Wabi Sabi – Finding Beauty In A Fast Changing Wolrd

I am grateful for a way of living that I have unwittingly always practised in many degrees instinctively but not consciously given it a name.

This global crisis has given me the time to continue reading the book Less is More : Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy and Lasting Happiness by Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska.


One of the chapters talks about the Japanese traditional aesthetic of wabi-sabi.

Wikipedia describes it as:

It is a world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.


Wabi-Sabi Less Is More

Discovering Beauty In The Every Day

To me it’s about finding beauty in the everyday.

It’s appreciating the impermanence of the changing colour of fallen leaves.

It’s going for a bushwalk and smiling ear to ear at the constantly changing kaleidoscope of nature.

A chip in a cup doesn’t automatically make it less useful or ugly that it needs to be thrown away. Those items that can be appreciated for their imperfections and repaired (if it is a functional issue) rather than replaced with something shiny and new which is the norm in our society.

Driving Miss Betsie

I still drive the same car that I did 20 years ago. Some friends I know have had four cars in that time.

I affectionately call my car Betsie. She’s getting old and struggles up steep hills at times but she is a good reliable car. I know how to get the best out of Betsie.

Heidi lovingly laughs at me when I need that slight bit of extra power out of Betsie and I press the ‘turbo button’ (switch off the air con for a moment that gives a slight boost of power). ?

What Do You Value The Most?

I did learn a big lesson once about perception…

People will judge you by your possessions. The clothes you wear, the car you drive, the house you live in. I’ve never bought into this bs that sees people become debt-ridden slaves to keep up with the Jones’s.

Ok for that lesson – years ago I turned up to a design project meeting with Betsie and the client saw the car I was driving. He made some off the cuff derogatory remark about the car I was driving as if putting on an air of success by having the latest expensive car made me more successful.

I am successful. What I learned from the experience was NOT to go out and buy a new high end car to pander to other people’s perceptions, instead, be myself, park where I won’t be judged by what I’m driving if people’s values are going to be different to mine and their perception moulded by such unimportant things.

Wabi-sabi - finding beauty in the imperfect, impermanent
Betsie & I have been places : )

Latest Greatest But Not Necessarily The Happiest

Betsie and I have been places. We have history and as she gets older I am beginning to appreciate her quirks.

I could have bought a newer car over the past 20 years but would it have made me happier? Definitely not…

Opportunity In Crisis

The coming period will be a time when we all have the opportunity (not by choice) through economic necessity to change our ways. As production is halting rapidly and items we take for granted disappear and are scarce then we need to adapt.

This is an amazing opportunity to get out of the mass-consumerist throw-away mentality and really understand what it is to appreciate what we do have, keep, repair, repurpose, reuse.

As our future becomes uncertain where hard economic times may be blowing our way we will need to look seriously how we can reuse or repair rather than replace.

Inherited Values

I have subconsciously been influenced by my mother. She grew up at a time after WWII that was difficult. I heard stories about how they had very little when she was growing up but they always had food and love, that she shared things with her 9 other siblings, how she would go out in the valleys with the sheep and drink water from pools of water filled with frogs.

It would have been a magical time for her and she talks about it with such joy. We must remember it isn’t about being an addict always looking for the next consumer hit, but appreciating the little things in every day.

Here’s a few more examples how you can find happiness in appreciating what you have not what you don’t.

Gratitude In Long Pants

Yesterday I went for a bushwalk. I had on a pair of long pants that I wore everyday on my long walk almost 3 years ago. They are well-worn but holding together. The removable legs are a darker tone to the shorts as I rarely wore the legs on the big walk and so the shorts became bleached of colour in the hot European summer.

Back then I must have crouched and split them. I borrowed a needle and thread and did a pretty bad job of repairing them. I had no choice but to repair them as we were constantly on the move and finding a place to buy clothing wasn’t practical at the time.

Yesterday I ended up ripping one of the legs on a barbed wire fence. No doubt I’ll repair them rather than throw the pair of pants away. After ripping the leg I reached back and felt the stitching on the back of my pants and smiled.

Discover Beauty In Imperfection

With all their imperfections they are still useful and if anything I see more beauty and get more joy out of them then a brand new pair. If we are truly wanting to walk the talk about being ecologically friendly, the coming period with possible shortages is an opportunity to practice what we preach. We may not have a choice.

A perfect breakfast even with a fly : )

Waiter There Is A Fly In My Eggs Benny

The last example knitted the chapter I read in the Less Is More book about wabi-sabi to my own life in a moment of revelation.

Someone I went to school with private messaged me to let me know that the photo I posted of the breakfast I had yesterday had a fly in it. He didn’t want to publicly post this observation as he thought possibly it may embarrass me.

I thanked him and made light of it saying had I eaten the fly I would have gotten some added protein.

When he messaged me back he said he wasn’t concerned about the possibility of our health but that the fly in the picture had ‘ruined the post’.

It took me a long time to process my reaction because I thought I didn’t have one. It took me a while to understand that we all have different values. To me the fly was inconsequential. In my mind it wasn’t even a thought that it had ruined the picture.

Beauty In Acceptance

My reaction to the photo of the fly on my breakfast is what wabi-sabi is to me. It’s seeing beauty in what is. It is appreciating imperfections.

Is striving for perfection not just another form of control? In a world that seems out of control we are all going to have to take a big long breath, continually, as we won’t be able to control external forces. But remember, you have the power to choose your experiences moving forward.

Take the time to build inner resilience.

Reassess your values.

What is really important to you that you will not compromise on?

In a fast changing world you too may benefit to learn more about gaining a wabi-sabi mindset.

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