Wabi-Sabi: Perfect Imperfection

imperfect zen garden

(Not to be confused with wasabi…)

Wabi-sabi also comes from Japan, but it is not a food. It is a world view that comes from traditional Japanese aesthetics, and is based on the acceptance of imperfections and impermanence. This philosophy and style derives from Buddhist teachings and it is described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

The wabi-sabi aesthetic includes such characteristics as asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, modesty, and intimacy. It also lends appreciation to natural objects and natural processes. It embraces weathering of objects, whether by repeated human contact or the aging of wind and water.

“Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” – Richard Powell

We learn a bit more by examining the root words. Although the meaning has changed over time, Wabi now refers to rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness. Likewise, it can also refer to both natural and human-made objects, especially in regards to understated elegance. Oddly enough, it can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi refers to the natural beauty or serenity that comes with age. It embraces the life of the object and its impermanence. It appreciates the wear, tear, and visible repairs.

This is very much related to “kintsukuroi” , which you can read about here!

zen stones
Photo by Disha Sheta on Pexels

Wabi-sabi transcends art and style, and helps us cherish the beauty of life

So how does this apply to everyday life? We all know that life is not perfect. But we still get stressed and upset when things don’t go as planned. Negative anxiety comes from us worrying about things that are out of our control. But when we decrease thoughts about what “should be” and increase thoughts about “what is”, we accept reality. Subsequently, when we accept the present state of things, we are calmer and healthier.

Instead of seeing the imperfection, see the uniqueness of the object or the opportunity and choose to make the best of it. Do not focus on the mistake, take the chance to learn how to do “it” right. Look past the the wrinkle, and see the smiles that come from years of laughing. Recognize the gray and see the wisdom. In this disposable world, realize the value of what we have now and see the beauty of our imperfect world.

If you want to learn more about wabi-sabi, here are some resources I found interesting:

  • A timely story on YouTube:

  • And another compelling TED Talk on Youtube:


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David Hughes

Contributing Editor and Author at Kaldzar

Certified Biologist and Data Scientist
Constantly curious. Curiously compassionate.