Lately I've been thinking a lot about the japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi (侘寂). I feel very attracted to its concept. But what is wabi-sabi? What is your point of view on this matter?

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What is wabi sabi? Eduardo, you ask a very deep and interesting question. I am certainly no expert in the concept of wabi sabi, but for many years, I have studied Japanese aesthetics [and still feel like a child trying to understand adulthood]. Understanding the beauty of simplicity and imperfection, emptiness and aging in nature, in man-made objects, seems to be a path that you have already started to walk upon. The beauty of minimalism.

Still the idea of wabi sabi is not superficial, that which can be seen on the surface, it is the essence of the thing, the object, the environment, the feeling that is gained by experiencing these things, objects, environments . . . that which connects the observer to the simplicity of nature, the desolation of being; the degradation of life, but yet the beauty that is gained by the aging of the thing, the object, the environment, a life.

In Hawaiian culture, they have a word, mana. It is very complex, like the concept of wabi sabi, in that is not just an aesthetic, but an ingrained way to view the world around us. Mana is a form of spiritual energy that can exist in places, objects and people. This energy can be transferred, gained or lost, by the actions of those who interact with these places, objects and people. Wabi sabi is like this in that it is something that is connected to one's soul, an energy, that can enhance or degrade one's self by direct actions and interactions.

Scant words about a larger subject. But perhaps a koan to start your journey.

Please share any understanding you may come upon.


Keith, thank you for your answer. Very insteresting.

Maybe wabi sabi is like poetry: it's not what it means but how does it feels. But to look at something and say "this is wabi sabi", that must be a very difficult thing to achieve. I believe that sometimes we perceive things in a manner that no words can describe that perception. Like finding something never seen before. That must be the case with wabi sabi.

Like minimalism. You can feel it, but you can't sometimes describe it. You know exactly when the essential is achieved but you can't say how it's done because is not a matter of technique or formula.

These are things of the heart. These are things of the soul. Very deep things indeed.

I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I've enjoyed her methods, like handling each object and asking, "Does this spark joy?"I've been organizing my creative space using her methods with great success. Richard Powell, "[w]abi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." (Powell, Richard R. (2004). Wabi Sabi Simple. Adams Media. ISBN 1-59337-178-0.) My studio project will not last and will probably never be finished, let alone perfected. 

Your question made me think of this and my current project, because I've never heard of wabi-sabi before. Thank you for this opportunity to learn about it! 

You're welcome. Thank you for your participation in this discussion. :)

Maybe wabi-sabi will inspire you even more in your project.

I'll check about those books when I have time.

Thank you very much.

A point of view

Great! :D

I love Richard Powell's quote from Suzanna, "nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect." As I was telling my husband that it seems the essence of wabi-sabi is to mimic nature in it's imperfect perfection he said "wow, lasts, it's finished and it's perfect". I think he's onto something.

That's an interesting perspective on "nothing". Never thought about it that way.

That sounds so peaceful. :)

just read this now carolyn and find it a very powerful image.

your grandmother's house will be with me this evening.  thanks for that.



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