Wabi-sabi is a Japanese worldview that talks about valuing the irregularities of things and appreciating beauty in its imperfection. For example, there can be a chipped plate, a frayed kurta, a weathered bag. In a material world, there is a tendency to dismiss these things as junk. An interpretation of wabi-sabi is to appreciate things around us with their flaws.
I read about how the concept of wabi-sabi is seen in certain styles of Japanese pottery. Bowls, cups and plates are made with some imperfections that may make them look unrefined and simple. For instance, pottery items that are used in a conventional Japanese tea ceremony are often rustic and simple and the colour of glazed items is known to change over time as hot water is repeatedly poured into them. Zen philosophy has influenced Japanese art over thousands of years, particularly in terms of acceptance and contemplation of imperfections, and the constancy of change and temporariness in all things. In other words, it is in for the beholder or onlooker to observe the hidden beauty of the pottery with a sense of freshness and go beyond what is actually there.
Wabi- sabi celebrates beauty, and values what is natural. We learn to prize things despite their unevenness. In our modern lives, there is a lot of pressure and a constant need to do things better, and strive for the best. Today, there is so much we are exposed to via the media about products that improve one’s appearance and lifestyle. Can we stop and accept things as they are? Can we accept what is imperfect and embrace it? How often do we find that we are unhappy with our course, our job or where we live, our clothes, and feel an aching need for something better, even perfect? This list of demands can be endless.
Kintsugi is another Japanese term I came across having a similar idea to wabi-sabi. Kintsugi advocates keeping an object even after it’s broken, regarding the cracks and repairs as simply events in the life of the object instead of allowing its service to end with damage or breakage. There is no attempt to hide the damage, on the contrary the repair and reuse are emphasised.
Remember when our grandparents darned, patched or mended torn sheets and made them last? Today this patchwork is deemed to be a work of art, perhaps underlining the idea of wabi-sabi behind the darning. Wabi-sabi conveys the idea of valuing and re-using what we have.
How about appreciating the deep cracks running across the bark of a tree? Wabi-sabi is a way of life. It is about learning to be satisfied with what we have in life and do away the unnecessary, living in the moment and being content. A tall order, but worth a shot!
When we dust our rooms, let us stop to admire the intricacy of the spindly web woven by the spider before we reach out to destroy it.