What is Wabi Sabi?

Wabi Sabi is a kind of beauty that exists in weathered or worn objects that contain deep patterns, patina, character, or qualities of authentic individuality.

People who appreciate this type of beauty tend to place a high value on character, meaning, and spiritual experiences. They tend to be artists, writers, coders, and thinkers.

Wabi Sabi objects reveal that nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished. They are broken things, deteriorating things, or things revealing their age.

Philosophically, this is a kind of beauty that accentuates reality. Nature is in constant change but within this every changing kaleidoscope is a constant elegance. Fueki Ryuko describes this aspect of wabi sabi objects.

If this aesthetic is acknowledged and cultivated it provides a balance to the frenetic pace of modern life and affords freedom from the distractions of affluence. By noticing every priceless moment this way of looking at the world produces a lovely lonely mood or melancholy feeling. In its fullest and most expansive form it involved a clarity of perception in which a person sees a thing for what it is without feeling any need to repair or arrest the effects of time, experience, or age. Wabi Sabi sits at the centre of a way of life that moves beyond the pursuit of youth, perfection, and permanence. This way of life was first articulated by the haiku poet Basho and developed into the “Way of Elegance.”

Sabi, the element of wabi sabi that describes the mood of a wabi sabi object, place, or experience, can be appreciated by itself as a key for understanding the enlightenment that is possible through the appreciation of this kind of beauty.

“Sabi was refined over the years to emphasize a state of receptivity, fostered in remote natural settings. This positive aloneness was joined to the wabi appreciation of the understated and unrefined to form a phrase with deep resonance for the contemplative mind. People would dream of living in simple enlightened appreciation of nature.”

– Richard R. Powell from Wabi Sabi for Writers (pg. 7)

“Sabi originally meant the gradual appearance of the inner essence of things.” – Aine in an insightful essay written at Tokyo’s Sophia University.

For a detailed definition of Sabi, see this post.

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