Main » Articles » Wabi-sabi

Wabi-Sabi - The Culture of Simplicity

The Culture of Simplicity

The sixteenth-century Japanese tea master and Zen monk, Sen no Rikyu, refined the culture of Wabi-Sabi.


Wabi-Sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is the beauty of things unconventional.

Wabi-Sabi-deep, multi-dimensional, alusive - is the perfect antidote to the pervasively slick, saccharine, corporate style of beauty.     

Get rid of the unnecessary. Wabi-Sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. "Material poverty, spiritual richness" are wabi-sabi bywords. In other words, wabe-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success---wealth, status, power and luxury---and enjoy the unencumbered life.

Obviously, leading the simple wabi-sabi life requires some effort, and will, and also some tough decisions. Wabi-Sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: let things be. Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things. Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom from things.

Mud, paper and bamboo have more intrinsic wabi-sabi qualities than do gold, silver and diamonds.

"Greatness" exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details. Wabi-sabi represents the exact opposite of the Western ideal of great beauty as something monumental, spectacular and enduring. Wabi-sabi is about the minor and the hidden, the tentative and the ephemeral: things so subtle and evanescent they are invisible to vulgar eyes.

Like homeopathic medicine, the essence of wabe-sabi is apportioned in small doses. As the dose decreases, the affect becomes more potent, more profound. The closer things get to nonexistence, the more exquisite and evocative they become. Consequently, to experience wabi-sabi means you have to slow down, be patient and look very closely.

Things wabi-sabi are unpretentious, unstudied and inevitable looking. They do not blare out, "I am important" or demand to be the center of attention. They are understated and unassuming yet not without presence or quiet authority. Things wabi-sabi easily coexist with the rest of their environment.

Things wabi-sabi are appreciated only during direct contact and use; they are never locked away in a museum. Things wabi-sabi have no need for the reassurance of status or the validation of market culture. They have no need for documentation of provenance.

Things wabi-sabi can appear course and unrefined. They are usually made from materials not far removed from their original condition within, or upon, the Earth and are rich in raw texture and rough tactile sensation. Their craftsmanship may be impossible to discern.

Simplicity is at the core of things wabi-sabi. the essence of wabi-sabi, as expressed in tea, is simplicity itself: fetch water, gather wood, boil the water, prepare tea, serve to others.

The simplicity of wabi-sabi is best described as the state of grace arrived at by sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence. The main strategy of the intelligence is economy of means. Pare down to the essence, but don't remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don't sterilize.(Things wabi-sabi are emotionally warm, never cold.) Usually this implies a limited palette of materials.

It also means keeping conspicuous features to a minimum. But it doesn't mean removing the invisible connective tissue that somehow binds the elements into a meaningful whole. It also doesn't mean in any way diminishing something's "interestingness", the quality that compels us to look at that something over, and over again.

      MODERNISM                              WABI-SABI     
      Logical, rational world-view             Intuitive world-view     
      Absolute                                       Relative     
      Universal, prototypical solutions      Personal solutions     
      Mass-produced / modular               One-of-a-kind / variable     
      Expresses faith in progress            There is no progress     
      Future-oriented                              Present-oriented     
      Believes in control of nature            Believes nature uncontrollable     
      Romanticizes technology               Romanticizes nature     
      People adapting to machines          People adapting to nature     
      Geometric organization of form        Organic organization of form     
      The box as a metaphor                   Open bowl as a metaphor     
      Artificial materials                           Natural materials     
      Ostensibly slick                             Ostensibly crude     
      Needs to be well maintained            Accommodates degradation     
      Intolerant of ambiguity                     Comfortable with ambiguity     
      Everlasting                                     To every thing a season

Category: Wabi-sabi | Added by: justonedot (2014-06-11)
Views: 209 | Rating: 0.0/0
Total comments: 0
Name *:
Email *:
Code *: