Don’t worry about imperfections. Wabi-sabi.

You don’t have to travel far to find inspiration or subjects for you to make great art. They are to be found all around us – it’s just a matter of developing a heightened awareness – a sensitivity to the world around us and learn to look beyond the mundane external subjects – breaking them down into basic lines, forms, colors, values and textures.

Enjoy the broken. Enjoy the stains. Enjoy the wrinkled. You too will become that.

What a joy it would be for you if you can see beauty in ordinary things and be able to sketch them. Don’t you worry a bit about the imperfect sketch. They are lovely as they are. Keep moving on and keep sketching. The moment you let someone view your sketches, you are leading that person to see grandeur in the mundane. That person is not seeing how you sketched it; rather what is admired is your ability to see and ‘bring to light’ ordinary things.

Now let me take you to the next level.

Many years ago my Chinese Malaysian friends invited me for a tea drinking session at a specialist tea café. “What the big deal?” I thought first, looking at the 2nd grade tea cups, pot and tray. The teacups were all either chipped, oddly shaped and discolored, albeit clean. The tea too tasted just ordinary. But as I was observing the grace with which the host was pouring the tea, and how everyone else was shifting gears to some sort of total calm and strange heightened awareness, I stared to get curious about the whole tea drinking thing. My host talked about ‘mindfulness’ and about enjoying things that are imperfect! As I was listening to her, I started looking at my teacup that was chipped in several places. The imperfections were beautiful, and suddenly my tea tasted so very good. That was my initiation into the ‘enjoying the imperfect’.

Lets leave China and travel to Japan. If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be Wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.
Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It’s a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree, your window blinds filtering the sun, the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud. It’s a richly mellow beauty that’s striking but not obvious.

Pared down to its barest essence, Wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; old stained chair, not the new one from IKEA; rice paper, not glass; the dried leaf and not the blossoms: the recycled gift wrapper, not the gift. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. Through Wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace cracks, spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
      -Leonard Cohen, Canadian poet and singer.

Enjoy the broken. Enjoy the stains. Enjoy the wrinkled. You too will become that.

Patric Rozario
June 2, 2012, Doha.


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