Wabi-sabi

wabi-sabi

I love old books. They have much more character and unique qualities which reveal so much more about who they are and where they’ve been than recently published books. Even the smallest flaws or irregularities excite me because I know that this is a one-of-a-kind and I’m inspired to discover all the eccentricities that this single book offers to me. The tiniest detail can often reveal the most magnificent thing about an old book. My favorite example comes from one of my favorite books: “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks.

“Ozren, it’s a fake, the thing in the vitrine. It’s a fantastic fake—the oxidized silver, the stains, the smeared pigments. I mean, we’ve all seen fakes, but this is outstanding. It’s a perfect replica. Perfect, except for one thing. The one thing that can’t be replicated because it hasn’t existed for three centuries.” I had to stop. I could hardly breathe. Werner was patting my hand as if I were a hysterical child. His hands, his hard, craftsman’s hands, had the usual perfectly manicured fingernails. I pulled away my ugly untended mitt and raked it through my hair.

Ozren was pale now. He stood.

“What are you talking about?”

“The parchment. The sheep that they made it from, that breed—Ovis aries Aragonosa ornata—it’s been extinct in Spain since the fifteenth century. What they’ve used, the pore holes, they’re all wrong…the size, the scatter…it’s parchment made from a different breed…”

How fantastic is that? To be able to tell how genuine something is by its irregularities…perfection in imperfection. Wabi-sabi. This term was introduced to me several months ago, but I struggled to truly understand and absorb its meaning and implication for me. Since then, I have been delightfully surprised in the most outrageous moments to realize I’ve just witnessed wabi-sabi. I’m only beginning to realize what wabi-sabi really means. In this culture of symmetry and thinness and young-ness and greed and deception and The American Dream, the idea of perfection is rather skewed toward a fake, illusionary perception that is perpetually programmed into Western society. And, when I choose to accept that definition of perfection as the only definition, I lose the one-of-a-kind genuine moments of beauty that surround me…the perfection in imperfection.

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