(From the song Anthem)
Not to be confused with the hot Japanese mustard, wasabi, or a wobbly, unsteady table or chair, wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic or philosophy that embraces the beauty of things that are imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Although its definition is illusive in English, wabi-sabi connotes an appreciation of patina, the "bloom of time." It speaks to that ineffable surge of emotion that swells inside us as we recognize the beauty and authenticity in imperfection. It does not revere sloppiness or the dirt or grime that comes from neglect. Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.
Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodiments of the natural processes of the material world. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.
A Tea Ceremony Parable
According to Japanese legend, a young man named Sen no Rikyu sought to learn the elaborate set of customs known as the Way of Tea. He went to tea-master Takeeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend the garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, then scrutinized the immaculate garden. Before presenting his work to the master, he shook a cherry tree, causing flowers to spill randomly onto the ground.
Dr. Suzan K. Thomspon shares this parable on her website.
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water, at the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."
The old woman smiled, "Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?" "That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."
Each of us has our own unique flaws – what if we learned to prize the imperfections, cracks and mistakes in our own lives?
Learn more about the lessons of Wabi-Sabi from Leonard Koren in his book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.
[photo credit 1: Pinterest ]
[photo credit 2: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/smb_flickr/2478381319/">. SantiMB .</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a> ]
[photo credit 3: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/blueridgekitties/4593920977/">BlueRidgeKitties</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a> ]