Saturday, August 12, 2006

Zakka, Wabi Sabi, Suki

After a brief writing exercise for my masters class in which we had to convey an emotion through writing about an object (see below), I began thinking about framing a piece of writing around the Japanese notion of zakka. Wikipedia defines zakka as: "'the art of seeing the savvy in the ordinary and mundane'. On one level the zakka boom is just another in a series of consumer fads, but on another it's plugged into something spiritual. Cute, corny and kitsch is not enough. To qualify as a zakka, a product must be attractive, sensitive, laden with subtexts."
Lots of the craft blogs I like to look at are preoccupied with this mysterious Japanese way of thinking about Stuff, and I in turn find it fascinating that so many Westerners are drawn to it (and can't help wondering what might be lost - or gained - in the acquisition of the concept of zakka into another culture).
Another term I came across was Wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic concept concerned with finding beauty in the impermanent and the imperfect. The threefold rule of wabi-sabi ("nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect") is a rule to live by for any artist. Like many others, this concept has resonated with me. Suki (I found mention of it somewhere but cannot locate it right now) is similar, but instead of the impermanent or the broken, suki sees beauty in the eccentric and idiosyncratic.
I do not have a spiritual life. Yesterday I was thinking about this. I don't hanker after a godlike figure. But I do like the idea of a structure of spiritual rules, of a folksy gathering on Sundays in a lofty space with singing and possibly finger sandwiches after. I think for me to feel absorbed by spirituality it would have to think a lot about these sort of resonances.
I am not sure quite how I am going to craft this into a longer piece, but here is the fragment from class (the emotion was expectation).

It’s a baby’s felt slipper, hand-stitched. Not pink or blue: it’s clotted cream with a chocolate trim, complimenting the other ornate objects (a pale shell, a hand blown vase) on the low table in the main living room. It’s puffed up, breath-filled, conjuring the shape of the plump, pinkish, lolling foot that will inhabit it. It’s soft. There’s another.

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