Welcome to Day 20 of 31 Days of Kissing the Wounds, a month of posts about the beauty, longing, and soul inherent in our damaged selves; in the world’s brokenness; in the imperfection, incompleteness, and transience of all that we love; in our recognition of each other as the walking wounded; and in the jagged, messy, splintery, deformed, sullied, unhealed parts of me, you, the natural world, our communities, the culture. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others.
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese worldview or aesthetic directed towards acceptance of transience and impermanence. It combines ideas of being alone and mindful, noticing nature and nature’s patterns, with an appreciation that things are fragile and changing. It is interested in decay, authenticity, things damaged and imperfectly repaired, things weathered and worn, what’s ordinary and simple. It honours scars.
Wabi-sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things. — Andrew Juniper
“Western beauty is radiance, majesty, grandness and broadness.
In comparison, Eastern beauty is desolateness. Humility. Hidden beauty.” — Shozo Kato
“Wabi sabi acknowledges three things: ‘nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished.’ — Richard Powell
The 500-year-old practice of kintsugi (“golden joinery”), “a method of restoring a broken piece with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum,” is integral to wabi-sabi. Kintsugi “conveys a philosophy not of replacement, but of awe, reverence, and restoration.”
Wabi sabi can be linked to the “Three Marks of Existence,” or sanbōin, that are described in Buddhist teaching. Roughly, they describe how all things have impermanence, suffering, and emptiness or absence of self. Buddhism tells us wisdom comes from making peace with these marks, as they are intrinsic to our natures, and wabi-sabi can be seen as a way of practicing this peace and acceptance.
Some simple tableaux found in nature:
They tell how it was, and how time
came along, and how it happened
again and again. They tell
the slant life takes when it turns
and slashes your face as a friend.
Any wound is real. In church
a woman lets the sun find
her cheek, and we see the lesson:
there are years in that book; there are sorrows
a choir can’t reach when they sing.
Rows of children lift their faces of promise,
places where the scars will be.
— William Stafford
Wabi-Sabi and Understanding Japan: A philosophy and aesthetic as worldview, by Jack Richardson, 11 April 2016
Wabi-Sabi: The Beauty of Imperfection at PARALLAX: The Quester’s Companion, by Tai Carmen Woodville, 31 March 2014
WHAT IS WABI-SABI? by architect Tadao Ando, with a section titled “Wabi, Not Slobby”
“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” — Virginia Woolf
Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.