Wabi Sabi – Finding Beauty in Imperfection


Have you ever heard of the Zen Buddhist term “wabi sabi”? I hadn’t until recently. I found the definition in Leonard Koren’s book “Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers,” where Koren characterizes it as “the quintessential Japanese aesthetic … a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete … a beauty of things modest and humble.”

I am so very reassured to know that true joy can come from the profound knowledge that beauty exists outside of what I’ve been taught it strictly is, especially in nature. I appreciate the reminder to look beyond the obvious thrill of the newly unfurled leaf to see what lies beneath … to be willing to get down to its level and get close to the imperfection of the whole experience.

At its fullest expression, wabi sabi is a way of life. And why not? Should we seek only that which rises to the top to experience the reality of beauty? After all, we’re imperfect as human beings, and yet, aren’t we all beautiful?

The Human Side of Wabi Sabi

As we age, our dewy complexion becomes ruddy, our skin sags, and we may lose hair and/or teeth. Does that reduce our place in the world as caring and smart individuals? You know the answer. Of course not.

Yet so many of us buy into the idea that our advanced years somehow reduce our humanity. Hear me:  I’m not stating what others proclaim about us, I’m stating what we proclaim about ourselves without any prodding.

I hope this short post piques your interest about the aesthetics of wabi sabi or, at the very least, reminds you that 1) despite us older folks “knowing it all,” there is still plenty of learning to do and 2) the premise of wabi sabi is lovely and simple, a gentle nudge of encouragement to investigate what is underneath the pristine leaf, to find perhaps a jewel in the imperfection.


Contact Antonia at  Antonia@TheJoyofAgingGratefully.com