In one of the Ted Talks I listened to recently, I learned of a Japanese concept and aesthetic known as Wabi-Sabi. It’s the idea that beauty can be found in the imperfections of life and by accepting the natural life cycle. It’s not about seeking perfection, possessions, or popularity. It’s about appreciating everything the way that it is. It’s the idea that less is more… It’s choosing wildflowers over a dozen roses… It’s going to the Sunday farmer’s markets over expensive trips to Whole Foods… And it’s thrift store finds over shopping sprees at the mall.
The most perfect description of Wabi-Sabi that I’ve read is: “It’s the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It’s the beauty of things modest and humble. It’s the beauty of things unconventional.” This concept of Wabi-Sabi stuck out to me because I believe that this is a philosophy that needs to shared during the digital age. Humans have always attempted perfection in everything from our clothing to architecture. We try to create and surround ourselves with objects that are brand new and flawless. But now we live in a time where our lives are documented on social media, and people can even manipulate their content to make their entire life appear perfect too! Of course, with the use of social media comes the inevitable social media envy.
The unfortunate part of social media is that people then view another’s post and compare themselves and their lifestyle to what they see online. The pressure to be and look perfect has never been so difficult. I don’t know anyone my age that has said they don’t compare themselves to someone that they follow.
I think that we can learn something about the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi that could help us tremendously during the digital age. It’s by remembering that no matter how hard we fight for perfection, it’s impossible for anyone to achieve… no matter how great their Instagram photos look. What you see online, is not reality. No one has the ability to make their entire life flawless. In reality, people take dozens of shots to get that perfect picture, they plan out the outfit and setting beforehand, and then edit the photo ruthlessly before sharing it. What we don’t see in photos anymore are signs of individuality, brokenness, flaws, and blemishes. The idea of Wabi-Sabi is that wisdom comes from accepting and making peace with our imperfect nature.
I really wish that Wabi-Sabi would become popular online. I think it would be cool to create a social media movement we people embraced what makes them unique instead of trying to mimic another’s lifestyle. The movement would revolve around people being authentic and would celebrate everyone’s individuality. Of course, that would be in an ideal world where I have to power to create a social media movement that would remind people to be real online and eliminate some degree of social envy.
But maybe it could start small. More and more people slowly come forward to talk about who they really are as a person, what their flaws are, what they’re passionate about, and they want to be known for. I don’t know when something like this will happen, but I’m sure in the near future we will see some kind of change in the content that people share. At least I hope so because it’s exhausting trying to create a life of endless perfection.
Wabi-Sabi: “The Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered – and it reveres authenticity above all. It celebrates crack and crevices and all other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet – that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of retiring to the dust from which we came.” (author unknown)
Photographer: Allen Fajardo