Wabi-Sabi, for Subway Commuting, Power Suit Wearing, On the Go Eating, Game Players

Leonard Koren describes Wabi-Sabi as:

“Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of the thing imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of all things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of things unconventional.”
(Koren, p. 7)

I read through Mr. Koren’s book in two very quick subway sittings. I then took a step back and made my self really read the book and absorb everything it contained, and then I read it again. The book now has notes in the margins, sticky tabs everywhere and looks as though it has been loved by three people.

Without giving too much of this book away, there are a few key words that stood out to me that I want to focus on for this post:

Preservation – Koren states that even though Wabi-Sabi may not be for everyone, it is still everyone’s responsibility to preserve the idea of it. He uses the example of the “electronic reader”, something I have been fighting against for along time. I can’t even count the times I have had one of these offered to me when someone sees my extensive collection of books. Maybe I am little bit more offended than I should be but the day I hold a e-reader instead of a real book is the end of my strive for Wabi-Sabi immersion. I apologize to my boyfriend who has to deal with the mountain of books that surrounds us and to all the friends that have helped move the library over the years. The books are here to stay.  

Rustic – When someone sees Wabi-Sabi the first thing that typically comes to mind is “Rustic”. Although traditional rustic characteristics only represent part of what Wabi-Sabi entails, it is the nature of what initially jumps out to the eye.

Modernism: Basically the opposite of Wabi-Sabi. I can really appreciate present-oriented view of Wabi-Sabi vs. the future-oriented view of modernism. It’s hard in our everyday life not to get caught up in always thinking farther and farther ahead, staying grounded and in the moment. 

The Wabi-Sabi Universe: The essence of the Wabi-Sabi universe is that things are either evolving from or devolving to nothingness. This particular concept was important to me when designing my logo. I knew I wanted a tree to represent the connection to nature but I also wanted small leaves on the tree. In this sense you can’t tell wether the tree is in a spring time bud period, a fall colouring changing period or if the leaves are dropping in the cold of winter. 

As I mentioned before, I don’t want to give too much of this book away. It is a great read for anyone who wants to understand more about Wabi-Sabi and the concepts that surround it. I highly suggest taking the time to devote to this book in your busiest, most chaotic, and process overloading of places. There is something special about being able to take out a worn book on the subway and get lost in the world of imperfectness, impermanence, incompleteness, modesties, humbleness and unconventionally.

Since I am at a transition stage in life right now I am going to borrow one of the moral precepts that Koren discusses, “Get rid of the unnecessary”. A big move is the perfect time to purge, peg, and prioritize belongings and this will be happening in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for the next blog post as I try to find freedom from my possessions. 

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers
Leonard Koren’s – Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Koren, L. (1994). Wabi-sabi for artists, designers, poets & philosophers. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press.

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