Wabi-sabi: A Way of Life


Wabi-sabi is satisfaction. A deep, profound romance with everything “real” and “raw”. It is on the opposite spectrum of the Western society’s romance with Greek beauty. It is the Japanese art telling a tale about modesty, quiescence, and a beauty seldom understood. Having no set definition and varying with interpretations, I’ll try to keep it simple with what I’ve learnt about it so far. Wabi-sabi is composed of two words: “wabi” poetically meaning simple, humble and in tune with nature, “sabi” referring to impermanence, the fleeting time. Together, these words tell us to appreciate everything that is imperfect and impermanent.

I cannot remember exactly how I was introduced to this concept, but I know that it is one of the most comforting things this world has to offer. The burden of achieving perfection and the cruelty of time affects most. It has become nearly impossible to sit down and not be discontent with something around you. I was always very careful with my books; trying to keep the pages from folding and not applying a lot of pressure. I realized that subconsciously, I have a lot of objects that I treated like my books. It might not seem like a really big problem to some, but looking at it from an emotional, a more deeper aspect, we need to realize how these little things are constantly affecting our peace of mind. I do realize now that how I was feeling was silly. It took me time to appreciate the beauty of a well-thumbed book. As I kept of reading about wabi-sabi, I have learnt about its many facets. It is not just about objects, but something deeper and emotional. To some it’s not just appreciating the beauty of objects with time, but also being content with what you have and cutting ties with the yearn to possess grand and perfect things. Society focuses on grandness and perfection but even then, doesn’t possessing something “vintage” gives us a sense of comfort and indescribable happiness? Ask yourself why do we feel that way. The object is used, has seen the passage of time but we still appreciate it. Maybe humans somehow possess a connection with wabi-sabi without knowing it.

Learning to be content needs a change in our perspective. A change from perfecting to appreciating the transience nature of our possessions. Rid yourself of what is not necessary. There is nothing more soothing than being content with all the little things in life. Look closely at things and appreciate the little imperfections. We are shallow with how we treat our belongings. We may not look at a wooden chair that closely and see how time has slowly affected it but we will care a lot about a leather jacket we possess. The aging is more visible and “personal”. Learning to treat your belongings equally and appreciating the dynamism of time brings us closer to wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is simple in its essence. It is comfort we can attain easily with little changes in our perspective, but we just need to learn how and where to look.

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