Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The phrase comes from the two words wabi and sabi. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence. Note also that the Japanese word for rust, is also pronounced sabi, and there is an obvious semantic connection between these concepts.
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, modesty, intimacy, and the suggestion of natural processes.
A Japanese tea house which reflects the wabi-sabi aesthetic in Kenrokuen Garden, Honshu Island, Japan
Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it "occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West. 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. It (wabi-sabi) nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.
The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; sabi meant "chill", "lean" or "withered". Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations. Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.
From an engineering or design point of view, "wabi" may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then "sabi" could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi, to rust.
My 1984 camper backed up to the Yellowstone River, is sadly susceptible to the wear and rust and entropy of all material objects. But in its own wabi sabi way it is exquisitely beautiful.
A good example of this embodiment may be seen in certain styles of Japanese pottery. In the Japanese tea ceremony, the pottery items used are often rustic and simple-looking, e.g. Hagi ware, with shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colors or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style. In reality, these items can be quite expensive and in fact, it is up to the knowledge and observational ability of the participant to notice and discern the hidden signs of a truly excellent design or glaze (akin to the appearance of a diamond in the rough). This may be interpreted as a kind of wabi-sabi aesthetic, further confirmed by the way the colour of glazed items is known to change over time as hot water is repeatedly poured into them (sabi) and the fact that tea bowls are often deliberately chipped or nicked at the bottom (wabi), which serves as a kind of signature of the Hagi-yaki style.
Black raku wabi-sabi tea bowl
In one sense wabi sabi is a training where the student of wabi sabi learns to find the most simple objects interesting, fascinating and beautiful. Fading autumn leaves would be an example. Wabi sabi can change our perception of our world to the extent that a chip or crack in a vase makes it more interesting and give the object greater meditative value. Similarly materials that age such as bare wood, paper and fabric become more interesting as they exhibit changes that can be observed over time.
Those of you who have seen my caption and the accompanying comments on this image of me with Coach Nicole in my SparkPhotoGallery know why I have included this photo in a wabi sabi presentation!
Friday, March 26, 2010
In the midst of my happiness and anxieties, machinations and lack of planning, successes and starts-and-stops on the path toward wholeness of body-mind-spirit, there remains...always and indubitably...Spring (within if not without) AND Mary Oliver. In this I can freely and endlessly find joy:
Grizzley Bear in the Rockies
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
of the trees.
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her --
her white teeth,
her perfect love.
-- Mary Oliver
(House of Light)
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
The "kitchen table" metaphor is so apt for us in the SparkCommunity. And gifted Native American poet Joy Harjo wraps verse around the image in a way that speaks not only to our rational minds, but also deeply to our spirits.
I offer this in the midst of my busyness to build upon our joy, to assauge our sadness and to gird up our courage as we make this journey together...to The Table.
PERHAPS THE WORLD ENDS HERE
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the
table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what
it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.
-- Joy Harjo
(Reinventing the Enemy's Language)
(Offered to my friends GinaBug and DarkThor and Stlrzgrrl, who love Joy Harjo as I do.)
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Sybil Head Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
-- John O'Donohue
(Echoes of Memory)
John O'Donohue (1 January 1956 - 3 January 2008) was a poet and Hegelian philosopher from County Clare, Ireland, where his father was a stonemason. He is best known for popularizing Celtic spirituality.
O'Donohue received a PhD in philosophical theology from Tubingen University, Germany, in 1990. He was ordained as Catholic priest, but left the priesthood in the 1990s.
* Eternal Echoes (1998)
* Conamara Blues (2000)
* Divine Beauty (2003)
* To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings Doubleday, 2008.
* Anam Cara, (Gaelic for "Soul Friend"; 1997)
...hearing John O'Donohue speak on "Imagination as the Path of Spirit," beginning with "Beannacht:"
..hearing him speak "On Beauty":
...seeing O'Donohue speak "on the privilege of being at the 'death bed'"
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I have no time to comment on this passage which I love so and comprises an important part of my daily philosophy of life. So I will simply leave it with you, hoping that Whitman speaks to you in that place that touches your soul as well!
This is what you should do:
Love the earth and sun and animals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people...
reexamine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
dismiss what insults your very soul,
and your flesh shall become a great poem.
~ Walt Whitman ~
(Excert from Preface to 1855 edition, Leaves of Grass) www.panhala.net/Archive/what_you_sho
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