Wabi Sabi

Written By - Tessa Cash

Just to preface, this is an imperfect post. It jumps from one topic to another with the theme of pain and imperfection threaded in there, so I guess in hindsight it kind of works…

I cry a lot lately. I feel as if my heart has been ripped wide open. The more experiences I have, the more people I meet and the more stories I hear, the more I feel a connection to how precious all forms of life are. I wonder where we went so wrong in our greed and our need to conquer versus care for the earth, for people and for what is truly important in life.

What is important? Why should we care for others when we’re all going to die anyway? Are we all going to be separated into good and bad people? What even constitutes a good or bad person? And what about redemption? Who dishes it out? Or is it actually about the individual’s personal journey? Do we cling to people and things and status and pain because it makes us feel better about not knowing what will happen when we die? Or not knowing when? Do people develop anxiety because they feel they don’t have control? Are people afraid of roller coasters because you have to surrender yourself over to the laws of gravity which are strange and often unfamiliar? Are people afraid of love and attachment because they have to surrender their emotional safety over to someone who might leave? Because it might hurt? But surely if we know that everything ends, shouldn’t it be okay to enjoy or endure moments for what they are, however long they last, knowing that eventually everything ends?

I feel as though it is easy for me to say this. I don’t have a whole lot invested in my life on earth. I don’t have a large amount of material possessions. I don’t have status or a great deal to be proud of in terms of achievement. I’m not a parent. I don’t have my heart running around outside of my chest, as my wonderful friend S so beautiful illustrated to me about her children. It has only been recently have I felt that I might like to have this experience, because love does motherfucking crazy things like imagine what it might be like to create something permanent with someone you love. And if cry at the drop of a hat now, imagine what will happen when I can’t control a part of my heart, because I can’t keep them safe inside my body anymore? Is having a family an insurance policy against dying alone? I actually think the way you choose to conduct yourself on a daily basis is a foolproof way to ensure you’ll never be alone. I cried over the weekend about people I’d lost for a whole host of reasons. It’s complex, and it hurts. I made mistakes, they made mistakes. We do terrible things when we’re desperately trying to survive, when we’re alone. I cried because I see people driving in flashy, flawless cars past people who haven’t showered in days, wearing the same matted clothing, looking for enough money to sleep inside for the night. Was it their choices that landed them in that car? In that stained, tattered unlined doona? Am I a bad person if I don’t help? I remember someone in a church somewhere preaching this theory based on a biblical parable. It went along the lines of giving to the poor and needy because they represented the face of Jesus. I honestly thought that Judgment Day, (which was imminent, and would apparently come after a whole bunch of hurricanes and earthquakes), would literally be a homeless person all of a sudden jumping out of his tattered doona claiming to be Jesus. I guess when you think about the bible and the first time that Jesus appeared on earth, it wasn’t so different. All of a sudden there was this man who had claimed he had never sinned (what’s the definition of a sin again?) doing miracles around town. Even today people are skeptical of healers and alternative medicine, so it doesn’t come as a huge it surprise that he was persecuted for claiming he was different. What minority doesn’t get persecuted for being different? It also doesn’t come as a huge surprise that the man claiming to be the son of god, who had set the rules for what was sinful or not was adamant that he had never broken the rules. Isn’t that a bit convenient? Side note, but it’s so bizarre that pharmaceutical companies get around presenting themselves as being legit because they have the money and resources to create street cred, yet ancient remedies and alternative medicine is palmed off as being flaky and voodoo-esque. Oftentimes healers focus on the soul, the root issues, whereas modern medicine acts as a bandaid to provide a temporary cure to mask the issue, oftentimes doing more damage in the interim.

When I walk up to the tube from M’s house I frequently see the same stoic man walking around with his a cane crafted from a tree branch donning a Darth Vader cloak which is as brooding as his steady facial expression. You can see his youthful soul as you peer at his weathered face. It is not threatening or hardened or desperately seeking but somehow wise and accepting. It is a lovely face. I wonder when the last time he was touched, when he felt loved, when the harshness of his existence was traded with softness and gentleness. I wonder if I’m a bad person if I don’t help him in some way. But I can’t help everyone. And I can’t let some book that was written two thousand years ago guilt me into giving money to every homeless person I see. There is a verse in Matthew that firmly states that when “the son of man comes in all his glory,” he will separate “the sheep from the goats” the righteous who fed and clothed and visited him in prison as opposed to those who did not. My friend J moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a world champion ballroom dancer. Last time I was in LA we cruised around town in search of the best coffee because we’re both fucking snobs and won’t drink bad brown. There is a huge homeless problem in the States, but where I saw pain, he saw lack of pro activity. He could have chosen to give up on life and live on the streets. He was homeless at one point. But he instead of giving up he decided to fight for himself and his dreams and his right to have a good and happy existence. It is not our responsibility to do anything but be our best ourselves. That involves kindness and giving and loving others, but not at our own expense. Being a martyr isn’t brave, it’s sad. Giving up and allowing pain to swallow you up is sad.

The thing is, pain is the ultimate healer. It doesn’t work against you, it works for you and with you. If you push down pain, it’ll push you down with it. It ain’t no fool. And if you go down to rock bottom, which literally feels like shit, pain will soothe you, if you let it do it’s thing. It reminds you that you’re a living breathing being that can heal yourself. It’ll leave you refined and strengthened for the next phase of your life. We are constantly in a hurry to get to the nice light feels, but in pain you discover who you really are, if you allow yourself to surrender to it and trust it. When we are buried we forget that we are still alive and it is actually the rich, soft soil full of oxygen giving life, that energises us. In our life time we will die a thousand deaths, “oh life kill me a thousand times so I might bloom and live a thousand lives.” It is okay to be buried, to rest, to feel dead. It allows for introspection, it allows you to reset. It allows you to the space and time to feel the glorious sun on your skin as though it was for the very first time.

I was introduced to the resplendent works of Takashi Amano a few weeks ago at the Oceanario in Lisbon. He spoke about the philosophy of ‘Wabi Sabi’ which fuelled his truly unparalleled works in the field of aquascaping. The concept of Wabi Sabi centres around the world view that everything is transient, imperfect, and incomplete. It finds it’s roots in Buddhism and it goes against so much secularity in the search for completion and perfection. We fight against dying, we push ourselves to the brink trying to achieve perfection, we cling to things for safety and fear of loneliness and sadness that might destroy us when really it is in the letting go that sets us truly free.

So I cry a lot. I feel a lot. It’s okay to feel and release pain. It’s okay to be imperfect. To have wobbles and stretch marks and a tummy that isn’t flat. To have a job or relationship you have outgrown and to allow yourself to let go of them, even if it hurts. It’s okay to be afraid and to be buried for a while. Just as it is okay to be happy and to celebrate and to have fun. If you give yourself the space to think, to feel, to be surrounded and carried by self love and the the love of others, that visits you while you are pressed down beneath the earth and tells you that you are strong. If you accept the impermanence of all situations, each day you’ll wake up a little bit closer to your own self perpetuated resurrection. You’ll have been born again, all on your own. I think that’s better than believing that something or someone else needs to save you. Be your own god damn saviour.