©2022 Michael Raven
The term wabi-sabi came back into my attention the past few days.
I’ve drifted away from my Tao/Zen practice over the past year or so, and that is a good thing. I was starting to become all mind-oriented and not balanced enough with spirit. I needed to dig back into the dirt and find soul, unfuck the thinking a bit, find some of that original me that I had left out of the equation since going sober some 12 years ago and delving deeper into the cavern of philosophical ramblings. I retained some of original me because I retained my appreciation for the absurdity of everything (in general), but I largely masked that person behind it all. It was a useful tool to get wrapped up in that mind-space, in terms of keeping me sober, but I needed to recover the part of me that I feared more than just a little.
Before diving into the deep waters of more spirit and less mind, I was quite enamored with several concepts, one of them being this wabi-sabi, especially as I began to realize I needed to recover some of my original scary self, but it fell by the wayside as I through myself into what I needed.
The idea of wabi-sabi is that, well, there is beauty in imperfection, impermanence, simplicity, and a rough asymmetry. Internally, I know most artists — writing, music, visual art — strive for some kind of perfection in their art; that the erasure of imperfection is what makes their craft better. Perhaps they are right, but I have discovered, and am re-discovering, that it is the imperfections have their own beauty too as long as they are unintentional or done with another Zen concept: mushin, or no-mind (from the longer phrase, mushin no shin or, mind-without-mind). As soon as you try to create imperfection, the imperfection lacks the wabi-sabi nature. However, learning how to approach things with mushin tends to allow fertile ground for slight, natural imperfections to occur, resulting in something that captures the wabi-sabi aesthetic.
Here I go playing mind games with myself. Amusing, isn’t it?
Anyway, I had the phrase wabi-sabi reenter into my life (I forget how/why, not sure it matters) and I got to thinking about my approach towards the arts probably drives most people up a wall. I’m okay with flaws and imperfection. I’m okay with impermanence too, or I wouldn’t leave unrecorded Twitter poetry float off in the aether as I am wont to doing (not everything gets cross-posted and I supposed there’s a way to filter to such things, but I can’t be arsed to figure out how).
That doesn’t make my approach better; it’s just a different aesthetic mindset.
And now that these thoughts are filtering back to me, I think I am apt to explore those elements even further. I don’t mind looking like a fool or a hack, it has always been about reaching beyond what is comfortable when it comes to my music or my writing. And now, I need to learn how to wabi-sabi myself and embrace all those imperfections and flaws.
I think that application could have serious potential.