After a very busy few weeks, I’ve finally found some time to write, and not for others, for me. When life gets stressful, it’s not really an apt time for creativity, rather writer’s block in my case. But in an attempt to distract myself from the tropical temperatures of the Bakerloo line last week, I picked up a copy of Stylist magazine and inadvertently found inspiration.
What is wabi-sabi?
The magazine, or rather Anita Bhagwandas, explores the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi and I couldn’t have been more hooked. Dubbed the new hygge, although in Bhagwandas eyes, a less ‘smug’ version, wabi sabi is about embracing the imperfect. She quotes Leonard Koren, author of ‘Wabi-sabi: For Authors, Designers, Poets & Philosophers’ who defines the concept as:
“Wabi-sabi means the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Think about things that are beautiful for a short time, like autumn. It’s beautiful but it won’t be here much longer. It’s beautiful in this moment, but that beauty is fleeting. It’s a feeling”.
Bhagwandas interprets wabi-sabi as a way to move past perfection, something society and social media tell us to strive towards. Her message is to embrace imperfection, referring to her own make-up ability, her home and her work skills. In other words, to throw out the rule book and embrace the degree of chaos in all our lives. While I agree that the ability to step back and accept imperfection is so important, I feel there’s more to wabi-sabi. And if we were to pursue wabi-sabi, much like hygge, and fill our homes with expensive items to appear effortlessly rustic and imperfect, it defeats the very nature of the concept. To me, wabi-sabi is about perfectly imperfect moments. And often these moments are related to nature; sunsets, stars, seasons, tides. They are things we have no control over, yet find oddly reassuring.
In the article, Koren mentions that the Japanese will picnic under the cherry blossom trees during spring despite the cold weather because they want to enjoy their fleeting beauty after a long winter. Maybe I need to move to Japan, because wabi-sabi encapsulates a feeling I’ve never been able to articulate or describe. It’s that warm sensation you get when watching the sunset or taking in an incredible view.
Bhagwandas does mention that wabi-sabi could be the ‘ultimate version of mindfulness’, and with that I totally agree. In my own ‘wabi-sabi moments’, I imagine a filing cabinet in my mind, take a polaroid and put it inside. I soak in the fleeting moment and try to live it, rather than just record it on my iPhone. And this is something us millennials apparently should do more of. Researching further, I’ve found that the profundity of nature is key to wabi-sabi and embracing the imperfect means embracing things made so by the natural course of weather and time.
As a languages graduate, I find these almost untranslatable ideas, like hygge, so fascinating. How would you interpret wabi-sabi? And have you ever experienced it?
With love, b. xo
P.S what do you think of the new blog design? I hope you like it as much as I do.