The beauty of imperfection

Wabi-sabi, a concept that doesn’t have a direct translation in English, is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic rooted in Taoism and Zen Buddhism. At its core, it tells us that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect — but yet there’s vast, deep-rooted beauty in all impermanent, incomplete, and imperfect things. It is the beauty of unconventionality, modesty, humbleness, asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, intimacy, and the appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes, including the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. A view diametrically opposed to the ancient Greek ideals of beauty and perfection, which are based on symmetry, radiance, majesty, grandness, immutability, eternity, broadness — and which still shape the worldview of most of us, westerners.

Today, I deeply believe that we all should, at all times, not only be conscious of, but also willing to celebrate the beauty of such cracks, crevices and the marks that time, weather, and love leave behind in anything, anyone, and even ourselves. And not only in the most common interpretation of the concept of Wabi-sabi, i.e. the aesthetic but also as a mindset, a humanistic view. We must learn to value simplicity and comprehend flaws and complexity; learn to be appreciative, including appreciating each other and ourselves as we all are: impermanent, incomplete, and imperfect — without ornamentation.

Life is pure entropy and the world is full of fissures, and expecting anything different often makes people miserable. Distorted expectations lead to anxiety, disappointment, sadness, depression, and other dysfunctions.

On the other hand, when we escape the Hellenic mindset and augment our perception, instead of continuously interpreting the world in front of us in a tendentiously derogatory manner, and hence creating a diminished perception of life, we become full aware of its profundity and genuine beauty, and we gradually feel more and more empathetic. We start understanding the natural beauty of all things, and find joy in them, and become grateful for them. Deeply grateful. After all, as Leonard Cohen used to sing, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”