A long time friend and follower of each of my blogs* asked upon this current one’s launch two weeks ago, “What is wabi sabi?” to which I rather cryptically replied, “the tagline.”
Wabi Sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of what we think of as traditional Japanese beauty. It occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West. Wabi Sabi can in its fullest expression be a way of life. At the very least, it is a particular type of beauty.
Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, 1994
Koren writes that wabi sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete…of things modest and humble…of things unconventional.
I first heard the phrase in 2013, when a friend used it to describe my life with Bells Palsy. A few years later, to the day of its sudden, inexplicable onset, I wrote a poem essay, using a word play of wabi sabi and wasabi – that Japanese horseradish served with sushi – to describe that experience. Since then, this notion of wabi sabi has become a way of being in and making sense of life that has persisted, just like the Bells Palsy.
Last winter I had it permanently inked on my forearm, an embodied mantra and talisman to remind me of its persistent truth.
To remind me to be kinder, and more patient, allowing, and more gracious in the face of all that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
In this sometimes broken and mostly well-lived life.