Thursday, December 10, 2020

NY missive no 175 - Wabi Sabi

Since reading Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows a while back I had lost touch with the concept of “wabi sabi”. Then I reconnected with it again when I came across an article about wabi sabi in architecture. It’s one of those terms whose meaning is nestled so securely in its original language and application, in this case Japanese, that much gets lost in translation. From what I’ve read I’m taking it to mean simplicity (not shallow, but deep simplicity), combined with the beauty that objects acquire over time with use. Perhaps the most wabi sabi object we have is the saucepan that C’s mom used to use, with gentle dents in its matte surface from much stirring over the years. 

I imagine wabi sabi can apply to relationships as well as material things. The way that they are formed by accumulated moments and focused interaction – the times that, for example, C has bought me a new item of clothing having spotted I need it and realized I wouldn’t get round to doing so myself, or rubbed my feet at the end of the day, or said something that makes me realize he knows me even better than I do myself (which is often). The way that relationships acquire completely unique markers, and yes, blemishes and imperfections, all of which are infused with an inner light that makes them whole.

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