The Story Behind My Tattoo: Learning To Have A Lover's Quarrel
Start writing a post
Religion

The Story Behind My Tattoo: Learning To Have A Lover's Quarrel

I hope I did right by my family in the end.

223
The Story Behind My Tattoo: Learning To Have A Lover's Quarrel
Ryan Fan

"I hold your doctrine of Memento Mori. And were an epitaph to be my story, I'd have a short one ready of my own.I would have it written on my stone: I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

The above quote is the final stanza to my favorite poem, Robert Frost's "The Lesson For Today." The last line of the poem is Robert Frost's epitaph, the line that goes on his gravestone. The words were so powerful and inspirational to me that I thought about my own mortality back in April, and, for an English project about Robert Frost, wrote my own epitaph for what will go on my own gravestone.

During the summer, I thought about getting a tattoo for the Latin phrase and creed of memento mori. Literally, the phrase means to "remember that you have to die," and sometimes I waver between that definition and my own misinterpreted and distorted one, which means "live like you're about to die." That interpretation is perhaps just a fancier way of saying "you only live once," but the true story goes deeper, much deeper than that. The decision to get the tattoo, in itself, was, oxymoronically, an impulse that was deeply contemplated. The actual decision to get the tattoo was made on a whim. I approached my roommate on Thanksgiving Day, and said "come with me to get a tattoo," rushed him and myself out of our house as soon as the tattoo parlor opened the next day.

The tradition and history behind memento mori is in Latin Christian theory. Reflecting on death, in traditional memento mori tradition has been a means of considering the vanity of wordly life and worldly goods and pursuits. We can take the interpretation to mean that, as Christians, we should focus more on the holy spirit rather than gratifying the flesh. Contemporarily, that means instead of trying to please others, our jobs, as Christians, are to please God. Memento mori signals to us that we should tune our identities and our character towards the soul, rather than towards earthly pursuits. The skull, a common symbol of memento mori, was commonly used in early European Christian to emphasize "Heaven, Hell, and salvation of the soul in the afterlife."

The Latin message of carpe diem is considered, in Christian art, to be a pagan idea that made people focus on many of the worldly pleasures of life. The message of memento mori the early Christian tradition seems to be this: by focusing on death and our mortality, we can be more moral creatures.

The early Christian model of memento mori, however profound, does not mean much to me. I instead take my lesson on memento mori from Robert Frost and "The Lesson For Today," and memento mori in that context is more practical. It means that to be be a "Christian disciplined to bend his mind to thinking of the end," we have to be "unhappy yet polite." That is what it means to me to live under the creed of of memento mori.

To be unhappy yet polite has been a doctrine I have lived through my whole life, because I differentiate between happiness and joy. Happiness is worldly and happiness fades. Nothing is more transient than being happy for a couple hours on one day and then proceeding to the next as if everything is wrong because you don't have the same happiness. Joy, however, is everlasting. Joy is an everlasting happiness you can have even when all the circumstances in life are terrible. According to the pastor John Piper, joy is "a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world." Joy is much more realistic in allowing the broad range of human emotions. You can be joyful and be depressed. You can be joyful and anxious. You can be joyful and ill. You can be joyful and tired, and all these emotions are meant to be felt not despite joy, but in conjunction with joy. Joy is a good feeling in the heart and soul, not in the mind and body.

I digress, but the point is that how we view joy is also the relationship we should have with God and with others, as Christian doctrine declares the two greatest laws being to love God and love others. To love God and love others, we have to have "lover's quarrels" with those people.

I can picture the words forming in your mind. "What? Ryan, what is thist?" you may ask. A lover's quarrel is a deeply oxymoronic term. We shouldn't quarrel with the people we love, after all.

In the words of Reverend Sarah Brouwer at the Minneapolis Westminster Presbyterian Church, is that in a lover's quarrel, "The quarrel is not about winning or losing an argument - it's a quarrel that spurs ur toward working on our relationships...and making sure that they are good and honest, and eventually, whole." To have a lover's quarrel, and to live under the creed of memento mori, means to strengthen those relationships, and even focus much of our lives on them. Many things in life are earthly, worldly, and vane, from possessions to accomplishments to everything in between. Relationships are not. I know, for certain, if there is one thing that I will carry with myself at the end, it is those relationships, with my family, community, and God.

