This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from Charles LaFond, a spiritual companion, author, potter and fundraiser who lives on a farm in New Mexico with his dog Kai. offering regular meditations and reflections on spirituality and church fundraising
Wabi-sabi is a “word-view” from Japanese aesthetics which centers on the willing acceptance of transience and imperfection. It is often used in ceramics when something “goes wrong” but, actually makes the pot stunning precisely because of the “mistake.” The notion comes from the Buddhist teachings on the three marks of existence: impermanence, suffering and emptiness. Wabi-sabi is said by Buddhism to be the mark of beauty in art, precisely because it is imperfect and so, it is said, can bring about in the viewer a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing.
This glaze-drip is on a large bowl recently pulled from my kilns. It is the result of an imperfection in the glazing process. I poured the glaze over the bowl while it was upside down and so some glaze gathered on the rim and then, when it melted in the fires of the kiln, “fell” dragging the rest of the glaze with it – sort of like a glaze avalanche. In so doing, it pulled the glaze such that the copper (greens,) which make the “oxblood glaze” red, are exposed in some amazing ways. All of this color comes from only one pour of only one glaze.
Do we not all have wabi-sabi in our lives? Do we not all live with our imperfections often on brazen display? Are they ugly or do they offer a certain flash of serene melancholy and perhaps even spiritual longing when others see our imperfections? Yours. Mine. Ours. (Not Kai’s – he is perfect.)
My feet, as I age, are beginning to look bent; gnarled like an old tree. My hair is no longer receding given that not much is left. My belly is a bit more rounded and my chin, it would appear, has had children. The depression which plagued my mother in her fifties…well…I’m in my fifties and am my mother’s son. And a pinched nerve in my spine means that I can lay on my stomach to nuzzle Kai-the-dog, but cannot then get back up – a logistical issue of some import. And whereas it used to be that I “did not suffer fools lightly;” I now find that I do not suffer fools quietly. Problematic in an institution. Any institution really. And then there is blood sugar. And gas. And on. And on.
But there is a deep spiritual longing in me as I age. This was once a spiritual pride, but the indignities of age and the suffering of years have migrated some of the pride, quite happily, more into longing, even if melancholic. Yes, there is melancholy in increased age – things we will simply not accomplish. I’m pretty sure Brad Pitt is, at this point, not partner material for me. For example. Also, the Olympics is not to be an option for me. (I would have won Gold for TEAM USA in cooking. (That’s a sport right? … Well, it should be.)
We make our choices in life. That’s what we do, we hairless bipeds. And then we see what comes of them. There will be victories, betrayals, awards, accusations, delights, pain, rewards, slander; and so the list goes on. But I find, like that big huge drip on my bowl, that the mistakes, painful though they may be, might be the very best part of us. The wabi-sabi of our lives. The gorgeous, stunning, melancholic, serene beauty of being on this island home. If briefly ion reds, greens and ochres.