Wabi sabi is the Japanese view of accepting and appreciating imperfection and impermanence. A clay pot would be aesthetically pleasing if the piece was irregular in some manner. Perhaps the roundness of the rim has a bit of a wobble. Maybe the glaze doesn’t have a consistent patina. It is loved as a one of a kind piece, unique in its nature. The art of kintsugi (golden joinery) in BROKEN is another example of this type of aesthetic.
In the home
A home can develop a sense of wabi sabi. Many years ago we refinished some of our hardwood maple floors. While removing the sticky black goo beneath the old kitchen tile from the surface of the beautiful wood, I gouged a chunk out of the floor with a chisel. Our son accidentally left a long scratch while moving the oven across the floor. These blemishes were too deep to be completely sanded down. Initially it was disturbing, but now, it brings back fond memories of our family working together in our home the four of us shared. It represented the process of life, all the more treasured as our son has since passed on to the other side.
Wabi sabi could also be when a young grandchild comes to visit, leaving precious fingerprints on the window. This grandmother could never remove them promptly. After all, these impermanent marks were part of a wonderful visit!
A knitted or crocheted scarf with a few irregular stitches could also be wabi sabi. It is a unique quality that could not be repeated, evidence that it was made by hand with love and intent.
Wabi Sabi Moment
One of the most perfectly imperfect wabi sabi moments I’ve ever encountered was during our son’s sixth grade band concert. A large audience was gathered in our high school gym. Following the whole group band numbers, some of the students shared their solos.
An ideal atmosphere for a solo is a very quiet room. This was anything but that.
Shortly after our son began his saxophone solo, a woman in the audience lost consciousness. He continued making music. Someone called emergency services. His song went on. Soon the loud town siren screamed outside. His melodies lingered. Eventually, a flood of paramedics checked the vital signs of the woman who had regained consciousness. His soothing sax persisted. The woman was carried out on a cot. His harmonies eventually reached the finale. We followed with applause. Our son had an apparent acceptance of the imperfection of this moment in time, however, he rose above it. His uncanny focus seemed to provide a calming effect to the entire scenario. It was the only solo I’ve heard performed with chaos as an accompaniment. It was certainly a one of a kind wabi sabi moment!
This article compares perfectionism to healthy striving. Of course, wabi sabi would be the latter! https://cmhc.utexas.edu/perfectionism.html
Here the BBC details the perils of various psychological disorders brought on by perfectionism. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180219-toxic-perfectionism-is-on-the-rise
May you cling to that which is imperfect – it is your healthiest option!