Life is an Accidental Work of Art

“Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

~ Robert Powell

The day was unseasonably warm for January. Endless blue skies. Not a patch of snow in sight. The long afternoon shadows of the bare-branched trees stretched across the ground as I strolled around my neighborhood, soaking up the abundant sunshine.

I had passed by this patch of concrete countless times before and never noticed. It should have been uniform like all the sections before and after, but for some reason it was fractured into a mosaic of triangles and trapezoids, held together by a network of crumbling veins and blue-gray shadows. I stood there transfixed by its organic, geometric, chaotic beauty.

The Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi says an object is more beautiful because of its imperfections, not in spite of them. Uniqueness is valued above conformity. Patina over primer. Aging instead of preservation. An object’s flaws reveal how precious it is (nothing lasts), while telling the story of how it is constantly being reshaped by the world around it (nothing is finished). After all, even as we try to prevent it, everything and everyone around us is moving toward disorder (nothing is perfect).

But who gets to decide what’s perfect? Our society, which idealizes the flawlessness of youth? Or each of us according to our own intuitive sense of what feels most authentic? Weathering, wrinkles, frayed hems, and fingerprints create frustration or meaning, depending on our perspective. These accidental works of art surround us every day, and remind us to observe the world with greater awareness and compassion for the
perfectly imperfect life we live.