The imagination is valuable, and we must clear space to let it live and thrive.
As children, our creativity is boundless. We have a few things that fuel it: energy, curiosity, and a passion for the make-believe. When I was a kid, I filmed my stuffed animals in hyper-human situations. I pretended to ride horses with my friends around the playground. I looked out over the slide to watch giant sea beasts. I pretended I lived in the 18th century, speaking in a foreign tongue. I drew cartoons of talking amoebas. None of it was real, and I loved it.
Instead of your ability to imagine, it becomes your ability to predict that starts to count. Instead of the fantasy of your stories, it's how good of a liar you can be that's more important. The adult world is less about color and more about stroke. Creativity is judged by one's ability to find new ways to trick people into doing what you want them to do.
In the adult world, creativity metamorphoses into something more profit-driven.
Young kids do not necessarily have to be stimulated by a "muse" to produce something creative. But as we age, we're less inclined to have these spontaneous thoughts. They're considered unproductive or silly. But daydreaming performs an essential function: that of stimulating different parts of our brain that need some serious dusting off.
How do we get back to that precious state of creativity? We need to free ourselves from repetitive and mundane tasks. Opening our eyes to the beautiful things around us instead of just seeing what we expect to see: the same street signs, the same faces.
We also need to perform a more difficult task. According to Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan, who is the culinary artist behind South Korean temple food, creativity and the ego cannot exist side by side. If one is to grow creatively, one has to let go of the ego. Now, everyone has ego, but having too much of it limits our ability to move forward because we are always keeping judgment at the forefront of our minds. When we stop thinking about what others think of us, we can access a new level of freedom from within, the freedom to be creative again.
But what does letting go of your ego mean? For a lot of us, this means tempering ourselves on social media, or not allowing ourselves to feel superior or inferior to anyone. We must go into situations knowing that people will be people, and we have to let them do their thing so that we can do ours. We fill our brain space with too much minutiae so we don't have any room left for our imagination. The imagination is valuable, and we must clear space to let it live.
Tattoos have evolved over the years, but are they harmful or toxic to the body?
When most cancer survivors ask their oncologists if they can get a tattoo, the answer is, "No! And don't even think about it." The reason often stems from numerous studies looking at a possible connection between tattoos and leukemia, a blood cancer. The big concern is chemicals in the dye that will go directly on and potentially in the skin. The key questions many studies are trying to answer right now are: "What are in the dyes?" "Do they go directly into the blood stream for some or all?" "What is the impact of the dyes long-term?" and "Why are those dyes not regulated in he first place?"
So if everything else that can potentially go into your bloodstream is regulated, then why isn't tattoo ink?
First, to give you perspective, I have to share one cautionary rule that many oncologists tell survivors to follow in order to lower their risk, and this is certainly good for anyone. Think before you apply anything to your skin because it does have the potential to go directly into your bloodstream, and that includes sunscreen, bug spray or lotion. This should come as no surprise, especially with the existence of a birth control patch the size of a bandage that goes directly into your bloodstream. So if everything else that can potentially go into your bloodstream is regulated, why isn't tattoo ink?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states on its website, "While state and local authorities oversee the practice of tattooing, ink and ink colorings (pigments) used in tattoos are subject to FDA regulation as cosmetics and color additives. However, because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them." After receiving various reports of adverse reactions to tattoo ink, the FDA launched an investigation in 2008. It has a warning on its website to consumers that says several of the pigments used in tattoo ink are "industrial-grade colors suitable for printers' ink or automobile paint."
The FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), research chemist Paul Howard, Ph.D., and his team are investigating to get more answers. What they do know is that some ink particles have shown the ability to go beyond the skin, into the bloodstream and into the lymph nodes or lymphatic system, which is where the body carries out disease-causing organisms. That's a problem. The FDA also found some potentially dangerous substances, including metals and hydrocarbons that are known carcinogens in the ink, saying, "One chemical commonly used to make black ink called benzo(a)pryrene is known to be a potent carcinogen that causes skin cancer in animal tests."
Some ink particles have shown the ability to go beyond the skin, into the bloodstream and into the lymph nodes or lymphatic system, which is where the body carries out disease-causing organisms.
Outside the US, more studies are being conducted. One out of the University of Bradford in the UK found that the tattoo process removes the body's main connective tissue and the ink particles leave the surface of the skin and travel elsewhere. Another study out of the UK is led by Jorgen Serup, a professor of dermatology at Copenhagen's Bispebjerg University Hospital. He claims that he found evidence that the nanoparticles present in inks can reach major organs of the body and cause cancer. According to the International Business Times, the study says that as many as 13 out of 21 commonly used European inks have cancer causing chemicals in them. The article goes on to state that the Tattoo Ink Manufacturers of Europe "believe that about 5 percent of European tattooists use toxic ink, and wants the EU to compel ink makers to conduct risk assessments on their products and make the results public."
Think that henna tattoos might be your best shot? Think again! The Telegraph looked at a study in the United Arab Emirates, published in the "Leukemia and Lymphoma Journal." Women there who use henna to stain their nails, hands, feet, etc., face a higher incidence of leukemia. They said it is not the henna itself that is the problem but rather the compounds used as a solvent for the henna powder. That solvent contains benzene, which is known to cause cancer. According to the Telegraph, benzene is banned in many countries but still used.
I checked many tattoo website across the country to see if, perhaps, a newer, "cleaner" dye has been introduced since these studies were published, but I found no mention of anything. A few sites mentioned that there are always risks since it is a dye/pigment is permanently being added to the layers of your skin. Bottom line: There is no hard evidence that there is a 100 percent connection to leukemia but there is much cause for concern about what chemicals are in the ink, the long-term effects of the ink, and how the ink enters the body. Ask questions. Know before you ink. Perhaps, if you have a history of cancer in your family and you are at higher risk, talk to your doctor as well.