Wabi Sabi is Not Food, But You Can Eat It!

I often take notice of things around me that don’t seem to fit in their current environment. These objects have a simplistic way of standing out amongst all of the organized things that coordinate. In a way, these items disorient my mind as my mind searches for organization. Out of this, a state of mind arises. This state of mind enables an appreciation for this disorganization. Interestingly, when we take a closer look we find that this is not a disorganized object at all.

We see that this items has been subject to what is called Wabi Sabi. Wabi Sabi is not a food, but your mind can feast upon the fruits learned from this philosophy. Wabi Sabi is a state of mind, or consciousness, in where you see beauty amongst the seemly imperfect. The mind has a way of trying to organize everything into places, boxes, categories, and labels. When it can accomplish this, it has a hard time “understanding” what it is that it sees. Wabi Sabi is the beauty of imperfections and the fact that everything is passing, transient, temporary. This is a way of appreciating what is at the present time. This could be man made, natural, or altered in some way. There is no act involved in this appreciation, this is a mental clearing of our attempting to create labels on everything we encounter. This has been a difficult thing to define(categorize), even though there have been many attempts over the centuries of this Japanese philosophy. 


Leonard Koren, author of “Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers,” tried to discover and convey a precise definition while researching his book. He eventually created his own definition, which has become standard for authors in the West: “Wabi sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental.


When I look at natural materials in jewelry, art, pottery, sculpture, I find that I’m more prone to be atttracted to materials with natural imperfections, or that mimic natural imperfections in nature. I come across this most often when buying items for decor experimentation. Funny that the highest quality fabrics and home accessories are more expensive and usually less beautiful. They’re uniform, with no accidental dents and missing chunks or of other minerals mixed in. There’s aren’t any natural variation in color or texture. Wabi Sabi, therefore creates a sense of excitement in the unknowingness of what is to be expected.

We must keep ourselves in check in this world of mass imperfection. There is that inward challenges as people to make things as “perfect” as possible. When we do this we tend to miss what is already perfect as it is. This is a very special way to view the world. First look for what is already right with what you are attempting to change. If you first establish this, you will see that the road to “perfection” is much shorter because there is already a lot RIGHT with it. This can be applied to situations, people, objects, businesses, and so forth. The essence of Wabi Sabi applied to our daily life would be to see the imperfects as beauty first before we take actions. In our society simplicity is often rhetoric for a life that’s meticulously organized, labeled, pursuing  perfection.

We’re brought up to strive for the best of the best, the brightest, and most extraordinary available. There is no intrinsic problem with this. However, have do we take it to far? It may not be natural to us to seek pleasure in the ugly, let alone this Japanese concept that celebrates rust. I find the idea of striking the idea of perfect and even good enough irresistibly tempting in some contexts in the pursuit of seeing the beauty of what is. In life – the oily fingerprints on the glass, the deep scars,  and storytelling laugh lines  is itself intrinsically perfect. We need to simply view this world looking for the beauty where there seems to be none. Only then will we be able to embrace the beauty in the perfectly imperfect.



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