There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
“Unlike the Western conception of beauty—a stylized fantasy constructed by airbrushing reality into a narrow and illusory ideal of perfection—the zenith of Japanese aesthetics is deeply rooted in the glorious imperfection of the present moment and its relationship to the realities of the past…. This temporal continuity of beauty, a counterpoint to the West’s neophilia, is central to Japanese aesthetics. Rather than fetishizing the new and shiny, the Japanese sensibility embraces the living legacy embedded in objects that have been used and loved for generations, seeing the process of aging as something that amplifies rather than muting the material’s inherent splendor. Luster becomes not an attractive quality but a symbol of shallowness, a vacant lack of history:
We find it hard to be really at home with things that shine and glitter. The Westerner uses silver and steel and nickel tableware, and polishes it to a fine brilliance, but we object to the practice… We begin to enjoy it only when the luster has worn off, when it has begun to take on a dark, smoky patina. Almost every householder has had to scold an insensitive maid who has polished away the tarnish so patiently waited for. …We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity.
Tanizaki speaks affectionately of ‘the glow of grime,’ which ‘comes of being touched over and over’—a record of the tactile love an object has acquired through being caressed by human hands again and again.” Maria Popova quoting
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay”
2 Corinthians 4:7
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Might you be guilty of “fetishizing the new and shiny?” …of “neophilia?”
- Does this reading tempt you to think differently about beauty? …aging? …friendship? …marriage? …spirituality?
- Why would anyone prefer a “luster” to a “brilliance?”
Abba, help me to appreciate “the glow of grime”–especially in myself and my fellow homo sapiens.
For More: In Praise of Shadows by J
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and God seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“According to Japanese legend, a young man named Sen no Rikyu …went to tea master Takeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend the garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, and the garden immaculate. Before presenting his work to the master, he shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to fall onto the ground. To this day, the Japanese revere Rikyu as one who understood …wabi-sabi …the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all. When a white pottery bowl breaks, for example, one might glue it back together with white lacquer to disguise the breaks, making it look as new and complete as possible. But in the East the bowl might be glued back together with lacquer sprinkled with gold to highlight the cracks and imperfections. Japanese culture sees the aesthetic value of imperfection in wabi-sabi just as much as the Greeks valued perfection in their art. Wabi-sabi is seen as beautiful because it is imperfect and broken.” J. R. Briggs
“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. Bringing wabi-sabi into your life doesn’t require money, training, or special skills. It takes a mind quiet enough to appreciate muted beauty, courage not to fear bareness, willingness to accept things as they are—without ornamentation. It depends on the ability to slow down, to shift the balance from doing to being, to appreciating rather than perfecting.” Robyn Griggs Lawrence
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
so that the surpassing greatness
of the power will be of God
and not from ourselves….”
2 Corinthians 4:7
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Do you “revere authenticity above all?”
- Can you appreciate things in their simplicity – with signs of wear? of age? without “ornamentation?”
- Can you “find beauty in imperfection” – in the world? in yourself? in others?
- What would it mean for you to shift from “perfecting” to “appreciating?”
Abba, show your beauty in my imperfections.
For More: Tinker at Pilgrim Creek by Annie Dillard
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”