Japanese art and philosophy produced many amazing cultural concepts based on the beauty of imperfection and insufficiency. With Wabi-Sabi and Kintsugi as its physical display, being the most prominent. I call Wabi-Sabi – the art of life.
Wabi-Sabi, whilst being an ancient philosophy, has recently made its way to the western world and is going down a storm. Which I think is great. It is also a manifestation of our longing for imperfection is this perfection striving world. So why do I consider Wabi-Sabi to be the art of life?
What is Wabi-Sabi?
Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic philosophy rooted in Zen Buddhism, which highlights the importance of finding beauty and harmony in every aspect of imperfection in nature. Loosely translated, “Wabi” is simplicity and peace, whilst; “Sabi” means ‘things whose beauty stem from age’. This philosophy stands for accepting the objects as well as the world and people as imperfect, unfinished, and temporary.
Also, experiencing things as they are without any judgment.
The basic principle of Wabi-Sabi is accepting your imperfections. Accepting imperfections in others. Making the most of life and loving it to the last breath.
When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.― Ram Dass
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practise turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.
Kintsugi is a perfect, material manifestation of Wabi-Sabi.
Kintsugi means ‘to join with gold’. It is the Japanese art of putting broken ceramics and pottery pieces back together with gold. Kintsugi is built on the idea that by embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create a stronger, more beautiful and unique piece of art. Metaphorically, it is truly a physical demonstration of resilience and strength.
The fact is that damage makes an object stronger and more beautiful
This could be translated into every part of our lives. No one is like the other. There is no such thing as perfection. And everything is temporary.
What an amazing metaphor explaining how differently and perfectly we are all built through our life’s experience. Our scars, hurts, and all the imperfections create a unique being, stronger and more resilient. By embracing, accepting and admiring the flaws we learn how to truly appreciate the beauty of the world and people around us.
How different this approach is if we compare it to how we see the world these days, especially in Western culture?
Why are we so obsessed with perfection. This strive is killing our souls and sometimes even bodies. What is perfection anyway? By whos standards?
The obsessive search for perfection creates emotional imbalances. What’s more, instead of promoting happiness the opposite is happening.
We, as a society, promote a lack of empathy. We strive to be better therefore we compete and often treat others as an opponent. How can this lead to peace and happiness? No wonder a lot of us are unhappy, sad, anxious, depressed and often suicidal.
Kintsugi actually highlights the “scars”. During the process of healing of what we have thought was broken, a more unique and beautiful emerges. Yet a lot of us don’t use gold to highlight our scars and imperfections. And we are extremely judgmental about ours and other’s flaws. We hide them. Underneath the clothes, makeup, social media, words we don’t mean to say and actions our soul don’t support.
It is impossible to be perfect according to Western standards. There is always this strive to be more successful, better looking, wiser, better educated or richer.
In Eastern philosophies, perfection is reserved for Gods and nature. And us? We are here to learn. Because whilst we are sweating the little things, we miss the most important one. Living life. That’s why I think that Wabi-Sabi is an art of life.
In fact, it all will pass. Our youth, often beauty. Some friends, some loved ones. Nothing is permanent. So why don’t we instead appreciate and celebrate the imperfections? The now time. And observe how we change and become more beautiful and wiser as time passes.
And the last thought. Or few 🙂
As we focus on improving ourselves and our life, we often purely live for the future. Forgetting that time we live in is now.
And no! There is absolutely nothing wrong with making plans, having desires for the future and improving our lives. I do that all the time! Yet we often plan improvements because we are not satisfied with our lives right now. We are not satisfied with who we are right now. We believe that happiness will arrive once we make those changes and achieve those goals.
And then – the life passes by. Before we even know it.
So make plans, be a better person tomorrow than you were yesterday. Kinder, more mindful, wiser and more loving. Healthier and more successful. But accept the path you are on right now. Appreciate where life has taken you so far. And then look forward to the future.
Because the chance is that if we are not satisfied today, we will find the reasons not to be satisfied tomorrow. Hence by applying a Wabi-Sabi art of living, we learn to accept the now and more likely what the future is going to bring.
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.”― A.A. Milne