... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

264: wabi sabi desu ka, I don't know

“In both Tea and Zen the goals are the same.  You reach an appreciation of what is really important in life.  You do this by eliminating everything which isn't essential.  That’s how Tea and Zen became linked and the term Wabi Sabi was created.”
-Buddhist monk/gardener, Kohoan
Interviewed on BBC Four, In Search of Wabi Sabi

paradise found
"...eliminate everything that isn't essential", Paradise Found



I have turned to my extensive collection of downloaded video (something that all discerning geeks maintain on an external hard drive) as a make-do for getting some travel and culture.  I miss Japan and am on this renewed art kick thing, so my mania for hoarding divx and avi of documentaries serves me well. 

In Search of Wabi Sabi with Marcel Theroux (Louis’ brother you’ve never heard of) is one of those travelogue documentaries where some lucky bugger gets to go on a spiritual quest, both of self- and cultural- discovery and gets to find out that despite our differences we are all the same deep down.  He has a quest, stays with some locals, gets drunk with some locals, does a bit to camera in a whisper from his bed – it’s that sort of thing.  Except he’s not Bruce Parry, and Japan is clean and safe.  (I was going to say ‘and the Japanese don’t beat each other with sticks’, in reference to an episode of Tribe with an African tribal stick fight; but then I remembered they do.)   Any way, where was I... ?

Wabi Sabi; I don’t know what it is.  A Japanese tradition of simplicity, beauty, perfection in imperfection... An aesthetic, a feeling, a spiritual sense.  Something intangible and indefineable.  If you could define it, it wouldn’t be wabi sabi, but you know it when you feel it.  It’s that sort of thing... I think.  I had never heard of the concept until I saw this programme when it was first broadcast in 2009.  I never encountered mention of it in the sprawling metropolis/concrete jungle/Blade Runner cityscape/[insert preferred cliché] of Osaka, but if I had known about it I would definitely have kept an eye out. 

Shallowly it seems to have something to do with amateur teapots, simple flower arrangements, and driftwood... an old piece of paper... a pebble... a handful of sand... a piece of rusty metal... a stone step worn with a thousand footfalls... a threadbare carpet... a hole in an old jumper... an asymmetrical smile...  a crack in dry mud... a single piece of Blu-Tack left on a wall... a patch of mould on a window ledge... a leaf in her hair... a spider with seven legs... a wooden cup (the cup of a carpenter?)

I have two books that I have never read - Wabi Sabi, the Japanese Art of Impermanence and Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.  I imagine both of them fairly miss the point, but since I have no idea what the point is, how am I to know?  Healthy scepticism, that is how.  In the meantime here are two pictures I found on the hard drive, which may or may not have anything to do with whatever wabi sabi is...

old window ledge 2old window ledge 1

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