There has been a recent shift in favor of things considered natural. People are choosing clothing, food, cleansers and building materials that come from simple, natural sources. The supposed purposes for this trend are the preservation of the environment through the use of renewable resources and the promotion of our health and well-being.

An example of this way of thinking is the Paleolithic diet. This eating regimen is built on the premise that we humans, like other creatures, should eat what is natural for our species to eat, which apparently is whatever our ancestors evolved to eat during the Paleolithic era. There are at least three problems with this idea.

The first is that we are only presuming to know what our ancestors were eating at the time of their most recent evolutionary dietary transition. The second issue is that what is natural is not always the superior choice (most medicines are not natural). The third problem is that the evolution of humans was drastically altered when we became self-aware. We are no longer wild, for we took control of our evolutionary destiny and, along with it, the destiny of the creatures we domesticated.

We’ve already discussed the natural state of humans and how it is largely determined by the presence of human society, but what is the natural state of an animal? More specifically, what is the natural state of a tamed animal, if there is such a thing? There are four general responses to this question, each embodied by a group of people.

The first group believes that animals, or at least the more important animals, must remain wild. They would define a wild animal as one living in its natural habitat without human interference. Those from this camp would argue that what is best for the animal is what is natural, even if that means a high risk of starvation, predation, disease, isolation, etc. To them, the concept of owning and using animals for our benefit is comparable to slavery.

The second group has no concern for the animal’s nature, seeking only to cater to the whims of their captive critter. These are pet owners who will purchase their pets extravagant toys, food and even clothing in an effort to appease them. Rather than the animal functioning as companion or slave, it is essentially elevated to the level of a human child in a demented effort to satisfy lingering or neglected parental instincts.

The third group tolerates the captivity and ownership of animals, but also believes that animals were not meant to exist in the human world. Because of this, their creatures are given ample room to roam and are often fed a diet that resembles what they would eat in the wild. These people attempt to respect animals even as they profit from and consume them.

The fourth and final group sees animals as a commodity and cares nothing for their natural state or desires. To them, animals are merely a resource to be harvested, like plants. And much like plants, they are often packed closely together and only given what is necessary to grow.

So who is right? Well the answer depends not only on how we value animals, but also our understanding of what it means to be wild. The first group would argue that animals are wild by nature, meaning that their natural and therefore best state is one of freedom from human intervention. This sounds like a wonderful idea, but we know from examining the nature of humans that we share a similar state of natural wildness, yet few would argue that feral humans are our finest incarnation. The second and third group both acknowledge that animals have a natural wild state, but also believe that their lives are improved through taming. The final group has no interest in what it means to be wild apart from how it can benefit their ability to cultivate their creatures and maximize profit. Few would argue that this last approach is the most beneficial for the animal.

So the crux of the disagreement is whether or not animals benefit from being tamed. But since most animals are unable express their emotions in ways we can understand, especially wild ones, the answer is largely left to our interpretation. However, there are some who argue that it’s okay to tame some species but not others. Let’s explore this claim.

We often hear stories of pets (usually exotic ones) who turn on their masters, attacking them for no apparent reason. This sparks comments like, “that’s what happens when you keep a wild animal in your house,” implying that some animals are wild and others are not. In a historical sense, this is somewhat accurate, since there are certain species that are traditionally tamed or domesticated (bred by humans for certain purposes). However, to assert that some animals remain wild after taming is both a semantic and logical error.

Animals, like humans, have two basic behavioral states: wild and tame. Since we described a wild animal as one that is free from human intervention, then a tame animal must be one that has integrated with humans. Here are some simple statements that may help us understand the situation:

  • A creature cannot be both wild and tame.
  • All creatures are inherently wild.
  • A wild creature, when properly tamed, loses its wildness.
  • A poorly or partially tamed creature may retain a degree of wildness.
  • Some creatures are more difficult to tame than others.

Now that we share an understanding of the situation, we can dissect the definition of tame. Taming is traditionally defined as the process by which humans integrate animals into their own society, but this does not explain what’s really going on. When we tame an animal, we raise its social compatibility. But this begs some interesting questions: is the process of elevating a human to be compatible with human society not a form of taming as well? If so, is a wolf teaching its pups to behave like wolves also taming them? What about when a human is raised by wolves to integrate with wolf society? A more holistic definition of taming would be the process by which a creature of one species is attuned to the society of another species, but this merely confuses the matter.

Since humans are the highest form of creature and the only species capable of understanding the concept of taming, we perceive a tamed animal as one that is attuned to our society. However, a wolf might consider an adopted squirrel tamed, if it were able to contemplate such things, while we would not. And if a wild wolf is one raised by wolves, then a wild human must be one raised by humans. This is illogical, however, because we traditionally define wildness as an inherent quality of untamed creatures and because we consider ourselves tame; both of these things can’t be true. If taming is the attunement of one species to another species, then humans can’t be tame.

