The Beauty of Imperfection

Wabi Sabi Mended Vase

“There is a crack in everything,
that’s how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen

“We are all flawed creatures, all of us.
Some of us think that means we should fix our flaws.
But get rid of my flaws and there would be no one left.”
Sarah Vowell, Take the Cannoli

“Wabi-Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities:
Nothing lasts,
Nothing is finished,
Nothing is perfect.”
Richard R. Powell

Ah, the beauty of Imperfection. This is the core of Japanese aesthetic.  Evanescent and incomplete, wear and tear, full of character, rich with history – the kind of beauty that sees the natural course of life as the epitome of allure and value.  The Japanese call this Wabi-Sabi.  And I’m pleased to report that it’s more than art.  It is a philosophical and spiritual way of life.

I think our modern culture could be all the richer for this mindset.  In a world where perfection is the goal: wanting more, doing most, being best – and getting there is too often an exhausting journey, Wabi-sabi veers us off the road to Crazy Town and sets us gently in the high country where we can breath the fresh air and view life and ourselves with perspective – with authenticity over perfection.

Stone Angel2 by Robert J Jackson

photo by Robert J Jackson

Where we find Inspiration in the time-worn…

photo by neledesaeger

photo by neledesaeger

Grace in the aged…

Wabi-Sabiu tree

Reverence for the imperfect.

“Wabi is the beauty that springs from the creative energy that flows in all things, animate or not.  It’s a beauty that, like nature itself, can appear with dark and light, sad and joyful, rough and gentle.”    Makoto Ueda

It’s earliest origins stem from ancient Chinese Zen Buddhism and Taoism, but it began to shape Japanese culture in the 15th century when ornate gold, jade, and porcelain typically used in tea ceremonies were replaced with modest clay and wood utensils.  From that time forward, they abandoned fussy expectation in order to slow down and quiet the mind enough to appreciate muted beauty.

Wabi Sabi Rustic Vasewabi sabi Brown Leaves

“Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.”    Robyn Griggs Lawrence,

Wabi Sabi Clawfoot Tub

“Wabi-sabi is never messy or slovenly. Worn things take on their magic only in settings where it’s clear they don’t harbor bugs or grime. One senses that they’ve survived to bear the marks of time precisely because they’ve been so well cared for throughout the years.”   Robyn Griggs Lawrence,

Wabi Sabi Old Red DoorWall with Moss and Crack

“Wabi sabi celebrates the signs of age and the evidence that our items have been cherished and loved — cracks, crevices, frayed edges, peeling paint, and even rust.”

Wabi Sabi Rustic bedroomWeathered Vase

Wabi = Stark, Rustic beauty.
Sabi = “The bloom of time,” Natural aging with dignity and grace.

Wabi is not manufactured.  It is a gift of time.  True Sabi finds poetry in the ebb and flow of life.

Frankly, I LOVE this aesthetic. Venturing through antique stores and flee markets gets me giddy. My kids will tell you that I am a sucker for furniture rescue for I have been known to pull the car to a screeching halt at the side of the road, throw an abandoned crusty chair into the back of the car, and bring it home.

Recently my boys staged an intervention. “Mom, NO MORE!” they shout as I spot another couple of chairs on the corner. “NO MORE ORPHAN FURNITURE!  WE DON’T HAVE ROOM!”

Sigh. They just don’t understand my passion.  With a little love (restoration), what was trash is now a treasure. Makes me smile as I type it.  I love finding pieces with character and history.

Reclaimed barn wood

Reclaimed barn wood – beautiful

Green Shutters Italy

You see, as Wabi and I see it, the natural process of age or weathered deterioration do not lessen the value of something, but only enriches an object’s beauty and profundity.

Roman Coloseum

Here I’ve been highlighting objects, yet the brilliance of this wisdom is that it celebrates imperfections in all.


Ola Mamjakty photographed her Polish grandmother

Finding beauty in the imperfect is accepting it – not as it was or should be, but as it is.

Girl with Freckles2

…wrinkles, freckles and all.

“Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered… It’s a richly mellow beauty that’s striking but not obvious, that you can imagine having around you for a long, long time.”
Robyn Griggs Lawrence,

To a world obsessed with perfection, wabi-sabi refocuses the lens of our priority and perception – attuning us to the natural course of life as the epitome of allure and value, and challenging us to appreciate the Beauty of Imperfection.

“Imperfection is in some way sort of essential to all that we know of life.  It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent… And in all things that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty…”

Rosalinda, street vendor in Philippines photo by Manuel Librodo

Rosalinda, street vendor in Philippines
photo by Manuel Librodo

 “…To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.  All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human Life may be Effort, and the law of human Judgment, Mercy.”      John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice




Additional inspiration/source:
They are starting to put ads on our blog. We do not approve these and are not getting any residuals whatsoever, so I apologize for the content. I’ll see what I can do about it.


One thought on “The Beauty of Imperfection

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