First things first, I’m really fascinated and interested in the concept of Wabi Sabi. But I’m certainly no expert. My knowledge is limited, but growing, to a couple of books I’ve read on the concept as well as multiple articles and websites that have discussed it.
I’m not looking to get deep into what makes the Wabi Sabi approach so unique, how it applies to art and life in today’s modern world, or even how it might be applied to photography to further enhance and bring more meaning into my work. Quite honestly that last thought on photography is something I’m still thinking over currently.
The thought I do want to put out there for you is something that I’ve REALLY been chewing on a ton since I finished the most recent book about it that I read. If you’re curious, that book was:
“Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence”
by Andrew Juniper
Anyhow, this book, unlike the first I read on the subject, spends a lot of time through the first half of the book diving deeper into the history of not only Wabi Sabi, but the practice of Zen.
Now, for many of us(myself included) I never thought too deeply about the concept of Zen. Go figure that now it has me questioning or pondering things as I finally get around to thinking a bit more about it!
Anyhow, Zen and Wabi Sabi are rooted in ancient Buddhist philosophies, tied to a religious and cultural belief system that is tied to everything in life.
I find it fascinating, for example, that as Christians we HAVE faith, yet for the Buddhist cultures they PRACTICE Zen or their Buddhist religion. The idea of just having something vs practicing it is something else to think on I suppose, but not why I write this.
The thing that has been nagging at me, as someone with a very strong Christian faith, a strong personal connection with God, and someone that has zero desire in turning my back on that to jump into a big religion switch.
What has my mind, and my heart if I’m being honest, a bit stirred up is trying to figure out if a person of the Christian Faith, is able to actually fully understand and practice in some form the elements of Zen and Wabi Sabi in their art? Even to a certain degree, in their lives?
Does attempting to apply the principles of Zen and Wabi Sabi, the appreciation for the natural world, the ability to accept things for what they are, and to embrace the flawed and imperfect beauty of all that surrounds us, does that somehow clash with my Christian Faith?
I wouldn’t think so, because I was raised and strongly believe that God created all that we see around us and for me to connect with him on the deepest level I find myself out in the woods as I experience His greatest creation, nature, the woods, and all the life it contains. And that life IS imperfect. It IS flawed. Trees are unique because of the random way they’ve twisted to drink in the sun. Nature is beautiful and messy.
But because the “highest stages” of Zen can only be reached through Buddhist enlightenment, does the pursuit of the stages prior to that, the appreciation of simplicity and natural beauty, acceptance of natural flaws, and appreciative practice of gratitude, somehow put me on a path away from my Christian God?
In the end I don’t think so.
But I worry a bit. Dumb as that sounds. Will the “religion police” look down at me in judgement because I simultaneously love and have faith in God while practicing a Buddhist principle in Zen and Wabi Sabi?
Most of all I wonder IF it IS possible for the two to co-exist?