The Art of the Imperfect

11 07 2012

As I head into the second half of my summer grad courses, I’m thinking a lot about wabi-sabi. And although traditionally those words don’t necessarily belong together and the actual meaning doesn’t translate well into English, we’ve taken bits and pieces of the meaning to create our own concept. Part of wabi-sabi is finding beauty in imperfection. The old, worn, cracked have a special beauty all their own. Peeling paint, stained upholstery, threadbare carpet all tell a story. Life is lived; things have happened in these places.That alone makes them beautiful, but they also have a deeper beauty for those who take the time to study them.

If you can find beauty in a rusting wrought iron chair, a fallen tree, a cracked sidewalk then you have the eye of an artist and the soul of a poet.

Take a closer look at things that have lost their patina. What do you see? What events have occurred here? What joys and sadness do these pieces hold? What stories can they tell now that the shiny newness has worn off?

Many cultures also revere people as they age.  Although their outer coverings become saggy, wrinkled, and age-spotted, they look on the world with knowing eyes. They have learned skills, have gained knowledge and understanding, and have grown in wisdom.  Their inner beings have been tried by fire, that often leaves behind gold nuggets. What can they tell us about life? What life lessons have we learned ourselves from our years of living that we can share?

To my mind, wabi-sabi doesn’t only mean appreciating time-worn objects, it also means allowing for your own mistakes. It means seeing that which you are ashamed of, embarrassed by, discouraged by as openings. Openings that allow you to embrace imperfection, accept it, and love it. Give yourself the grace of appreciation. What can you find to appreciate about the mistakes in your life?

Expand enough to to allow for mistakes and you’ll grow exponentially. Fear of making mistakes often keeps us stuck in old patterns, habits, ruts. It keeps us from experimenting with new things or spreading our wings. If we leave the judgment behind and embrace our imperfections, we can soar to new heights.

Birds flying