Mindful Moments: Stories and Lessons of Procrastination

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Be “kaizen” till you’re “wabi sabi”.

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The Japanese concept of getting small improvements done: “kaizen” is kind of like “iterative” process. We’ve recently had 1, 2, and yes a whopping 3 posts about getting small things done. So let’s develop our theme somewhat:

Process concepts, like kaizen, play a big role in Japanese language because of the role that they have traditionally played in Japanese culture. Japan’s highest traditional aesthetic philosophy is the appreciation of transient and flawed beauty: the “wabi sabi”.

A tea cup would be considered wabi sabi if it was exquisitely made and if that making was in some way exquisitely flawed. The tea cup could still be functional, just not perfect. The wabi sabi position is that true perfection must necessarily be imperfect. We make things in the world and they are real and that is their beauty. This elegant imperfection is not to be confused with random or unpracticed sensibilities. Instead, wabi sabi artistry must be flawed if it is to retain its experimental intention toward perfection. (I know, there’s irony there… the reasoning is nicely imperfect.)

Procrastination can come from worrying too much about perfection. So an understanding of how imperfection is necessarily a part of the highest level of perfection is a contradiction worth embracing. Is that why the best bloggers don’t always spell too good?

I saw Peter Schumann talk the other night at MIT. He considers digital media to be a passing artform and compares it to the longevity of a cave painting. And he didn’t balk at telling “The holy halls of technology” so. It’s the “smallness” that he blamed for his non-interest. But I wonder if it’s also not the difficulty in creating anything that’s meaningfully wabi sabi over the digital (exactly duplicative) internet.


Written by clayward

March 12, 2010 at 8:44 pm