Starting today, we will occasionally post stories sent to us by participants. We begin with Shawn Gannon and his narrative about the words he chose. Email us your story–we’d love to feature you!
“GRACE TRUMPS KARMA
Perhaps consumer culture is the evolution of counter culture. But tattoos aren’t haute couture, runway fashions that you throw away after a season. A tattoo remains culturally significant because of its permanence. Its permanence is what should be the greatest deterrent. Impulse and tattoos don’t mix well in most cases. I got my first tattoo–a small fraternity crest placed above my ankle–when I was 20. Tattoos were not exactly popular in 1990 and finding a trustworthy, clean tattoo artist was a shot in the dark. Mine was done in a dark and dusty basement, below a motorcycle repair shop, in Frankfort, KY. So, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t seriously consider another tattoo until Kurt and Kremena added me to the Love Letter to the World Facebook page. I was one of 1200 in the first 24 hours to say, “I’m in!”
When Frank X Walker’s poem was finally revealed, I read it over and over to myself. Every time I got to,
‘When you weep, daily,
over our continued ignorance,
our epic failures and petty squabbles
–our every transgression,
break and we are born again.’
I had to stop.
Those 25 words struck me. Those words are the heart of the poem for me. They reveal the world’s unexpected and undeserved forgiveness. And I chose ‘–our every transgression, ‘. My transgressions are assembled in all sizes. Each disappoints, stains my character, reveals my strength, and is reflected in my art. They touch all I love, all I hate, and all I create. They remind me that I’m human, flawed. They are all forgivable because grace trumps karma.
LLTW project is more than a worldwide art project. We’ve entered into a covenant to represent our part of the poem that embraces us personally in our part of the world where we live, weep, fail, and squabble, forgive, and are absolved of our every transgression. We are now tied by a single poem, on the one earth we all share. A community linked by our reverence for life with each other on a single round rock in an ever-expanding universe. There’s no revelation of a deeper meaning. It’s all quite simple.
‘I love you world.’
LLTW represents both a worldwide collective and all the individuals within it. All of us, at some point, will see someone, somewhere, inked with another piece of the poem. It may be acknowledged with a simple nod of recognition. It may be a bear-hug embrace that we weren’t expecting, a shared cup of tea. Conceivably, a lifelong relationship that began as simply noticing the single piece of common ground that breaks the ice and sparks a conversation between two people who, until that moment, felt very alone in a world that can seem too big, too undernourished, divided by racist inequality, by political conflict and by war. We disagree about a lot that happens around the world. Regardless of our uncommon heritage and history, the words of an Affrilachian poet and our ink will forever be common between us. This unnatural color beneath our skin provides us all with a single point of reference from which all future conversations may begin. We’re all simply hoping for something virtuous to spring from our meager contribution.
by SHAWN GANNON
Shawn Gannon’s “–our every transgression,” (photograph provided by Shawn Gannon)