Wabi sabi, a Japanese concept of simplicity in beauty has gradually made its way into the English vernacular. Wabi sabi celebrates the beauty of the temporary—impermanence.
The authors of Wabi Sabi House--The Japanese Beauty of Impermanence, can explain it much better than I can:
Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all.
Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.
Let’s break down wabi sabi for deeper understanding:
Wabi stems from the root wa, which refers to harmony, peace, tranquility, and balance. It has come to mean simple, unmaterialistic, humble by choice, and in tune with nature. Someone who is perfectly herself and never craves to be anything else would be described as wabi.
Sabi by itself means "the bloom of time." It connotes natural progression-tarnish, hoariness, rust-the extinguished gloss of that which once sparkled. It's the understanding that beauty is fleeting. Sabi's meaning has evolved into taking pleasure in things that were old and faded. An abandoned barn, as it collapses in on itself, holds this mystique.
There's an aching poetry in things that carry this patina, and it transcends the Japanese. We Americans are ineffably drawn to old European towns with their crooked cobblestone streets and chipping plaster, to places battle scarred with history much deeper than our own. We seek sabi in antiques and even try to manufacture it in distressed furnishings. True sabi cannot be acquired, however. It is a gift of time.
So now we have wabi, which is humble and simple, and sabi, which is rusty and weathered. And we've thrown these terms together into a phrase that rolls off the tongue like Ping-Pong. Wabi Sabi. Enjoy. I have never come across another concept like this one. Have you?
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