Wabi-sabi offers a refuge from the modern world’s obsession with perfection, and accepts imperfections as all the more meaningful – and, in their own way, beautiful.
Withdrawing my hands reluctantly from the slowly spinning bowl, I watched its uneven sides slowly come to a stop, wishing I could straighten them out just a little more. I was in the ancient pottery town of Hagi in rural Yamaguchi, Japan, and while I trusted the potter who convinced me to let it be, I can’t say I understood his motives.
Smiling, he announced, “it has wabi-sabi” – and whisked the bowl away for firing. I sat, contemplating the lack of symmetry and wondering what on Earth he meant.
As it turns out, failing to understand this phrase is not unusual. A key part of the Japanese Aesthetic – the ancient ideals that still govern the norms on taste and beauty in Japan – wabi-sabi is not only untranslatable, but also considered undefinable in Japanese culture. Often muttered in moments of profound appreciation, and almost always followed by the word muri! (impossible!) when asked to expand, the phrase offers an unusual way to view the world. READ MORE
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