Perfection in Imperfection

Life – The Perfect Imperfection

One of the more profound pieces I have read in recent memory. Wabi sabi describes quite perfectly (or imperfectly) the appeal in the well worn but well kept ramen stall you see in so many pictures like this one:

ramen stall wabi sabi

Okay, maybe not so much. But this one has far less of it:

ramen stall

This is the reason wabi sabi is so hard to explain. Perhaps the first one exuded a little more “charm” than the second one. Both are similarly well kept, but the first one had this aura about it that told you that it saw its fair share of happenings in the time from the way it had some wear and tear in just the right places, something that is completely absent from the spanking new stall.

But history does not alone define wabi sabi, although it does contribute the most to what makes wabi sabi, well wabi sabi. Wabi sabi is also in the imperfectly covered song at the bar. It is in the silly typos on the first drafts, and in the dreadfully crossed out paragraphs on manuscripts. It is in the charming curves of a pottery student’s first work, the grime that cannot be unwashed from the old bicycle frame, and the imperfection of a painted miniature as if to remind the beholder that it was done by human hands.

Perhaps this is why I like wabi sabi so much. Everything that wabi sabi describes has a very distinct human-ness to it. And paraphrasing a quote by Richard Powell in the article, wabi sabi acknowledges three realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

So, next time when you feel a certain “serene melancholy and a spiritual longing” when you are appreciating a certain scene or piece of art, you know what to google for. At least it’s a cuter word than rustic.


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Hankit Mok

I live to tell stories. Sometimes, I get paid for them.

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