secretly wish they could modify themselves but, for whatever reason, don't think that they're able to do so.  These are the people I most enjoy talking to, in some ways, because they are so often curious and just wanting to soak up whatever knowledge on the subject I can impart to them. 

March 24, 2012
3:26 pm
Ignacious
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I don't meet a lot of that around where I live. But when i do meet them, they are amazing. I think you're right, some people are afraid, or embarrassed or who know's what else, and they let that hold them back from doing, and seeing where their curiosity could lead them.

I do my best to encourage these people to explore, don 't let their parents, or friends, or whoever it is hold them down. Something I'v heard from a few people, is their afraid of the pain. And I tell them to try it anyways, push through the pain to try, and gain the experience, they may be surprised that their joy will FAR out weigh the pain.

March 25, 2012
3:51 pm
SasQuatch9585
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I would encourage everyone to be as patient as possible with those people who are close-minded.  Meeting their viciousness with viciousness of our own will only make them more certain that we are barbaric, unthinking, and unwise.  I've been impatient and vicious about conversations like this, and nothing good ever comes of it.

I would also encourage everyone to go ahead and share the personal significance of your modifications, especially with those who don't understand.  If you would share it with a friend, please share it with them as well.  They might not understand, and they might taunt and belittle you for your spirituality, but if that is their path, remind them of the suffering early Christians had to endure under the Romans.  And remind yourself that another person's opinion of you does not make you who you are.

I'm not suggesting that we should not defend ourselves, especially if we are attacked physically.  But if we can avoid sinking to that level and rise above their ridicule we may actually reach a few of them here and there.

When people tell me that I've offended God by modifying my body I point out that almost everyone in this country modifies their body in some way, and most of these ways are totally acceptable.  Then I begin listing all the socially acceptable ways I can think of that people modify their bodies, and most people are taken by surprise when they realize just how common it is.

For example, most men shave their faces.  God designed their body to grow a beard, but if they don't like it they shave it off.  In fact, even most men who choose to grow beards will trim it in some way and shave off certain areas to achieve the look they desire.  During that process, it's is quite common to inflict small injuries on one's self in the form of a nick.  But this practice is not looked down on at all, despite the fact that they are inflicting damage on their own bodies.

Likewise, nearly every woman in the U.S. shaves their legs and armpits.  Unless, of course, they've undergone a laser hair-removal procedure, which permanently removes the hair follicles.  Such procedures are commonly performed on nearly every square inch of the female body.

Men and women frequently dye their hair, either because they don't like the fact that they're going grey, or they simply want to change the color of their hair.  Either way, it's a way of changing their appearance from what God intended, to what they are happier with.

And while we're on the subject of hair, there's hair transplant surgery.  Men who cannot accept their receding hair line often choose to have a surgical procedure performed where hair follicles are transplanted from the back of their heads to fill in the balding areas.

And not one of these things that people do to control their hair is medically necessary.  The only reason to do any of these things is vanity!  In Christian teaching, vanity is considered a form of pride, one of the seven deadly sins.

Most women wear make-up.  Personally, I don't see this as a form of body modification because it doesn't involve any actual modification of the body.  However, despite the fact that they're not changing God's design, they are covering it up; trying to improve on it.  What's wrong?  God's design isn't good enough for you?

Of course, it's very common for women of all faiths to wear ear-rings.  It's simple enough to draw a parallel there.

Circumcision, which is almost always done for religious reasons, is clearly a body modification.

Cancer treatment.  God says, "You have cancer.  You have six months to live."  Doctors say, "No, no, no!  We're going to inject a bunch of toxic chemicals into your blood in the hopes of destroying that cancer, and if that doesn't work, we're going to open up your body and cut that cancer out of there."  This is not only a body modification, but a direct opposition to the natural course of events that their God has laid out for them.

Any form of surgery, plastic or otherwise.  Whether it's done for vanity, or for health, any kind of surgery involves making changes to the body.

And, if the person harassing me about my mods happens to be overweight (a very common situation in the good ol' U.S. of A.), I point out that, not only is gluttony on the list of deadly sins, being too much overweight is extremely damaging to one's health, raising the risks of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, joint pain…indeed, a whole host of medical conditions are aggravated or CREATED by obesity.  Therefore, being too overweight is far more destructive to the body than any properly performed and cared-for modification.

Often, when making these points, the person I'm speaking to will say something like, "Well, it's MY body!"

To which I reply, "That's right.  It's your body.  You own it, and no one else has the right to tell you what do with it.  That's between you and God."

After a list like that, most people don't know what to say, and that's when I being talking about how much care goes into a proper modification.  From autoclave sterilization (you'll often need to explain what an autoclave is), to the cleansers used to prepare an area for use in performing modifications, to single-use needles, to preparing the skin to receive the modification, to proper after-care.

When people begin to understand not only how common body modification is, but how much preparation and care goes into a proper modification, they can see that we are not reckless, crazy, or foolish, and we are not taking serious risks.

Gandhi said that we must become the change that we want to see in the world.  So, if you want people to have more patience with you, do your best to be more patient with them.

Sometimes I wonder if I can say anything in less than a hundred words.
March 25, 2012
7:30 pm
Jamesryan
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I enjoy it when people ask me about them, even in a demeaning way, because it allows me to share at least a smidgeon of enlightenment with them. Sure, I can't change everyone's mind but I did actually succeed in doing so today when an individual asked about my business card that was on display at my part-time job. It's a good experience, even when the conversation is negative, because you learn what to say and most importantly: what not to say.

James R. Somers ModernPrimitivism.com
March 25, 2012
9:01 pm
vampyremage
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Fantastic post SasQuatch

 

I certainly would never advocate to be rude towards anyone being rude in regards to one's modifications.  Body modification, by its nature, tends to be a noticeable and somewhat public endeavor.  For the visibly modified, whether we want to be or not, we are the faces of the body modification community.  Thus, the manner in which I conduct myself, whether I want it to or not, has some impact upon how the body modification community is seen as a whole.

 

There was a previous conversation on here about our responsibilities, essentially, towards the body modification community, given the visible nature of what we do and the fact that the more visibly modified one becomes the fewer there are of a comparable level of visibility.  While I wouldn't go so far as to say that everyone who is visibly modified has a moral responsibility to display a positive image of the body modification community as I consider myself to be an extreme individualist and wouldn't mandate that for anyone else, I do take a personal responsibility to do so.  In my own way, I take pride in the fact that I can do at least my little part to, hopefully, improve the way the visibly modified are seen as a whole.  Thus, it is important to me to treat each person with respect, even if they don't treat me with that same respect.  If I don't like the way they are speaking or acting I simply won't engage with them, but I will not degrade myself to their level.

March 26, 2012
3:38 pm
Ignacious
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SasQuatch. That was a fantastic way to put it, and to go about it all.

I'm sorry to say, I am weak. Though what you stated is what I would wish to do with any and all. I just can't as of yet. I hate so many for no reason, I'm angry at my best friends who do nothing to me. To stand there and try and reason with someone who is not willing to listen to what I have to say as a valid reason.. I cant do it yet. I have to walk away.

I wish to get past this though, to be able to enlighten others, maybe help change peoples mind and if not, at least make them for ONE second, think about their actions towards modified individuals.

March 26, 2012
6:10 pm
vampyremage
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I think any change worth creating is going to take both time an effort.  You've established something in yourself that you wish to work on, which is a very important first step to make.  Now its just a matter of deciding what you want to do about that and how you want to go about changing that trait within yourself.

 

I have always been a very large proponent of personal change and development, of finding those qualities within the self that one views as personal deficiencies and transforming them into personal strengths.  Its not always easy and in fact it may never be easy, but in my experience its almost always worth the effort in the end.  

