Ever so often, a new word or a phrase starts trending . It catches everyones fancy and becomes the new ‘it’ word or phrase.
One such word is Wabi Sabi. The curious sounding phrase immediately prompted me to look up its meaning.
So, Wabi Sabi is a Japanese philosophy that focusses on finding beauty within the natural imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay. This philosophy can be applied to objects, people, art and even relationships!
Accepting imperfections and embracing them is perhaps the true meaning of Wabi Sabi.
The term is both difficult to translate but also easy to apply. See, there is imperfection in translation too. And this makes Wabi Sabi intriguing (and thus, attractive.)
It is a philosophy that is both simple ( and complex ) to embrace. It urges you to understand accept yourself with all your flaws, faults, wrinkles and imperfections.
It could also be described as a feeling.
This feeling could be a mix of melancholy and happiness . Its the emotion that you experience when you hold an heirloom Paithani saree that belonged to your grandma , who is no more.
It is this same feeling that you feel when you see your daughter as a bride.
Bittersweet. It evokes both a sense of calm mixed with restlessness.
In our hectic lives, the relentless pursuit of excellence and flawlessness in our relationships, work, career and looks, creates tremendous tension and stress .
But Perfection can boring because it is predictable. One loses interest in anything that is repetitive. (I think thats why pronouns were created)
Its so strange, that on one hand we all strive for perfection and on the other hand, we simply fall in love with imperfection and unpredictability.
It is Wabi Sabi that makes you fall in love with a handwritten letter , rather than a printed note.
The smile which flashes that one crooked tooth, is considered as attractive rather than a flaw.
A dimple on the cheek (which is actually a flaw in a muscle) could be the most beautiful feature of a face.
That is Wabi Sabi for you.
The best example of Wabi Sabi is the Japanese art of “Kintsugi” . In this art form, when a piece of pottery breaks, the pieces are joined together with a paste made of gold flakes.Thereby actually highlighting the crack, instead of hiding it. The result? The pottery looks more beautiful than the original piece.
(The poet laments the lack of leisure time in our lives. This was way back in 1911. I wonder what he would have felt about our current lifestyles.)
The Wabi Sabi philosophy urges you to take a pause and smell the roses. It begs us to appreciate and count our blessings so that we enjoy the process, with all its imbalances and flaws.
Applying Wabi Sabi is very easy . It does not require any special training, extraordinary skills or money.
It requires a mindset to appreciate the inherent beauty in everything, the willingness to accept that everything is incomplete, imperfect and impermanent . If you stop looking for it too hard, it will come and find you.
Just like how I found it when I was decoupaging an old wooden box.(Decoupage is the art of decorating objects with bits of paper).
The box had got stained and had discoloured at certain places. After gently cleaning the surface, it revealed a beautiful patina underneath. The mildew had left behind some amazing colours in the veins of the wood. I chose some colourful paper that I had saved from old magazines and carefully tore the desired pictures. I choose not to cut them because, you see, cutting a paper gives smooth edges to the picture. That’s so boring.
The tearing action pulls out the delicate fibres of the paper, making the edge look fuzzy and soft. Plus tearing paper can be so relaxing, do try it.
I started pasting these papers on the box, taking care not to hide the veins that had the patina. I had to wait for the first layer to dry before I pasted more. That slowed down my pace and I was literally forced to pause, take a step back and review my work.
The nature of this art form ‘allows’ you to review and re-work your decisions. Nothing is permanent. You can always paste over something that you don’t approve of. In fact at times the top layer reveals bits of the lower layer, thus adding to the beauty of the final work! If you rush your work and try to paint or paste over when the glue is wet, the delicate paper will tear off and you will have to start all over again!
However, in the process, I have learnt that these mistakes can ultimately make the artwork more beautiful. In addition to this, the magic of any handmade object has its own charisma, no matter how amateurish or flawed it may be.
Any imperfections in the artwork, enhance the beauty of the final masterpiece.
Imagine if we ‘allowed’ ourselves to be worked on in this way?
Imagine if we ‘allowed’ our relationships to be worked on like this?
We are all masterpieces in progresses. There is beauty in our imperfections and flaws. Wabi Sabi gives you permission to embrace and accept ourselves , warts and all.
Decoupage is forgiving. It is ongoing. It allows you to make mistakes. It helps you to appreciate the beauty in ageing, decaying and unwanted objects It forces you to slow down and to appreciate the journey rather that being in a rush to reach the destination.
Be like decoupage!
I think I have found my way to Wabi Sabi .
May you find yours soon.
Till then, stay happy , healthy and fabulous!