Monday, July 12, 2010

Wabi Sabi

I first encountered the term wabi sabi in pottery class. Laura, my instructor, explained that pottery requires a certain attitude. Clay is a natural product and so one bag is never exactly like the next, it may have more or less sand, iron, bentonite, and other minerals. Hence, you get different results from bag to bag. When fired the clay’s reaction will vary according to air temperature, humidity, the makeup of the pot next to it, and how much tobacco Trish threw into the kiln. Even though you think that what you’ve made is a work of beauty, once you put the piece into the kiln, it’s best to let go. Nature may add a crack, stain the spout, or transform the glaze that was a turquoise the last 27 times you used it into a purplish brown.

But simply letting go is not enough; the attitude of wabi sabi must be developed. The Japanese term means to see beauty in so called “imperfection.” It’s derived from wabi, meaning simple, in tune with nature, and sabi, the changes that happen with time and age.

Last night I watched Kid Rock (who I sometimes like and sometimes don’t) on Storytellers. He told the audience that while a few of his songs may play in places like Baxter or Trinidad, those same songs would never make it on the radio or in Hollywood. They weren’t “smooth”, they had “scars”, dealt with emotions that weren’t nice or pretty, but were honest.

And so now I’m at the point where I apply wabi sabi to me, to the cracks/wrinkles nature has given me without my permission, and see their beauty. To see an age spot as a beauty mark. Okay, I haven’t reached that level yet. How about a freckle?
But even more difficult is to look inside at my rough spots that I think I’ve hidden from the world but still leave tracks and to see their beauty too. My imperfection is also my humanity.
All we create, whether it be with paint, piano, clay, or words has a flaw somewhere, just as the lives we create have flaws. How we got those wrinkles, developed that fear of spiders, or lost our way is our history, our story, which is all we have in the end.

Because we are all wabi sabi, aren’t we?