Have you heard of Wabi-Sabi? It’s simple, or at least that’s a part of it. Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese word that represents their world-view and an aesthetic based upon the idea that “nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.” Inspired by Zen Buddhism, Wabi-Sabi is a way of life that is simple, modest, peaceful and in tune with nature. It is about finding beauty in imperfection, celebrating the wearing caused by time and accepting the natural cycles of growth, decay and death.
The word “Wabi” originally meant something desolate and lonely but this has changed over time. It now means something simple, peaceful, modest and unassuming, avoiding a life of materialism and instead living in tune with nature.
The word “Sabi” is about the march of time. It’s about how things change over the ages and its about seeing beauty in the effects of time upon an object. It is about recognising life’s transience and seeing the good in it e.g. enjoying a flower that is only here for a season.
A Wabi-Sabi life is a simple and modest life, not pursuing wealth, power or fame, but living peacefully with nature. A Wabi-Sabi life takes delight in the old, the worn, the rough and the rustic, valuing the natural and simple over the manufactured or perfect. A Wabi-Sabi life acknowledges that all things change, so rather than holding onto people and objects in our lives, we realise they are impermanent and try our best to stay in the present moment, enjoying them while they are here.
Today’s movements that advocate Minimalism, Voluntary Simplicity, eating Organic and living “Slow”, combined with the surge in interest in Taoism and Zen Buddhism, are beginning to bring the Wabi-Sabi world-view to the western world. Whether its in decorating homes, choosing to buy from farmers markets or second hand, de-cluttering, respecting age or turning our backs on the materialistic values of our culture, changes are happening slowly. As a Pantheist, I view this as a good thing and find a lot to admire about the Japanese Wabi-Sabi concept. It is opposed to our western mindset of striving for perfection, of wanting more and more, of valuing the new and shiny over the old and simple, all rooted in a world-view that justifies the exploitation and domination of Nature. If we are to solve the big environmental challenges we face and get back to living in harmony with nature, perhaps this Wabi-Sabi concept can offer us a way forward.