March 27, 2012
9:06 pm
SasQuatch9585
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Ignacious,

I find that the things I do to help tolerate painful modifications work just as well when trying to tolerate painful people.  The discipline I learned while undergoing my moxibustion brand once came in very handy.  The discipline to resist my instinct to whatever I had to in order to stop the pain turned out to be exactly the same as resisting my urge to become violent, even when I was completely furious and truly, truly wanted to commit murder.

Because of this discipline, I was able to control myself, diminish my anger and regain control through deep breathing and refocusing my mind, even for just a few moments.

So, whatever you do to help you get through a particularly painful modification, use the same techniques to get through your anger.

On a personal note, I too was once full of hatred.  It was my own introspection and self-analysis that finally broke it.  I recommend listening to a radio show called Love Line, which can probably be pod-cast from the net.  That show taught me a hell of a lot about human nature, my own included.

Also, a therapists job is to get you to face the questions you're too afraid to ask yourself.  A vital part of my introspection was asking myself these questions, and being unafraid of the answers.  No matter how unsettling they were to my own ego, I knew it was important to know myself if I was going to find a way to be happy.

Best of luck, man.

Sometimes I wonder if I can say anything in less than a hundred words.
March 28, 2012
11:14 am
indi
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alll i've gotta say…out of the 4 years i've know ignacious i would NEVER have thought i would hear him say…"
you do you and i do me"

 

sorry, babe, gotta give you shit =P

i do love your post though.

yours as well sasquatch. 

April 1, 2012
8:38 pm
Ignacious
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I gotta tell you. Love line doesn't help, but it makes me laugh like hell.

Head doctors don't do any good, everything they told me I pretty much already new. All they did was put me on medicine that made me worse. I don't want drugs to help me. They make you dependent and weak.

I'm not trying to be a downer, I appreciate the thoughts.

But, I've never had to go through a really painful modification before, so I've yet to really find a way to push through it. I don't know.

I wanted to reply to you sasquatch, like I normally would. But my brains not functioning tonight.

April 2, 2012
1:52 pm
SasQuatch9585
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That's alright Ignacious.  We all have times like that.

I don't mean to recommend head-doctors.  I recommend being your own head-doctor.  You have a much more accurate eye when looking into yourself than they have.  Ask yourself the tough questions.  Pull back the shades and shed light into every corner of your mind and emotions.  Don't accept the fact that you don't understand where certain feelings come from.  There is a source.  Knowing that source is the key to understanding those feelings.  Understanding them is the key to gaining control of them.

There was nothing I did that made me feel as though I was making progress on a day to day basis.  I never found listening to Love Line to be a comfort.  In fact, I wasn't able to let go of my anger until I finally discovered it's true source.  And once I discovered it, it instantly vanished, almost entirely.

For me, it was the instinctive desire for revenge.  You see, I was raised by an abusive father.  I didn't get my ass kicked every day, but the emotional and psychological abuse was near-constant.  The anger and insecurity this instilled in me turned me into quite the vicious, rotten bastard.  Because I couldn't take revenge on him, I had turned my anger toward others who were weaker than me.

But the moment I realized this, I understood that it was part of a larger cycle.  My father told me that he had hated his own father.  Indeed, my father told me that his own father had been much more brutal in raising his children.  So it became clear to me that my father had taken out his anger on his children for exactly the same reason that I had taken out my anger on others who were weaker than me.

So, I don't need to take revenge on my father.  He has already suffered everything I suffered.  Indeed, he suffered more as a child than I did.  This new understanding dissolved my desire for revenge.  In that instant I felt the emotional weight of a lifetime of anger and sadness lift from my heart, and life became about 90% easier to deal with.

From there, it was just a matter of learning not to give in to frustration and anger; learning patience.

Now, I don't expect this to cause some kind of breakthrough in your life.  Your life is unique, and must be addressed as such.  I can't give you the answers any more than some head-doctor can.  All I can do is offer some of the strategies that worked for me and again, wish you luck, my friend.

Sometimes I wonder if I can say anything in less than a hundred words.
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