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  • Cracks on a plate, a stain on a couch, a room slightly askew, a wrinkle on a face.

  • For most of us, these things are to be avoided, replacedor at the very least, they're less than desirable.  

  • We turn away from signs of imperfection, of damage, of impermanence.

  • We yearn for the idealsthe symmetrical and youthful; the timeless and undamaged; the absolute and perfect.

  • Western tradition wields reason and order as its choice of weapons in the war against the universe.

  • So-called laws and truths from battles-thought-won hang over its mantel.

  • Ideals burn in its hearth.  

  • But this fire requires constant feeding.

  • And it is always on the brink of burning outcollectively and individually.

  • For many of us, it already hasthe hope that anything may be discovered or obtained that will make the coldness of the universe go away has been lost.

  • For others of usperhaps we've been engulfed by the fireburning ourselves up with relentless desire

  • For those looking to better deal with the hot and cold of existencewho might struggle with impossible goals of perfection, certainty, and permanenceone idea that is tremendously useful is the Japanese concept known as wabi-sabi

  • In the 12th century, a Japanese Buddhist Monk namednin created the first independent Zen Buddhist school in Japan.

  • This formally introduced ideas and principles from Chan Buddhism to the Japanese world.

  • Central to Buddhism is the idea that suffering is an inevitable part of existence.

  • More specifically, suffering arises out of the tension between our desire and the nature of reality.

  • We desire things like permanence, perfection, and certainty, but the universe (which we are inextricably apart of) is in constant flux, subject to a process of changetransience, and imperfection.

  • As a result of Zen's introduction and development in Japan, over time, this transient and imperfect condition of reality would soon be uniquely viewed as an ally to meditate on and make peace withrather than an enemy to contend against.  

  • By around the 15th century, two terms would come together to embody this view and becomecentral part of Japanese culture, aesthetics, and philosophy: together, these terms are wabi-sabi

  • Although there is no direct English translationwabi-sabi essentially describes the view (or experiences) where beauty and virtue are found in the impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete

  • From an aesthetic point of view, wabi-sabi values what is visually incomplete, worn, damagedunsymmetrical or minimalistic.

  • Artwork that is considered wabi-sabi often emphasizes the process as opposed to the end result.

  • And moreoverthe end result is often maintained and used past the point in which it still appears fresh, new, or undamaged.

  • Visual artist Richard Powell said, "Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

  • For example, a popular style of Japanese pottery that follows the principles of wabi sabi is known as raku pottery.

  • This style of pottery is often hand-shaped, fired at low temperaturesand left to cool in the open air, resulting in porous, inconsistent, and uniquely shaped vessels.

  • This outcome and process intentionally puts an emphasis on simplicity and naturalness.  

  • Another Japanse practice known as kintsugi involves the repairing of broken pottery by covering the cracked areas with powdered goldsilver, or platinum, mending the vessel back together.  

  • The mended cracks are intentionally left prominent, viewed as beautiful, enhanced parts of the piece.

  • Through both raku and kintsugi practices, the imperfect and damaged aspects of the ceramic ware are seen as beautiful, positive portrayals of the natural experience of existence

  • From a more philosophical view, mirroring its aesthetics, wabi-sabi values living simplyfinding peace in the temporariness of all things, and embracing what is flawed and incomplete in nature, life, and oneself.

  • Signs of these things and ways of living in harmony with them represent a more honest and useful idea of perfectionthe perfection of imperfection.

  • For examplearound the 13th to 15th century, Japanese tea ceremonies were popularly used by the ruling class of Shoguns as a way of displaying wealth,

  • using extravagant ceramic ware to sip tea inside of lavishly ornamented rooms under a full-moon.

  • In 1488, howeverZen monk Murata Shuko would redefine the tea ceremony based on principles of wabi-sabi.  

  • It would soon become customary for the tea ceremony to be conducted using simple ceramic ware produced by Japanese artisans, often using raku or kintsugi practices,

  • and the tea would be sipped while sitting in minimalistic settings under partial-moons or cloudy night skies.

  • The Japanese tea ceremony would become a worship of the simple and imperfect

  • Although there are seemingly key attributes to things that we find beautiful, there are also ways of thinking and seeing things that create beauty.

  • Beauty is not merely based on what things we are perceiving, but how we are perceiving things—a phenomenon contingent on the mind.  

  • If we wish to see more beauty in life, as life really isit is thus up to us to do so.

  • Wabi-sabi offers a lens through which we can more easily do this; a way to more frequently experience beauty in and derive peace from the true conditions of reality.  

  • "Beauty," writes artist Leonard Koren, "can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness.

  • The beauty of wabi-sabi is in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly.

  • Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else.  

  • Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view.  

  • Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousnessan extraordinary moment of poetry and grace."

  • There is nothing inherently wrong with continually striving for something closer to perfectionbut in truth, the distance between good and perfect is infinite.

  • Wabi-sabi reminds us to not depend on ever finally arriving.

  • It reminds usrather, that the process is part of the resultsthat the beauty of things is largely in our mind, and that nothing in nature is perfectcomplete, or permanent.

  • And if nature can't make it that way, why would we think we can

  • On one hand, wabi-sabi refers to and describes an important part of Japanese history and culture;  

  • but on the other, it refers to a philosophical idea and aesthetic experience deeply relevant to us all.

  • Everything we try will fail in some way.

  • Everything we finish will be some amount   incomplete.

  • Everything we know, everything we cherish, everything that works right nowwill decay, fall apart, and disappear back into nothingness.

  • This is something we all must contend with.

  • We can thrash against and resist it, which naturally and inevitably, we will.

  • But we can also try our best, whenever possible, to accept this reality, to find the beauty and virtue within it.

  • In learning to embrace things as they are, not how we want them to be, in every crack on a platestain on a couch, wrinkle on a face, room slightly askew,

  • we can see beauty, we can see truthwe can see the oneness of nature that connects all things.

  • In the words of David Foster WallaceIf you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable.

  • But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options.

  • It will actually be within your power to experience . . . situation[s] as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowshipthe mystical oneness of all things deep down.

  • Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true.

  • The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.

  • Wabi-sabi may not be everyone's taste.

  • And moreover, arguablyeven for those for whom it is, no one can ever totally embrace imperfection, impermanenceor incompleteness.

  • But perhaps in our own imperfect abilities to ever fully embrace imperfection, we are, in a way, nonethelessstill embodying the idea of wabi-sabi perfectly.

Cracks on a plate, a stain on a couch, a room slightly askew, a wrinkle on a face.


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The Art of Letting Things Happen | A Japanese Philosophy That Will Change How You Think(The Art of Letting Things Happen | A Japanese Philosophy That Will Change How You Think)

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    happynostalgia2 に公開 2023 年 07 月 17 日