The Art of Transformation

By James W. Ahola, B.A.Sc.

sparkA good friend of mine recently decided to get a tattoo. He had been contemplating it for several years and did extensive research beforehand, not only about what he wanted permanently etched into his skin but also about the artist who would create it.

The Japanese dragon my friend proudly showed me on his right arm was a very impressive sight. It took months to create and involved many long hours of sitting under the needle. This wonderful piece of art, which has great meaning for my friend, is the work of a very talented artist, renowned province-wide, not only for his ability to create great works of art but to also recreate former works of art. People who have botched or fading tattoos or those that have lost their meaning, such as « John and Sally forever » in honour of a long-dead relationship, seek out this man’s unique talent. This gifted artisan can transform these tattoos into something relevant and beautiful. He does not so much overwrite or obliterate the undesirable, as he incorporates it into a new tapestry, transforming the ugly into the beautiful, the meaningless into something meaningful. Seeing his ability to restore pride and meaning to these tattoos, I can understand why he is booked up months in advance.

Just like old or unwanted tattoos, all of us can be afflicted with problems. Some we overcome easily. Others require our full attention as we struggle to resolve them. Then there are challenges that impact our lives unlike any other. They hit us like a freight train, rock our world, and with the permanency of a branding iron they mark us for life. For these problems, there is no quick fix. We are left stunned and marked indelibly. Reeling from pain, shock, and suffering we wonder, « why me? » To which there really is no answer.

Life happens. It can be beautiful, wonderful and joyous, but at times it delivers blows that bring us to our knees. The haunting question, « why? » will never be answered. The more important question is one which silently presents itself to us at such times: « what will you do now? »

When life marks us, we need to accept it and take ownership of it. I agree with the saying, « that which does not kill us makes us stronger, » but becoming stronger requires us to play an active role. We must initiate the healing process because untended wounds can fester and even destroy us. We need to accept our situation, heal, move on and rebuild. Although the final result will be different than it might have been otherwise, it will not be in any way diminished, just different. We are the primary agents in creating a newer, stronger person.

Often we need the assistance of others in our restructuring efforts. Like the tattoo artist my friend sought out, they can help us begin to create a tapestry of sorts, which incorporates the undesirable to produce an ever-more unique and precious outcome.

It is possible to refashion our lives after we have been seared by one of life’s unforgiving branding irons. There are numerous examples of this possibility all around us. That which has lost meaning can become meaningful again and that which was marred can be transformed into a more profound and unique beauty. Not all of life’s problems can be solved but with effort and perseverance anything can be overcome.