Friday, February 22, 2013

Wabi-Sabi Life

Wabi-Sabi. When I first saw these two words I thought they were food-related, having something to do with that spicy green stuff you eat with sushi. You know, that stuff that makes your scalp tingle and your eyes and nose run from the pungent burn from mixing too much in with your soy sauce? Well, I was wrong. Wabi-Sabi is actually a Japanese term or expression used describe an aesthetic or characteristic, generally with a focus on the imperfection and asymmetry of an object. 

I first came across the these words in the title of a book I found at the beautiful design store in Stockholm, Norrgavel. Norrgavel is another place my husband and I have parted with sums of money that could be considered embarrassing or extravagant, were it not for the fact that we love beautifully-designed and hand-crafted furniture and functional art so much. But there at the counter where you check out sat a stack of books about Wabi-Sabi in relation to design. I thumbed through it quickly as I waited to check out. And though I left it there, the memory of it lingered in the back of my mind. 

The next time I happened to meet these two simple words was in an article about Wabi-Sabi sex. I know, what was I doing reading that?! Well, the article was on a site that was not know for having risqué or kinky articles so I figured it would be fairly tame. It actually talked about the same ancient Japanese aesthetic but applied to relationships and accepting the imperfections in your partner. 

This got me to thinking about life in general, with relation to Wabi-Sabi. The Japanese had a good idea. Embracing our imperfections and flaws is part of accepting the flow of life. We are never perfect but as we get older we start to notice more and more imperfections and lament them rather than rejoicing in them. Our imperfections are our stories. They unfold the journey of our life and taking a moment to appreciate and revel in those imperfections is a way of coming back into harmony with ourselves. 

We may not have the physique that we’d like. We may not have the perfect job. We may feel lonely, even surrounded by friends and family, but these imperfections, imbalances even, are the threads that weave our beautiful lives. Take a moment to appreciate some aspect of your life that you feel is imperfect, or even ugly, and choose instead to see the beauty and elegance. Nature is not perfect and yet we see immense beauty in the imperfect ways that mountains jut up into the sky, or the ways that an old, broken-down tree leans off center with gnarled branches. Choose the imperfections and, in those, choose beauty. 

Nature's imperfections... beautiful yellow lichen that covers the rocks of Tjörn, an island off the west coast of Sweden...

Man-made imperfection and asymmetry... viewing the sky through a hole cut into a card...

Imperfections on a raw cement floor create accidental beauty...


  1. Very interesting, I've never heard of this concept - thanks for opening my eyes to it!

    1. You are welcome! I think it's a great way to look at life. :-)