Wabi-Sabi

February 21, 2011

Wabi Sabi Cherry Blossoms

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

A year ago or so, I wrote about the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. Ever since, it has been the most frequently visited page on my blog.

In our automated, mechanical age, I am not alone in craving an appreciation of things natural, imperfect, broken and fallible.

What is wabi-sabi?

Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic concept that originated in the 16th century out of rituals of the Japanese tea ceremony.

It holds a similar position in the Japanese culture that the Platonic ideal of beauty and perfection does in the west. The difference is that wabi sabi finds grace, value and beauty in the very shadows of the cave.

Wabi sabi is a system of thought and belief that refers to works of art, everyday objects, events and metaphysics.  It is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of life.

Wabi sabi is an acknowledgment of things imperfect, impermanent, incomplete and flawed. Everything wears down and will eventually fade into oblivion and nonexistence. Nothing that exists (by its very nature) is without imperfection. When we look closely, everything has flaws. And it is in that very fact where beauty and truth lie.

In the wabi sabi state of mind, truth comes from observation of nature and greatness exists in simple and overlooked details. Beauty can be teased out of ugliness. Acceptance of the inevitable, appreciation of the perceived cosmic order, doing away with all that is unnecessary and focusing on the intrinsic, is the moral order of this approach.

All things, including the universe itself, are in constant, never ending state of becoming, evolving, separating, dissolving.

And along some point of this ever changing highway, we perch for a few seconds of presence and participation.

Some of us hold on with resolute firmness and make believe that we’ll be here forever.

Others hold on delicately, like exquisite cherry blossoms, until the first strong wind blows them into impermanence.

The journey is everything.

Source: Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, by Leonard Koren

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff February 24, 2011 at 10:45 am

We both know how a life threatening disease can focus one’s attention. Small details takes precedence over larger. Even when we’ve reached that uncharted territory known as “survivorship”, that attention still remains.

As odd is it might sound, after picking up on photography this past summer, I’m finding what you describe above. My camera focus has been on the smaller details rather than the larger landscapes. And I’ve been finding myself these past few weeks taking photos of ice crystals as the winter snow melts down. Seems nothing less permanent than those ephemeral markers. But their images are striking.

Thanks again for a great post and one that gets me thinking and considering – looking forward to more of your insights!

– Jeff

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Liliana February 24, 2011 at 10:58 am

Maybe there is something in that saying that wisdom (and perhaps a fresh way of viewing the world) sometimes come through suffering.

I hope you post some of your photographs on your blog, I’d love to see them.
Best,
L.

Reply

John February 21, 2011 at 8:43 am

Yes.

Thank you.

Reply

Liliana February 21, 2011 at 9:04 am

I was thinking of you, John. Thank you for understanding. Hugs. Liliana

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