Wabi Sabi: Beauty in Imperfection

Wabi Sabi is a concept of beauty in Japanese culture that developed through Buddhist influence from China over 700 years ago, and which still remains a deeply rooted aesthetic in modern culture and design.

Difficult to Translate

Notoriously difficult to translate, the concept of Wabi Sabi has two parts. The first part, Wabi, is often associated with rustic simplicity, and it represents the unique flaws that are necessary to perfect the true beauty of an object, much like imperfections in the panes of a stained glass window might enhance the beauty of the whole image when light shines through. Sabi refers to the inevitable decay and evolution of beauty through wear and tear, much like a wooden railing might take a deep, polished luster over the years as hundreds of hands leave behind their oils, discoloring the original wood varnish.

Simply stated, Wabi Sabi is the beauty in the flaws and impermanence of any given item.

Modern Application

In modern days, the idea of Wabi Sabi can be transferred to so much more than artwork. Consider it a self-help guide about embracing the inherent imperfections that define the joy in our lives—like a toddler’s toys scattered about a living room floor. Wabi Sabi in life encourages a person to not simply forgive or overlook an imperfection, but to embrace it as a defining point of our own beauty, and accept the fact that we are constantly fading and changing which is, in itself, a cause to celebrate both the here and now, and the changes to come.

Wabi Sabi and Language

Wabi Sabi can also provide guidance from a linguistic perspective. The global evolution of language is both praised as progressive and lamented as a loss to the ever-waning traditions and structure of unique cultures. However, in the translation industry, we see that the change in language is inevitable. As globalization allows for more and more ‘borrowed words’ to link one language to another, instead of cheapening language, there is a rich brotherhood that is created when two people from different worlds can share understanding of one idea naturally and intuitively. Yes, as we all grow closer to each other, we may lose some of what makes us unique, but perhaps the celebration is in the greater creation of a world of people who understand each other better, and see the world as a little bit more united than it was before.

That is an example of Wabi Sabi worth communicating.

Kim GroffBlog written by Kimberly Groff
Senior Project Manager