“This too, shall pass”. An endlessly intriguing concept, this simple phrase encapsulates so much about the human condition in such an eloquent and concise way that it is no wonder people have been getting this tattooed on themselves for years.
This phrase is also interesting for the layers of meaning that reveal themselves as more time is spent in analysis. Despite all evidence to the contrary, humans have devoted more collective time and energy than any other endeavor to creating stories and mythos asserting that life is eternal. Just about every religion ever created held at its core the idea of an eternal afterlife, or some other form or reincarnation. It’s as if we are all trying to convince ourselves that there is more than this physical existence.
And then someone says: “This too, shall pass”. This phrase, in four words, tears down the monolithic immortality that every prophet and messiah have promised to their people since time immemorial, simply by stating the obvious.
Beyond these highfalutin musings, the phrase has a more practical application. No matter how bad (or good, for that matter) the current circumstances, they are only temporary and keeping this fact in mind can work wonders for the anxieties that mount up in day to day life. It is a great reminder to stay calm and weather the storm, no matter how bad things seem. It is also a useful to remember when good times have you flying a little bit too high.
In fact, this just may be the truest statement ever uttered, and thanks to its endless applicability, it makes exceptional fodder for tattoos.
1. All-Caps This Too Shall Pass Tattoos
When it comes to script and typing—especially in the modern world of text messages—using all caps is a powerful statement. In the world of type, using all caps is akin to shouting and this is a great way to emphasize the importance of a word or phrase. These tattoos, with their variety of styles and fonts, use capital letters to shout this powerful phrase out to the world.
2. This Too Shall Pass Color Tattoos
A splash of color can go a long way, and these interesting pieces are great examples of how the use of color can help a tattoo stand out from other, more subdued designs. Whether incorporating illustrative elements—like the tube of lipstick in the first piece—or simply using color for the text itself, moving beyond black ink can make for great tattoos.
3. This Too Shall Pass Delicate Tattoos
Many people (especially women) have been choosing to use fine lines instead of the bold work that was characteristic of the tattoos of yesteryear, and thanks to talented artists this style can be expertly applied. This delicate script and clever placement help make these simple designs stand out from bolder tattoos.
4. This Too Shall Pass Floral Tattoos
Flowers are the perfect subjects to be incorporated into these tattoos dedicated to the ephemerality of life. What better way to emphasize this concept than flowers, who we prize for their beauty, only to watch them wither and die before our eyes? This, in conjunction with their variety and vibrant colors make them excellent additions to any tattoo.
5. Larger This Too Shall Pass Tattoos
Some people prefer large tattoos, and thanks to the broad nature of the meaning of the phrase, a variety of design elements and images can be incorporated into these large pieces. Whether they are the unmistakable image an hourglass or a candle burning down to nothing, a variety of elements can be successfully incorporated into these meaningful tattoos.
6. This Too Shall Pass Tattoos Featuring Arrows
Arrows are great elements to incorporate in these tattoos dedicated to the fleeting nature of existence for a couple reasons. Conceptually, an arrow symbolizes the passing of time: we find our trajectory in life and let loose, carrying on for a time before we come crashing down, our flight spent in an instant. Arrows are also visually appealing and use straight lines to great effect.
7. This Too Shall Pass Bird Tattoos
Birds are another excellent addition to these meaningful tattoos. Birds are the ultimate embodiment of freedom, endlessly travelling with the seasons. When winter comes, birds head south, waiting for the warmth of summer to return then repeating the cycle again and again, constantly waiting for one season to pass and another to take its place.
8. This Too Shall Pass Collarbone Tattoos
The natural contours of the collarbone provide a tattoo artist with a guideline to follow that improves the overall composition of even these simple script pieces. This placement is also appealing for women thanks to the subtle level of seduction that is created by a small tattoo poking out from below the collar of a shirt or dress.
9. This Too Shall Pass Foot Tattoos
Many people choose to place tattoos on their feet for the conceptual implication of their feet being their roots or anchors, and by placing important images, designs or quotes on their feet they are demonstrating the importance of these elements in keeping them grounded. When viewed in this context there are few quotes better suited to be tattooed on the feet.
10. This Too Shall Pass Old English Font Tattoos
Old English, also known as blackletter, is a font that has been used for a thousand years, remaining popular thanks to its long history and classic appearance. This typeface is perfect for any number of different quotes, although it is especially interesting here because while many things “pass” Old English style refuses to.
11. This Too Shall Pass Script Tattoos
The stylized scripts used in these tattoos are perfect for women’s tastes and have a looser feel than some of the more rigid fonts we have seen so far. The artists are able to use precise lines and clean application to create these stylized cursive letters.
12. Typewritten This Too Shall Pass Tattoos
The typeface commonly referred to as “typewriter” is called Courier, and thanks to millions of newspapers printed over the decades, it has made its way into the collective psyche of anyone who uses the Roman alphabet. This instantly identifiable font is perfect for tattoos, almost calling out “Extra, Extra Read all about it!”
13. Tiny This Too Shall Pass Tattoos
Many prefer their tattoos to be subtle affairs that can be overlooked by someone who isn’t paying attention. For these folks a tattoo has more use as a reminder and dedication than a proclamation to the world. This phrase is excellent for these tattoos because of the deeply personal nature of the message. In times of hardship and weakness, the wearer only has to look down and remember, “This too, shall pass.”
14. Traditional This Too Shall Pass Tattoos
This style is characterized by the bold lines and limited color scheme that originated in the world of sailors travelling to the South Pacific. However, script has been a key part of American traditional tattooing since its inception and this meaningful phrase is perfectly suited to this rough and tumble style. Thanks to the variety of images—like daggers, hourglasses and swallows—American traditional tattoos provide ample material to incorporate into these meaningful tattoos.
“This too, shall pass” Tattoo FAQs
Where did the phrase “This too, shall pass” originate?
While the exact origins of the phrase are lost, it is believed to have arisen from the medieval poets of Persia, like Rumi, however it made its way to the West thanks to the retelling of a Persian story by the 19th century American poet Edward Fitzgerald. It was later incorporated into one of Abraham Lincoln’s famous speeches.
The story goes that a King asked his sage to come up with a phrase that was true in every context; no matter how good or how bad the current situation, this phrase would remain true. Lincoln used the story in a speech remarking “How chastening in our hour of pride, how consoling in the depths of our affliction”, pointing out the power this phrase holds in terms of self-examination.
What does “This too, shall pass” mean?
In terms of a tattoo, this is a great phrase for the exact reasons that Abraham Lincoln was so enamored with it. It is invariably true, and as such is a powerful tool for self-reflection. This truly is a phrase that is worth permanently inking on your body and carrying wherever you go. When you are at your highest, thinking that the whole world can’t touch you, as well as in your darkest, most weak and vulnerable moments; remember, “This too, shall pass.”
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