Few summer’s ago, a friend gifted a book, wrapped in a faded crinkled piece of brown paper. As a preview of what is to come, opening the package was an experience in itself. The book, ‘Wabi-Sabi' for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers’ by architect Leonard Koren, was sparce and minimal in its presentation, equally interspersed with text and images. Reading on, quickly revealed the ungraspability of this elusive concept. Like all things ethereal and out of bounds of our understanding of the known world, it is unexplainable in words. It can at best be nonverbally pointed out through images, or tangentially hinted upon, for the healing love and wisdom in this philosophy to be recognised. The word Wabi Sabi, can be said to indicate a verb, ‘a way of being’, and viewing the world from ‘that point of you (view). At it’s spiritual peak, this philosophy propagates, a merging, ‘just perceiving', no perceiver, no perceived.
Wabi Sabi draws its roots from Japanese Zen Buddhism. Its aesthetics is a way of perceiving, centered on accepting and embracing ‘defects and deterioration'. It appreciates and honors the beauty in 'imperfection, incompleteness and impermanence’, reflected in life’s outward movement, through passage of time, wear and tear, decay and eventual inevitable transience. It emphasises and encourages us to slow down, open our senses to the, ‘This, Here and Now' in the present moment, turn to the mystery and uniqueness in the imperfect, the flawed, and find beauty in the simplest and the least pretentious in the world around us. Wabi Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: Nothing lasts forever, No thing is fully done or finished and Not a thing is perfect.
On a material everyday level, an object that is simple, humble and unassuming, that invokes a sense of serenity, a calm earthy groundedness and a meloncholic spiritual longing, is said to exude Wabi Sabi. Beauty is in the beholder’s eye and experience of the object, the atmosphere, the mood and the feeling it evokes in the perceiver. Natural knots on bare wood, raw untreated fabric, chip on a well used ceramic, crevices and indentation on a piece of rock, aged crinkled paper, can all be said to exude Wabi Sabi. On a spacial interior level, decluttering, taking an inventory, downsizing and minimising, identifying and highlighting the focal point in the space and finally positioning each object in its honorable rightful place with it’s essential appreciation space, thus restoring flow, balance and harmony, is a way of achieving and embracing Wabi Sabi.