Picture a small clay bowl. It’s not quite a perfect circle. There’s a dimple on its rim and a chip on its side. This bowl is wabi-sabi (侘寂). Traditional Japanese aesthetics revolved around this concept of “flawed beauty.” A wabi-sabi object evokes a sense of “serene melancholy and spiritual longing.” You see the little bowl and feel a bit sad. Not depressed, but reflective, wishing to be part of something more.

While there’s no direct translation, wabi roughly meant “alone or separate from others,” and sabi meant “withered or capable of rust.” Things apart from others are imperfect, wanting to be part of the collective soul. Items capable of rust are impermanent, transient to this world. With time, the words gathered more positive connotations but retained their original sentiment:

  • wabi = imperfect
  • sabi = impermanent

Intellectual appropriation aside, many artists, writers, and programmers adopt the ethos of wabi-sabi in their creative process. They accept that their creations are imperfect, never finished, and will vanish in the sands of time—especially salient for digital products like videos or apps. But this state is a hard pill to swallow. My ego likes to believe that my work will give me a sense of immortality. Still, I know this is untrue—my imperfect little stories and websites will eventually disappear. However, the mere act of creation helps me inch closer toward a wisp of spiritual fulfillment. It lets me feel, if only for a moment, that I’m part of something more.

Or am I just rationalizing my bad doodles?