How I learnt about Wabi-Sabi (2018)

“Aesthetic beauty is not the purpose. I just find no reason to make things ugly.”

Bondage and beauty is for me closely related. Both on a philosophical and aesthetical level. I truly enjoy the japanese imagery of bondage which is often related to suffering and mortality. It is often referred to as Wabi-Sabi, which is sometimes translated to the beauty of imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. A couple of years ago I wanted to learn about this. Many people said that only a japanese can truly understand Wabi-Sabi. But I wanted to try and here is my journey into the world of japanese aesthetics for those who want to follow in my footsteps.

The first step was two short books written by an expat in Japan. The books compare Wabi-Sabi aesthetics and modern architecture and design. Wood and mud vs. concrete and glass, permanence vs. decay, and organic vs. hierarchal. The books are very hippstery and perfect if one want to sound educated about japanese aesthetics with minimal effort. Both books refers to the tea ceremony as birthplace of Wabi-Sabi.

The second step was a book written more than 100 years ago, simply the Book of Tea. It explains the history of the japanese tea ceremony. As an countermovement to the chinese very hierarchical tea ceremony. Japanese tea was for everyone to be reminded about the beauty in imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion. One of the last chapters makes the connection to Taoism. Tao coming from Chinese Dao or Do, which means the way of live life.

The last step was a book about how the way, or Tao has influenced japanese martial arts, handicrafts, and arts. It tries to breakdown the concepts (like Ma, the distance between things in time and space) and explain how they are applied in various practices. In the few japanese arts that I have practiced this is normally not explained but something that comes along as an underlying context.

And this is how it circles around to rope for me, because the japanese teacher I have studied with applies these concepts, without speaking about it directly. Maybe they are aware, maybe not. But it really doesn’t matter, I believe, because this knowledge is transferred by Doing, not Speaking. It is also funny that Doing is the Do, or the Dao, or the Tao, that is the way. If you follow my footsteps, or take another path, please feel free to write me because I would love to exchange more knowledge about the way.