Wabi-Sabi: A Japanese Art to Embrace the Change

Wabi-Sabi: A Japanese Art to Embrace the Change

In order to understand Wabi-Sabi, let me ask you a question: When was the last time you cherished that odd looking nose of yours? Or your receding hairline, your dark circles that you hide behind your spectacles or those lines on your face getting clearer every day?

We all know the answer, which is never. In addition, I have seen many people being stressful that they are aging and losing their looks. In other words, why would someone celebrate something that shows his/her weaknesses, which make you feel embarrassed or which is not cool?

Although, maybe it doesn’t fit in your definition of cool but it has it’s own identify, own story behind it. With this in mind, learning to accept these flaws is a way of living originated in Japan. This art of living is known as Wabi-Sabi.

Japanese Tea Set representing Wabi-Sabi
Japanese Tea Set

What does Wabi-Sabi Teach Us?

Wabi-Sabi teaches us to accept things as they are. For example, accept your flaws, embrace them and learn to live with them. This seems logical, right? Additionally, if you are not willing to accept your imperfection or flaws, they will find a way to haunt you and not to mention, make your life a living hell.

Embrace them because every scar on your body shows your experience and struggle in life. Similarly, every laugh line on your face shows that you have enjoyed life so far with a smile on your face.

To illustrate, ever since I was a kid, I have known Japanese as most hard-working people in the world. My parents used to love them. For example, I remember they told me once that Japanese do not waste anything, not even a small thing which we throw away in a trashcan. They always find a way to make it reusable in a very impressive way. As a result, they have evolved themselves as one of the most well developed nations in the world.

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Wabi-Sabi is a ritual to celebrate simplicity, authenticity and natural degradation of beauty with use or age. In other words, it is ritual to accept and embrace nature’s course of action: the things we can not change and are bound to happen. It teaches us to accept the change. Additionally, In “The Unknown Craftsman,” Japanese art critic Soetsu Yanagi mentions,

“We in our own human imperfections are repelled by the perfect, since everything is apparent from the start and there is no suggestion of the infinite.”

-Soetsu Yanagi

Don’t be Ashamed of the Change:

In fact, Wabi-Sabi is not just a philosophy, it’s a fact that most people try to deny. They hide their grey hair or face lines, clearly because they don’t want the world to see them. Why? Because they are ashamed of it.

Above all, if you are not comfortable in your own skin and not ready to accept that you are not perfect then you are just a miserable human being. You will always remain miserable until the day of acceptance.

However, I’m not saying that you should not dye your hair or work to get rid of your dark circles but don’t feel down if people have seen them. Furthermore, no one is going to change their opinion about you. Above all, you are unique in your own way and you are what you are and let it be that way.

The History of Wabi-Sabi:

The word “Wabi” defines “solitude” and “rustic simplicity” and defines a less-is-more mentality. “Sabi” means “finding joy in the imperfect.” In addition, Wabi-Sabi has a Buddhist background. This art is derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence specifically impermanence, suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature.

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In conclusion, Zen philosophy mentions seven aesthetic principles to adopt a Wabi-Sabi lifestyle:

  • Kanso, which means simplicity
  • Fukinsei, which means asymmetry
  • Shibumi, which defines beauty in the understated
  • Shizen, which means  naturalness without pretense
  • Yugen, which means subtle grace
  • Datsuzoku, which means independence or freeness
  • Seijaku, which means tranquility

Examples of Wabi-Sabi:

The concept of Wabi-Sabi is well regarded in the world. It has influenced Japanese arts for the centuries. As a result, this aesthetic has spread to all over the world. Additionally, Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, promotes the Wabi-Sabi philosophy of design.

The Japanese “wabi-sabi aesthetic” includes Japanese gardens, the Japanese tea ceremony, ikebana, haikus, and Japanese pottery. In addition, Wabi-Sabi has widely influenced the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Similarly, you can see it in a teacup, made by an artist’s hands, cracked or chipped by regular use. These example show that nothing lasts forever, time changes everything.

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