Broken is beautiful
Swati Moheet Agrawal exposes us to wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of celebrating things as they are—imperfect and impermanent—instead of obsessing with perfection or what ‘should be’
When was the last time you celebrated your flaws—those laugh lines and freckles etched on your face or silver strands of hair standing out? Ever bothered to admire the beauty of that dented bowl languishing in your kitchen? Did you discard that vintage tablecloth or woollen sweater because it was frayed at the edges? Are you writhing with anger because your partner dumped that wet towel on the bed yet again?
Our preoccupation with perfection doesn’t seem to die down. If anything, it has infiltrated our consciousness more than ever. The yearning for perfection in every area of life is so neurotic that we have forgotten to find beauty in the broken, extraordinary in the ordinary, and joy in the mundane.
Look to the East
Interestingly, the Japanese have embraced the wabi-sabi way of living—a philosophy that embraces impermanence and imperfection in things, people, situations, and life in general. It acknowledges and celebrates asymmetry and irregularity too.
Originally, ‘wabi’ was associated with loneliness and ‘sabi’ with rusting and tarnishing. However, connotations of wabi-sabi evolved over the course of time. Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic that focuses on appreciating what ‘is’ instead of what ‘should be’. It helps us make peace with the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. Decay is as much a part of life as growth. Wabi-sabi is essentially the art of discovering beauty in the imperfect and impermanent. For this very reason, the Japanese repair cracked or broken ceramics with gold or silver.
We live in a culture obsessed with perfection. There is such a strong epidemic of perfectionism. However, overlooking your partner’s idiosyncrasies, embracing your imperfect self with love and acceptance, and celebrating little quirks and flaws in things and people can go a long way in helping us live happier, fuller lives. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, perfect home, perfect décor, perfect body, perfect looks, and perfect life—only an illusion that keeps us from happiness and peace.
Whether it is embracing imperfection in our circumstances or learning to see an imperfect spouse perfectly, wabi-sabi helps us shift our perspective from what ‘should be’ to what ‘is’. It is believing that everything is transient—nothing lasts, and nothing is perfect. So, even a chipped, well-used teacup is beautiful from the wabi-sabi perspective. Wabi-sabi prizes authenticity over everything else.
Wabi-sabi is more than accepting the physical signs of ageing. It is about embracing the impermanence of everything. We can practice wabi-sabi in all aspects of life. Look at things the way they are! Those laugh lines on your face bear testimony to the fact that you have enjoyed the journey. Celebrate your humanness. Make peace with your not-so-perfect life instead of living in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and pining for all that’s missing. Remember, life is always under construction!
Incidentally, wabi-sabi does not imply settling for less than you deserve, complacency, or accepting messiness; it is, in fact, about balance and contentment. It is about putting an end to the mad chase for perfection and finding beauty in the less-than-perfect. It is a way of life—an aesthetic that accepts the natural progression of people, things, and life in general; it is an antidote to stress and all that hankering and yearning that makes us miserable.
Incorporate wabi-sabi into your life
Do not throw away your favourite t-shirt because it has faded with time. Cherish it. Let the crow’s feet and laugh lines come. Accept them. Be proud of those chipped nails from a day spent organising your garden. Do not get rid of your rusty license plate; it has a history and story. That old book yellowed at the corners speaks about your passion for reading. Those stretch marks serve as a reminder of the life you carried inside you. Celebrate them. Admire the beauty of that dented bowl. Make peace with those smelly socks strewn on the floor. Your spouse is not perfect and neither are you. Drop expectations and assumptions in relationships.
Everything in life is fleeting. Life itself is fleeting. Come to terms with the realities of life: Death, decay, impermanence, and imperfection. As a matter of fact, even nature is unfinished, imperfect, and prone to decay. And yet it’s breathtakingly beautiful!
It’s time to abandon ‘perfect’ and embrace ‘good enough’!
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