We must use the traditional definition of taming as the process by which a creature of any species is attuned to human society. But that raises the question of how a higher form of intelligence, such as an advanced alien civilization or a race of genetically-enhanced humans, might perceive us. To them, we would be wild beasts in need of taming. That brings up another interesting question: if taming is the attunement of a creature to human society, can we tame each other? Indeed, it was common knowledge in colonial times that native tribes were primitive, lower races in need of taming. The rejection of this idea may be tied to our growing affection for natural things, since it’s easy to argue that these tribes could have benefited from Western medicine and technology.

In any case, taming animals causes enough debate. Just remember that a pet wolf is not wild animal.


One of the most popular and accessible forms of art involves the creation of two-dimensional imagery on a surface. This is called drawing. Drawing can be done professionally or casually, for profit or personal satisfaction. It can also involve a number of different mediums, including the more traditional pen and paper or oil and canvas, modern instruments like the computer or Magna Doodle and even human skin.

Tattooing dates back thousands of years and spans many cultures across the globe. Each society’s tattoos are visually distinct, employing unique color, content, size, location and pattern. In addition, these designs can serve many different purposes. For the indigenous Polynesians of New Zealand, tattoos were an indication of higher rank or status and also signified a rite of passage into adulthood. During the Kofun period in Japan, tattoos were placed on criminals as a form of punishment. Many cultures use tattoos for religious or spiritual purposes, to honour the dead, to intimidate enemies, to commemorate marriage or simply to appear more attractive.

In modern Western culture, the design and purpose of tattoos is not standardized, but rather determined by the individual. And as with many of our traditions, including naming our children, we tend to borrow from other cultures in an attempt to find purpose and appear unique and sophisticated. In our quest for meaning, we blend Polynesian tribal patterns with Japanese kanji, dragons with crosses, yin-yangs with Bible verses, skulls with Gothic lettering as well as a myriad of other sacred symbols, producing an amalgamation of ancient art that would likely offend and confuse each culture from which we borrowed. Because our population is multicultural and our society prioritizes the individual, each of us is permitted to create our own reality, religion and tattoo design. But in our apparent quest for meaningful markings, we have forgotten one important fact, the true reason why we actually get tattoos: because we want to.

Whenever we ask someone about the meaning of one of their tattoos, the explanation we get usually seems valid. They’ll explain to us how a rose symbolizes their grandmother, who loved roses, or how the number 27 is lucky because all of their children were all born on the 27th day of the month, or how a bloody reaper-skull wearing a crown of thorns reminds them not to fear death but to live life to the fullest every day. These explanations may all be rooted in truth, but there are many ways to commemorate important people or dates or to remind ourselves of mantras, so why did they choose to draw on themselves? Why not just get a picture framed or a piece of jewelry made?

Many would answer that the nearly inescapable permanence of tattoos adds a dimension of commitment to the expression, and that’s true, but let’s think about what the primary factor is for motivating someone to get a tattoo. If the true cause is the death of a loved one, then the person would think something like, “How can I most effectively express my sorrow? Perhaps I should get a tattoo,” but this is inconsistent with the massive number of people who get multiple tattoos and the growing number of those who identify themselves as tattoo addicts. The truth is that every single person who walks into a tattoo parlor wants a tattoo. They may want to commemorate their dead grandmother or immortalize their mantra, but much like the way we choose names for our children, they ultimately decided on the tattoo medium because they liked it. After all, no one ever reluctantly got a tattoo simply because they figured it was the most effective medium.

This isn’t meant to discredit or insult those who have tattoos, since those who choose other mediums also do so because they prefer them. But it’s important to be honest with ourselves and to understand our true intentions, especially when we’re doing something that cannot be easily undone. There’s always a chance that our tattoo will come out wrong because of mistranslation or poor quality artwork, that the tattoo will degrade over time, that the shape of our body will change, that we’ll change our opinion of the subject or that our taste in art will simply evolve.

The idea of sewing a pair of pants to our legs is ridiculous, but even if it was safe to do so, it would seem absurd to imagine that we would always enjoy wearing the same pair of pants. And yet we somehow convince ourselves that we will always love our tattoos, that we won’t be ashamed of them and that the issues that our future selves will face are somehow detached from the choices we make now. Deep down we all know that permanently marking our bodies for aesthetic purposes is foolish. But those who want tattoos are still going to get them, so in light of what we’ve learned, let’s set a few rules in order to minimize the risk of regret and avoid a design that offends another culture or doesn’t make any sense.

  1. Don’t choose someone’s name or face. You might end up feeling differently about them.
  2. Don’t choose another language. There’s always a chance of mistranslation.
  3. Don’t choose a slogan or mantra that may become unpopular.
  4. Do a spell check.
  5. Choose an area of the body that ages well.
  6. Choose an area of the body that can be easily hidden by clothing.
  7. Get a temporary tattoo and see if you like it.
  8. Finish the tattoo.

In other words, don’t get this:

No one who didn’t want a tattoo ever got one.