World's Okayest, Japanese-Style

Happy June! Summer is here… almost. My kids still have two weeks of school left. As I watch Facebook friends post about vacations and lazy afternoons, we’re still in the thick of exams and projects. We’re so ready to be done. It feels like we limp across the finish line every year. Meanwhile swim season has begun, so the house is cluttered with backpacks and math packets AND goggles and wet swim suits. It’s chaotic and cluttered—not my favorite mode of being.

I wrote to you a couple months ago about #WorldsOkayest, which is my latest spiritual challenge. As a recovering perfectionist, it’s a constant struggle to remind myself to accept, and even love, the ragged edges of my life. Hence my interest in improv, as a way to confront that tendency in myself and transform it in a playful way. The fact is, perfectionism can keep us rigid and stuck. As I write in God, Improv, and the Art of Living: “Given the choice between the perfect action that remains in my head and the imperfect action that’s actually lived out, my natural inclination is to choose the former almost every time. But improv doesn’t allow for such theoretical perfection—messy reality is always the better course.” 

Turns out there’s an ancient Japanese philosophy at work here, known as wabi-sabi. It’s more of a sensibility than a doctrine, but as I understand, it’s about seeing beauty in simplicity, the ordinary, and the imperfect. 


A friend recommended the book Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers, and I’ve been reading and re-reading the slim volume as I consider the wabi-sabiness of my own life. Here are a few nuggets that resonate with me right now: 

“Greatness” exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details.

Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness.

A wabi-sabi state of mind involves acceptance of the inevitable and appreciation of the cosmic order. 

Wabi-sabi is exemplified in that which is irregular, intimate, unpretentious, earthy, and murky. (Oh how I love the sound of the word “murky”!)

Where do you see wabi-sabi in your life? Here are a few of mine:

  • The raggedness of my son’s hair. He refuses to get it cut and it’s driving me crazy… except it’s lovely and thick and perfect for ruffling, which he still lets me do at 10 years old.
  • The remnants of a pedicure I should really get redone, but I got it the week I was with my beloved clergy group, and it’s a sweet, imperfect reminder of that time.
  • This post. I feel like I should write more, write better, write meticulously. But it’s bedtime for the kids, and a glass of wine with my husband is waiting, so for this moment I will trust the spirit to speak through quick words.


Image is from the charming children's book Wabi-Sabi by Mark Reibstein. Wabi-Sabi is the name of the cat.

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