I’ve been sitting on this post draft for a while now – and you’ll hear me saying this often, because I write all the time. Never at a loss for ideas. Writer’s block, Blogger’s block, eh? What’s that?
Perfection may be desirable – who doesn’t like the ideal situation – but I think perfection is a state of mind. Whether it is things or people, it is all customizable. Just as we tailor our clothes to our bodies, so we personalize everything we use. We do the same with relationships. Sometimes, to click instantly with another individual, their physical appearance doesn’t even come into the picture. How else to explain the perfect rapport we start certain connections with? And by the time we get to know them better, the short-comings do not matter. They become insignificant.
That imperfection can make an object or a person more precious is best endorsed by the beautiful concept of “Wabi sabi” – the art of celebrating and honoring the imperfect. The Japanese call it “kintsukuroi”. Here is a definition:
Wabi sabi celebrates the cracked pot, the broken mug, the old cupboard, the dented vessel, that rusted frame. Wabi sabi lets go of the pursuit of perfection, encouraging an appreciation of the simple pure beauty of things as they are. It is about finding beauty in, and embracing the imperfect, the impermanent, unconventional and incomplete.
While I am aware of the concept – we experience it all the time – I did not put a name to it until my dear friend Kaarina posted an article on her Facebook timeline several months ago and it stuck in my mind.
But what is in a name, eh? Do we not all practice the wabi sabi concept in our lives several times a day?
I am thinking, in particular, of my color blindness. I am a rather good seamstress. Early on in our marriage, when my husband’s brown woollen gloves had to be sewn up, I did a perfect job of darning them with bright green thread. At first he thought I was being cute. Then it dawned on him that I had no idea – and that I was happily under the impression I had matched the color perfectly. He teases me about it to this day, but I notice that even though we’ve bought several pairs along the years, it is this pair he always packs and uses. Love. What else?
A few months ago, I visited my closest friend in Toronto. In spite of my protests, she made me pack quite a few glass things. She insisted they would all reach safe. So, I did. One tea pot that I adored was chipped. I felt quite miserable as I have a thing for this kind of pottery. The next time she called, I told her. She said she had bought another for me, since she suspected this one might not arrive intact – and advised me to turn the broken one into a plant holder. I didn’t. Instead, I stuck the pieces and am using it as a tea holder in my kitchen shelf where I can see it every day. I may not have used it this often if I had to use it only as a tea-pot, because then it would have been sitting on my “special” shelf of things I save up for special occasions.
As I run my fingers over the dents on my old silver plate, I remember how my Grandmother ate in the plate, and instantly that memory fills me with love.
While cleaning out my old cupboard, I am thrilled as I come across all my son’s “gifts” – imperfectly shaped things, rough at the edges…and all I can see is the love and affection of an eager child. Why, when he broke a cute ceramic cat he quickly stuck it back, slightly out of alignment – and all I saw, after the initial irritation was – how thoughtful of him!
We practice wabi sabi in our emotions. Tough situations may break us temporarily, but make us stronger, right? These situations help us appreciate life more. The scars help us face life better as they heal and make us more tolerant through experience.
Don’t cry because it is over. Smile because it happened
But the happiest example of wabi sabi I can think of is a child beginning to speak. Not perfect, delightful. The best part? We don’t even want to “repair” it, although we enunciate the right way to say the words automatically.
Wabi sabi motivates us to live life to the fullest, helping us minimize our inner critic and see the world through new eyes. It is a great mindset to have – humble, simple, mindful.
I find it empowering to think that a broken object can not only become usable, but also even more beautiful. Why, being broken can be a blessing.
Basically, wabi sabi teaches the following:
Live in the moment. Minimize thoughts of the past and future
Focus on what is most important to you
Clear the clutter – make space for new things and experiences
Practice self control, common sense and dignity
Trust your intuition
Appreciate the beauty around you
Love people as they are, don’t try to mold them
See the best in everything
Tune out unnecessary noise
Spend time in nature
So – on the lighter side, my son asked if not making the bed, messy closet, was wabi sabi. I had to say no. Wabi sabi is looking after things with love, things that are well-preserved like his Grandma’s embroidered handkerchiefs we’ll use until they fray, the utensils we’ve been using for generations with care, those two tablespoons that no longer have a handle, but serve as perfect measuring cups. Wabi sabi is definitely not being lazy.
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
Finally, I believe that we are all works in progress. I am not perfect. But I know I am loved. That is enough.
Here are some photos from my walk. (Click to see slideshow. Click anywhere on the screen to come back to the post)
Questions for you
What do you think of wabi sabi?
Do you practice it?
How? Please share in the comments!