I'm seriously considering a tattoo these days, after years of saying I couldn't commit to a symbol which would maintain significance for a lifetime, as my flesh withers and everything goes south, including my reasons for getting marked up in the first place. I'm cognizant of visual communication, hence my tentative approach to this. But a few symbols have been important to me over the years for personal reasons, and I like their forms, so I'm mulling it over.
When I was a kid I read about the cave paintings at Altamira and how they were discovered accidentally by a girl accompanying her father as he worked in the caves. In college, when I was about 18, I learned about Lascaux and the paintings there: elegant images, some "primitive" but some very sophisticated, with all the principles of "gestalt" and "closure" which had begun to fascinate me.
In any case, I have arrived at a few options:
My favorite. This is one of the oldest images known to man, dated between 13,000 and 17,000 BC. I like the connection to the spirit of mark-making which existed in our primitive ancestors and which endures today in us today. I also think it would be cool to liken my skin to the walls of a cave, especially when my flesh begins to resemble the geological undulation of a cave wall.
The Roman numerals translate as 2008 (I'd change it to 2009 if I had it done after the new year). The time I have spent in Rome has been transformative, a rebirth. This is a sort of tribute to the city and a bit of memorabilia about the importance of this year.
My favorite from the mythology I read as a kid, Mercury (Hermes) was the messenger of the gods and he ran like the wind. An odd coincidence—my surname translates as something like "Messenger of the House." I'm pretty deeply invested in visual communication and I consider running a big part of my identity, so I think it would be appropriate.
After drowning in the Nile, Hadrian had hundreds of likenesses made of Antinous. The sculptures take your breath away.