Tattoos as Literary Troves and How a Student-Teacher Discovers Philosophy and Literature in Ink


Tattoos have long served as an art form, a form of self-expression, and sometimes, even a reflection of one’s deepest beliefs and passions. Literature holds a profound place in academia, with its pages often weaving philosophical musings that transcend time and resonate with individuals in unique ways. Meet Kai Ogden, an English senior and aspiring English teacher who doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve but carries his literary and philosophical inspirations into his skin.

When Kai Ogden steps into a classroom as a student-teacher, his tattoos become a gateway to the world of philosophy and literature. He adorns his arms back and even contemplates future inkings, all inspired by the writings of one of his favorite authors, Oscar Wilde. It’s through these tattoos that Ogden not only celebrates his love for art, education, and literature but also shares profound philosophical wisdom with his students.

Ogden’s first tattoo on his left arm states, “All art is quite useless.” While this might seem unconventional for a future teacher, it perfectly encapsulates Oscar Wilde’s philosophy. For Wilde, art is meant to be appreciated for its aesthetic qualities, devoid of the need for deep meaning. Ogden’s tattoo serves as a conversation starter, prompting discussions on the purpose of art and the subjective nature of beauty.

When asked about the philosophy behind this ink, Ogden elaborates, “The philosophy (of the quote) is: art is simply for aesthetic purposes. It’s not for meaning, and it’s simple. Things are good to look at. (The tattoo reads) ‘all art is quite useless,’ but it’s a piece of art. It has meaning but is also a cool font and looks beautiful. It’s this catch-22.” It’s a paradoxical statement that mirrors Wilde’s wit and complexity.

Ogden’s next tattoo delves deeper into Wilde’s philosophical stance. Two angel wings grace his back—one pointing upwards, the other downwards—accompanied by the word “amoral” stretching across his spine. This tattoo draws inspiration from another Wilde quote delves into morality and amorality in the arts. The wings represent the duality of human nature, the perpetual balance between good and evil, while “amoral” occupies the central space, signifying Ogden’s position in this equilibrium.

Ogden reveals his plans for additional tattoos, with the words “moral” and “immoral” earmarked for placement behind his ears. These future inkings will be a visual embodiment of Wildean philosophy, a daily reminder of the intricate interplay between moral and immoral principles in life. Ogden explains, “It’s (Wilde’s) philosophy that no book is immoral; there are good and bad books. Placement is important; I put (the word ‘amoral’) in the middle of my body to represent that I am in the middle. I want to ensure that I follow moral principles, but some immoral principles are also okay. It’s a checks and balances question: ‘Who am I?’ Philosophy is fundamental to me, and I base my life on it.”

These tattoos aren’t just aesthetic choices but a canvas for Wildean philosophy. Oscar Wilde’s beliefs in the nuanced nature of morality and art inspire discussions within Ogden’s classrooms. His students are encouraged to explore the boundaries of art and the subtleties of moral principles, all through the lens of literature and philosophy. As a future educator, Ogden hopes to infuse a love for these profound concepts into his students, urging them to dive deep into literature, learning, and empathy.

In a world where body art holds personal significance, Ogden’s tattoos serve as a testament to the power of literature and philosophy to transcend the confines of a book and find a permanent place in one’s life. His tattoos are not just ink on his skin; they are a reflection of his beliefs and a reminder of the wisdom he carries. As he steps into the realm of teaching, his students are poised to embark on a journey of self-discovery, guided by the profound words of Oscar Wilde and the inspiring ink of their “philosophy-inked” teacher.

Kai Ogden’s tattoos are more than mere body art; they are a gateway to explore the world of philosophy, literature, and the enduring wisdom of Oscar Wilde. Through these inked expressions, he hopes to ignite a lifelong passion for learning and understanding in his students, sharing the remarkable depth of thought that can be uncovered through literature.

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