Thursday, March 24, 2016

Life's Authentic Imperfection Inspired by Japanese Legend Wabi-Sabi

According to Japanese legend, a young man named Sen no Rikyu sought to learn the elaborate set of customs known as the Way of Tea. He went to tea-master Takeeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend the garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, then scrutinized the immaculate garden. Before presenting his work to the master, he shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to spill randomly onto the ground.

To this day, the Japanese revere Rikyu as one who understood to his very core a deep cultural thread known as wabi-sabi. Emerging in the 15th century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all. 

In Japan, the concept is now so deeply ingrained that it’s difficult to explain to Westerners; no direct translation exists.

Broadly, wabi-sabi is everything that today’s sleek, mass-produced, technology-saturated culture isn’t. 

I believe it also doesn't have a translation or existence in the perfections showcased in social media.

Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not shopping malls; aged wood, not swank floor coverings; one single morning glory, not a dozen red roses. 

Wabi-sabi understands the tender, raw beauty of a gray December landscape and the aching elegance of an abandoned building or shed. It celebrates cracks and crevices.

To discover wabi-sabi is to see the singular beauty in something that may first look decrepit and ugly.

Bringing wabi-sabi into your life doesn’t require money, training, or special skills. It takes a mind quiet enough to appreciate muted beauty, courage not to fear bareness, willingness to accept things as they are—without ornamentation.

It depends on the ability to slow down, to shift the balance from doing to being, to appreciating rather than perfecting.

You might ignite your appreciation of wabi-sabi with a single item from the back of a closet, love of an imperfect friend, a connection to a chipped table inherited from a grandparent, failing forward towards a big dream, appreciation of that imperfect job that allows you flexibility to be there for your children, value that one bedroom apartment that's small but affords you peace from not having a roommate...fully appreciating where you are in life: highs, lows, successes and failures. It is YOUR life's wabi-sabi!

Our universal longing for wisdom, for genuineness, for authenticity, for shared history manifests in these things.

And I believe the great Oscar de la Renta had it right: " in a way where you appreciate things." Is that not wabi-sabi defined as the ultimate luxury???

So no matter what's going on in your life right now, remember the wisdom of wabi-sabi...accept the imperfections of your life, like a chipped vase, and be joyous that your life's story is the most "perfect" wabi-sabi.

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