Or what I learned from the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi
I love the word wabi-sabi. It sounds interesting, right? Like a delicate Asian dish. Maybe it just reminds me of wasabi. Ok, now I really feel like sushi…
Anyway. I’ve heard about wabi-sabi first when I picked up Leonard Koren’s book Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.
I was intrigued by this Japanese aesthetic. The author introduces wabi-sabi as the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. The beauty of things modest and humble. The beauty of things unconventional. It derives from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence and nurtures authenticity.
When I started reading this book, I realised that the concept resonated with me. I was often overcome with stress and anxiety when it comes to striving for perfection, in my personal life as well as my profession as a writer. Embracing and cherishing parts of myself as being imperfect has given me the chance to relax much more, and those imperfections have sometimes even become trademarks over the years.
Another area in my life that has been enriched by this concept is the acceptance of the impermanence of things. Trying to welcome change in life, which is inevitable, instead of resisting it, has eased many frustrations and heartaches like me dealing with the first grey hairs, wrinkles, and a changing body in general as well as relationships that undergo changes or end. It has helped me dealing with the reality of the abrupt ending of my relationship with my father who died unexpectedly a few years ago.
Finally, the concept of wabi-sabi has made me more conscious in terms of the material things I surround myself with. Instead of immediately replacing older or broken items like a chipped cup (which can be easily turned into a new home for a cactus), a weathered wooden table or clothes I’ve had for a while, I look at those items with new eyes and maybe repurpose them or just accept the fact that things can’t look brand-new once I’ve had them for a certain period of time. I now appreciate the story these items tell instead of going out and replacing them as radically as I did in the past.
Our fast-paced culture often urges us to immediately discard and replace broken or worn objects, instead of finding more creative ideas. As we’re still living through strange times of this pandemic however, it is sometimes a bit harder to find a quick replacement. This is a great opportunity to give older, worn, or broken items a second life and be inventive at the same time.
A new life for old things
Old glass jars or chipped mugs can be turned into pots for plants, vases as well as containers for cutlery, brushes, or pens. You can use them as they are or paint or decorate them to fit the look of your interior design style.
Another example are old newspapers, magazines, or books. Although we are tempted to throw them out without thinking twice, they can be repurposed as paper to paint on, create collages with or make blackout poetry from. Old books you no longer want to keep can also become a gift for someone else.
Wabi-sabi as a concept feels very gentle to me, thus it ties in well with the idea of repurposing. It has spurred the idea of appreciating the things and relationships I have, and it has helped me understand that change is inevitable. It also ties in with a simpler, more mindful, and authentic lifestyle in my opinion, and it animates to dig deeper for more creative solutions.
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