This week I learned a thing or two about Wabi Sabi; a Japanese world view/aesthetic based on accepting and even appreciating transience and imperfection, rather than resisting and rejecting it. It seems to focus mostly on personal imperfection and the transience of the world around us. However, an aspect of Wabi Sabi, is to appreciate the imperfection in every day items. A chipped plate, in a way has more beauty than a perfectly whole one. It has character and a visible history. At some point in time, something happened to this plate that made it chip. This makes it more valuable.
An art form I had heard about before called Kintsugi fits the Wabi Sabe view perfectly. In Kintsugi, broken pottery is mended using gold. By doing this, the crack is emphasized, and the piece is actually literally more valuable for having been broken. In our society, broken items are usually thrown out. When they do get mended, we try to make the mending as invisible as possible. Mending items rather than replacing them has somehow become a symbol of poverty or being cheap. It seems like the only time it’s acceptable to keep using a clearly mended item, is when children’s clothing has been patched up. It’s considered cute and playful, but anything beyond it is simply being cheap.
A few weeks ago I noticed a lot of my socks are starting to wear. I knew how to darn socks (in theory), and so I made a pile of holey socks on my desk, to be fixed when I had the time.
An idea popped into my head; What if I fixed the holes using a completely different color? What if I made it stand out? The socks would eventually get a new hole somewhere and I could use yet an other color to mend it when that happens. The socks would become much more interesting and colorful. They would have a playful look, and each and every one would be unique. It seemed like a great idea, but then doubt crept up on me. Wouldn’t it look shabby? Socks are cheap and the time spend darning wouldn’t weigh up to the cost of new socks. What would other people think when they see my socks? Will they think I’m poor? Will they think I’m weird? I can get very insecure at times, even though usually I really don’t give a darn what anybody else thinks of me.
So I waited. A few more socks got added to the pile (I bought a whole bunch at once, so it makes sense for them to start wearing out around the same time). I still wasn’t sure whether I should mend them or not, and if I was going to mend them, would I use a contrasting color or not? That’s when I stumbled across Wabi Sabi, and got reminded about Kintsugi. I realized that, yes, mending something can make it better and more beautiful. It was a great idea to darn my socks using a different color! And so, yesterday, I properly darned a sock for the very first time, and I’m very happy with the result. Over time, my socks will become true pieces of art, and I’m not ashamed of it.