The last part, to have a lover's quarrel with God, is an important message to have. Mark 1:11 is where God proclaims us as his lover, and us as his beloved. "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." To have a lover's quarrel goes two ways. God will break our world, at times. He may break us in the flesh. And sometimes, we will wrestle with our faith and be angry with him. Sometimes, we may doubt. He has his beloved children's' best interests at heart, but we may not agree on everything. I know for certain that I won't agree on everything with my future wife on how to raise a child, and will not be well pleased with those disagreements. That, simply, is how most loving relationships are, and none more so than our relationship with God.

Reverend Brouwser's sermon on the role of justice and social justice, in particular, concludes that to be just, we must engage in "God's love and quarrels with the world." But the part that struck out to me most in the sermon is that to minister to others means "not to afflict the comfortable," but to "comfort the afflicted." I believe that every person is afflicted deeply in some manner, and the more you know and love people, the more you realize how messed up they are, and the more they realize how deeply afflicted and messed up you are.

To live under the doctrine of memento mori means to have a lover's quarrel, in all those relationships, with others, with God. I know that my greatest strength in these relationships is my ability to be open and vulnerable, and break the power of shame's hold over our lives as we hide ourselves, as Adam and Eve did, from God and from others. As such, I will re-state my epitaph and what my tattoo of memento mori reminds me of as my life mission.

"I hold your doctrine of memento mori. And were an epitaph to be my story, I'd say: "My name is Ryan, and I loved people by trying to break the power of shame. I hope I did right by my family in the end.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Adulting

Unlocking Lake People's Secrets: 15 Must-Knows!

There's no other place you'd rather be in the summer.

931443
Group of joyful friends sitting in a boat
Haley Harvey

The people that spend their summers at the lake are a unique group of people.

Whether you grew up going to the lake, have only recently started going, or have only been once or twice, you know it takes a certain kind of person to be a lake person. To the long-time lake people, the lake holds a special place in your heart, no matter how dirty the water may look.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Top 10 Reasons My School Rocks!

Why I Chose a Small School Over a Big University.

106771
man in black long sleeve shirt and black pants walking on white concrete pathway

I was asked so many times why I wanted to go to a small school when a big university is so much better. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a big university is great but I absolutely love going to a small school. I know that I miss out on big sporting events and having people actually know where it is. I can't even count how many times I've been asked where it is and I know they won't know so I just say "somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin." But, I get to know most people at my school and I know my professors very well. Not to mention, being able to walk to the other side of campus in 5 minutes at a casual walking pace. I am so happy I made the decision to go to school where I did. I love my school and these are just a few reasons why.

Keep Reading...Show less
Lots of people sat on the cinema wearing 3D glasses
Pinterest

Ever wonder what your friend meant when they started babbling about you taking their stapler? Or how whenever you ask your friend for a favor they respond with "As You Wish?" Are you looking for new and creative ways to insult your friends?

Well, look no further. Here is a list of 70 of the most quotable movies of all time. Here you will find answers to your questions along with a multitude of other things such as; new insults for your friends, interesting characters, fantastic story lines, and of course quotes to log into your mind for future use.

Keep Reading...Show less
New Year Resolutions

It's 2024! You drank champagne, you wore funny glasses, and you watched the ball drop as you sang the night away with your best friends and family. What comes next you may ask? Sadly you will have to return to the real world full of work and school and paying bills. "Ah! But I have my New Year's Resolutions!"- you may say. But most of them are 100% complete cliches that you won't hold on to. Here is a list of those things you hear all around the world.

Keep Reading...Show less
Lifestyle

The Ultimate Birthday: Unveiling the Perfect Day to Celebrate!

Let's be real, the day your birthday falls on could really make or break it.

47537
​different color birthday candles on a cake
Blacksburg Children's Museum

You heard it here first: birthdays in college are some of the best days of your four years. For one day annually, you get to forget about your identity as a stressed, broke, and overworked student, and take the time to celebrate. You can throw your responsibilities for a day, use your one skip in that class you hate, receive kind cards and gifts from loved ones and just enjoy yourself.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments