Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The beautiful Japanese aesthetic of WABI SABI

Wabi sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The aesthetic is sometimes described as beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent and incomplete." Its concept derives from the Buddhist assertion of the Three marks of existence, specifically, impermanence. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

"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 a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing within us, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi."

"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; and 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.
After centuries of incorporating artistic and Buddhist influences from China, wabi-sabi eventually evolved into a distinctly Japanese ideal. Over time, the meanings of wabi and sabi shifted to become more lighthearted and hopeful. Around 700 years ago, particularly among the Japanese nobility, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today's Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to ″wisdom in natural simplicity.″ In art books, it is typically defined as ″flawed beauty.″

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.

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.

Wabi and sabi both suggest sentiments of desolation and solitude to a simpler life. Mahayana Buddhist philosophy itself warns that genuine understanding cannot be achieved through words or language, representing liberation from a material world. Wabi-sabi describes a means where students can learn to live life through the senses and better engage in life as it happens rather than caught up in unnecessary thoughts. In this sense wabi-sabi is the material representation of Zen Buddhism. The idea that being surrounded by natural, changing, unique objects helps us connect to our real world and escape potentially stressful distractions.

In one sense wabi-sabi is a training where the student 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 the world to the extent that a chip or crack in a vase makes it more interesting and gives 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.

The wabi and sabi concepts are religious in origin, but actual usage of the words in Japanese is often quite casual. The syncretic nature of Japanese belief systems should be noted.

Japanese Instrumental Music


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It's your birthday today, Joey! Thinking of you, missing you.
This photo of you and your band, Brisby, Kills, & Crash, tickles me so. I remember, especially, how mommy asked you to play Hank Williams Sr.'s Down in the Valley over and over. Having that much dedication just made you the best!
Joey (Joe Dee) on far left playing the electric guitar in his band, Brisby, Kills, & Crash.  The play on Crosby, Stills, & Nash, reflected his humor.

Happy Birthday, "Little Angel, Little Brother"

Joey (Joel) died of cancer in July 2003. His love for the guitar and music came a very close second to his partner, Donna. It's been 12 years but still miss him so. Feeling especially sentimental since Mother's Day with the recent loss of my mother and Joey's birthday being  just a week later.

I love you, Joe Dee!

Little Angel, Little Brother, Lucinda Williams

Joey played so many, but remember his love for the following:

White Room, Cream

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin

Voodoo Child, Stevie Ray Vaughan

Midnight Rider, Allman Brothers Band

Sleep Walk, Joe Satriani

Don't Look Back, Boston

Down in the Valley, The Browns (Couldn't find Hank Williams Sr.)

Sunday, May 10, 2015


July 22, 1933 to January 9, 2013
   Lola Ridge, 1873

Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors . . .
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.

You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall . . .
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.


Mother Is Gone, Hank Williams Sr.

My Mother's Eyes, George Jessel

Mama, Connie Francis

I Remember Mama, Film Trailer