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Wabi-Sabi Wednesday: Poverty Appreciation

4/6/2011 8:55:07 AM

Tags: wabi-sabi, Wabi-Sabi Wednesday, D.T. Suzuki, Zen Buddhism, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailOn Wabi-Sabi Wednesdays, I feature excerpts from my upcoming book, Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, which will be released next month. 

Daisetz T. Suzuki, one of Japan’s foremost English-speaking authorities on Zen Buddhism and an early interpreter of Japanese culture for Westerners, described wabi-sabi as an active aesthetical appreciation of poverty. He refers to poverty not as we Westerners interpret—and fear—it, but establishes the difference between a Thoreau-like wabibito (“wabi person”) and a Dickensian makoto no hinjin, whose poverty makes him desperate and pitiful.  

Wabi-sabi is a celebration of the freedom that comes from shedding the huge weight of attachments and material concerns. “Wabi is to be satisfied with a little hut, a room of two or three tatami mats, like the log cabin of Thoreau,” Suzuki wrote, “and with a dish of vegetables picked in the neighboring fields, and perhaps to be listening to the pattering of a gentle spring rainfall.”


Wabi is to be satisfied with a little hut, a dish of vegetables picked in the neighboring fields and the pattering of a gentle spring rainfall.  Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison

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