S+ Stimulant: Wabi-Sabi


Wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

Like sinking into the dips and folds of your favorite jeans, or opening a wooden box that’s worn in all the right ways, the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi settles into the warmth and beauty inherent in our imperfect, authentic world.

Mass, cheap manufacturing has rendered it relatively easy — both financially and logistically — to replace broken possessions with new ones. Warranty programs promise exchanges if you’re not satisfied. We can ‘upgrade’ our cell phones every year or two. Newer is better, we’re told.

Wabi-sabi, like a wise grandmother, balks at this view, and asks us to stop and reconsider it as well. Instead of pining after shiny, sleek newness, wabi-sabi proposes an appreciation of process. Examine the favorite chapter that an old book opens up to automatically; feel the smoothed edges on a dresser; squint at the faded images on a coffee mug. Someone has been here. Someone has lived through these objects. They carry their memory and experiences.


Image Credit: Handlebar #2 by Christopher Paquette


L.N. 2016


Published: June 23rd, 2016

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