Beauty abides in all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
Beauty flourishes in things modest and humble.
Beauty is unconventional.
I don’t remember when I became aware of the words wabi-sabi, but I do remember my fascination with them, and how my friends at the time who were steeped in spiritual questing used the term endlessly. I had no conceptions around the term, either preconceived or conceived, and was free to let my mind wander and ponder the lovely sounding combination that wabi-sabi made when spoken aloud. Over time, words and images associated with wabi-sabi made their way into my consciousness. I resisted, not wanting to reduce the lovely words to some formulaic description and meaning.
My thoughts and feelings have changed about many things, but wabi-sabi remains something that I have no desire to define. Contemplating the world according to wabi-sabi has taught me numerous things: that truth comes from the observation of nature, and beauty can be found in what we traditionally think of as ugly. From the observation of nature, including human nature, I learned to appreciate cosmic order. I understood early on that it is best to get rid of all that is unnecessary—I am still working on that one.
Wabi-sabi was not and is still not a concept that I want in the rational part of my Western brain. For me, it is a way of being and perceiving, something that is invoked when I look at certain things. A feeling that is directly transmitted from “the thing” I am looking at to me. A way of being that evolves out of direct experience. Not rational in the least. I like that. Categorizing and classifying is useful for some things, not for others. Wabi-sabi is alive and constantly in the process of being. Incomplete. Honest in its incompleteness. A perception. Reason is subordinate to perception in the world of wabi-sabi.
According to wabi-sabi, things are either devolving into or evolving out of nothingness—a point I have been pondering a lot these days, given the current state of affairs on the world stage. It is unclear to me whether, in fact, we are devolving or evolving or some combination of the two. It is simplistic to think we are all devolving, simply because there are noisy, murderous thugs about. There have always been noisy, murderous thugs on the world stage.
So we continue to destruct and construct simultaneously… in constant motion towards and away… away and towards.
And I continue my journey towards living a wabi-sabi life. One that considers the subtle and delicate balance between the pleasure I get from things and the pleasure I get from being free of things. Living simply without crossing into austerity or inviting boredom. Living within an economy of means. Engaging the poetry in limitation and impermanence. Remaining emotionally available and warm. Living with a willingness to look again and again at that which engages, seeing it constantly with a new eye. That is the challenge.