Wabi Sabi: The Beauty of Imperfections

Inspired by Begüm’s post from last week, I’m continuing this week with the other Japanese concept of wabia sabi, which we delved into quite extensively while writing Sade. Wabi sabi—whose roots are actually grounded in Zen Buddhism having been brought to Japan from China by a Japanese monk in the 12th century—presents an alternative view that’s aberrant from the contemporary and generally accepted understanding of beauty.

The beauty of the traces that time and life has left upon us and on objects…

According to wabi sabi, no one and nothing needs to reach perfection in order to be beautiful and valuable. Because of this truth: Everything that lives and exists is subject to nature’s law and therefore grows and develops, ages, decays, and inevitably dies. Since eternal youth is impossible, when we focus all our attention on the young and beautiful, we’re actively ignoring a large part of life.

We believe we have needs that never end. Or we’re made to believe this. Whereas wabi sabi indicates that we need much less than we believe. Every moment we’re not inclined to posses a bigger house, a job where we work and earn more, or a newer technological gadget, we’re in the realm of wabi sabi.

When we foster affinity with our personal belongings that may have lost their brand new allure but have embraced the shape of our body, hand, or feet; when we hear a musician’s soul not just through their hit song but also the last piece on the album; when we love our scars; when we’re more fascinated with hundred-year-old hardwood floors, with all their indentations and protrusions, instead of a perfectly waxed surface then wabi sabi takes us in.

Of course it wouldn’t be fair to associate every dusty, old, and broken object with wabi sabi! Even though this concept symbolizes life experience in dilapidation, it certainly has nothing to do with dirtiness, carelessness, or nonchalance. On the contrary, cleanliness is the most apparent display of respect and value we can express for an object. According to wabi sabi, it is because of people who care for them that dilapidated objects are able to survive the abrasive force of time.

Wabi sabi indicates that everything is as it should be. That everything sufficiently good, beautiful, and complete as it is. I discover this concept most in the generally unlikable wintertime. Instead of the humid happiness of summer, I find it in that blinding flash of sun between the gray clouds, the keepsake gray woolen socks from last winter, a cup of green tea, and wondering whether my strawberry bushes will give fruit in the summer after so much snow.

Every moment and object we inspect with silent attention is a ticket to the land of wabi sabi. And we are the visa.



Translated by Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

Comments are closed.