It was one of those luncheon menu discussions, when the subject turned to the topic of deserts.
Serving a desert is the most popular conclusion of a sumptuous meal. Interestingly, it also emerges as the pièce de résistance in many restaurants and homes where I’ve enjoyed a meal.
Creating deserts, I enjoy, but when it comes to decorating them, I am admittedly a trifle impatient. I get lost for decoration ideas that I often browse the net for some quick “perfect” decoration ideas.
While listening to my concern for decorating my cheesecake, my daughter suggested a novel idea. “How about decorating the cheesecake by creating an illusion of perfection through a display that conveyed a lack of perfection?”, she said.
Sounds confusing? Her idea perplexed me to no small extent. Why should I convey harmony in appearance through a display that conveyed imperfection?
Her suggestion caused me to look at my expectation regarding my existence as a member of society in critical light. I realized that her suggestion innocently questions my very attitude to life. Sometimes, in our determination to seek perfection around us and in what we do, we often overlook the beauty in disharmony. An imperfect and unique beauty is what reflects “Wabi Sabi”.
The term, “Wabi Sabi” comes from ancient Japan, meaning “wisdom in natural simplicity”. The nobility in ancient Japan considered the comprehension of the lack of perfection as a way to reaching a state of supreme refinement.
Originating in the Zen philosophy, “Wabi Sabi” is particularly followed in the Japanese tea ceremony. The tea ceremony in Japan is well known for its revered representation of veneration, piety and serenity. There is great prominence given to the euphony in the protocol of the ceremony.
The emphasis on the lack of perfection in life is portrayed in the tea ceremony through the use of valuable antique bowls. These special bowls are irregular in shape and with generous cracks in them that enhances their state of imperfection.
As an artistic philosophy, that has its emphasis on a holistic approach to life, Wabi Sabi compels us to understand the beauty in imperfection. It is also a powerful contradiction to the universal belief regarding perfection in the concept of beauty.
Wabi Sabi encourages us to seek harmony amidst imperfection. The bowls that are a part of the tea ceremony are treasured for their flaws and defects.
The beautiful and slightly frayed shawl that belonged to our parent and the antique radio belonging to grandparents all have the Wabi Sabi beauty. The question is, do we consider these valuables as articles with “imperfections” or do we see them from the Wabi Sabi perspective?
There was a time when I used to gaze in wonder and admiration at the pristine working tables of some of the people I know. They would have their pens and papers in their place and their files all meticulously arranged – everything in their place. The austere appearance of their working space would question my wisdom of keeping my work table the way I do.
Over the years, I realized that as long as I find my work related material in the place where I expect them to be, its fine. My space may lack the impression of perfection to those who glimpse it, but as long as I can work in harmony in my space, there is no need to change the “imperfection” that I’m a part of.
The term, “perfection” is a word created by us. It is reflective of neither us nor the world that we are a part of. Being part of an existence that is imperfect, imagine if we accept and celebrate life despite its shortcomings?