I read this article about a Japanese concept called wabi-sabi, which is the idea of intentionally appreciating things that are not perfect. I think this is difficult for us in our western culture, with it’s emphasis on consumerism. We have been conditioned from years of advertising to want shiny new stuff, and to expect uniformity in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the items we have in our homes.
But if we are honest with ourselves, it is often the unique that gives us the most pleasure, and frequently we have the most affection for what has stood the test of time. I think this is why marketers have to work so hard to convince us that we constantly need to buy new products. I think this idea includes appreciating what we already have and being thankful, rather than finding the flaws with everything and deciding we need something else.
I read once that Persian rug makers intentionally make a mistake when weaving so that the finished product won’t be flawless, and therefore presumably a source of pride for the craftsman. This really stuck with me because it told me that absolute perfection wasn’t their overall goal.
I had a sweater that was a hand-me-down from my dad. It wore out at the elbows and the sleeves were coming apart from the body. So I cut off the top and made it into a skirt. I love the idea of repurposing something so that I can continue using it. Interesting to note that I have not had the experience that many women report, that of going somewhere and finding someone else dressed like them.
As you might imagine, I have a soft spot in my heart for local independent restaurants. I know some people may find comfort in knowing just what to expect, such as in a franchise. But there is a whole block of ethnic places in Bloomington where I point to the menu and hope I’ll end up with something I like (meaning, a dish without meat or onions. I’ve not always been successful, but then I know what to avoid the next time.)
Giving people some slack goes along with this. Allow others—and yourself—to be human. One example is is not jumping to conclusions when someone doesn’t behave the way we’d like them to. I know I usually interpret others’ actions by what it would mean if I did it, and I’m often wrong. I saw a quote floating around on Facebook that I just love: “Not my circus; not my monkeys.” This means that we’re not responsible for everybody else, which means that we don’t have to keep track of everything they do wrong. Nor do we have to try to change them.
[For the record, I’m not there yet. I am the Imperial Empress of Assumptions and Grand Duchess of Trying to Fix Everybody Else, with substantial land holdings in Meddling in Their Business.]
Having said all that, obviously we need balance. We should not endure abuse from others, or use it as an excuse ourselves to convince others that we have a right to treat them poorly. I simply mean to encourage cultivation of acceptance for our differences and seeing how we can learn from—and help—each other.
I think that chess has actually helped me to learn how to deal with people better, as unlikely as this might seem. The irony here is that I started playing more because I was so frustrated at how behind the curve I feel I am with social interaction. I do these chess problems in which the computer gives you a snapshot of the board, and you decide the best move. Some I get right away, some it takes a few tries, and some I go over and over, unable to see the answer.
I’ve had puzzles that stumped me; I was sure I had tried all possible moves. Then I hit the solution button and realize there was something I didn’t see. I’ve discovered that this teaches me that there’s always another way of looking at things—even when I think I’ve exhausted all options, it’s likely there is something that I overlooked.
I imagine if I’m more gracious with others then they will be more likely to return the favor. I think this whole wabi-sabi concept is summed up in a quote from A. A. Milne, the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh: Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.