Cherishing the imperfect
When British writer John Ruskin wrote the
line "To banish imperfection is to destroy expression" in the 1850s, he
was referring to the degradation of workers and their crafts in the emerging
At that time, uniform perfection in consumer
goods became the ideal and so the individual expression of workers and
craftsmen declined. Where
some saw an efficient, productive system,
Ruskin saw one without a soul — where workers were automatons and their
products bland and
Ruskin's critique is still relevant today.
In the United States, all but the poor are able to obtain a vast number
of flawless products. When we buy
material items, we know exactly what to
expect and will not accept anything less.
Of course, it's good to know your car will
start and your food won't be rotten. But when we accept nothing but perfection
in our lives and for our
possessions, we become as predictable
as those in Ruskin's world.
To counter this predictability, and the
materialism at the root of it, a new, appropriately grassroots movement
is taking shape. At its heart is
simplicity — the idea that we live better
when we limit our consumption and instead devote more time to developing
our intellects and artistry.
This simplicity movement is manifested
primarily in publications, Internet salons, and personal lifestyle changes.
To many, the ideals of simplicity sound
lofty but are out of reach. It is admittedly difficult to take such a radical
departure from American culture.
But it is in fact possible to find a degree
of simplicity. One way that is increasingly cited is a modern interpretation
Wabi-sabi has its foundations in 15th-century
Japan. It arose as a rejection of the refined hedonism of the imperial
court. Instead of valuing
wealth and power, the idea is to treasure
the simple tasks and things that connect us with other humans and the earth.
Your life probably seems far removed from
that of 15th-century Japan, but according to Robyn Lawrence, editor of
Natural Home, there are
many little things you can do to make
your life more natural through wabi-sabi. For example, instead of shopping
for new clothes, you can
cherish the old things in your closet
or buy pre-owned clothes. Although they may not be quite as flashy, they
are more genuine and in their
history lies intangible beauty.
Wabi-sabi can be incorporated into our
lifestyles in more profound ways. We may consciously choose not to wear
ourselves out in the
never-ending rat race for wealth. Instead,
we can take a step back, accept less money and prestige, while giving more
time to the things that
make our lives worthwhile on a personal
Wabi-sabi is about celebrating the beauty
in what is flawed and recognizing that nothing is permanent; nothing is
perfect. In doing so, we
accept the transience of earthly objects
and take pleasure in simple things that bear the mark of that transience.
This type of thinking may seem odd at first
in a materialistic age where perfection is overvalued. But, as Ruskin noted,
when we cherish the
imperfect, our lives and our world become