Most people in Western culture are not familiar with the Japanese term “wabi-sabi.” I recently discovered this term myself and quickly observed how it equates to Joshua’s teachings about perfect flaws. Basically, wabi-sabi is the tradition of honoring the beauty of imperfection and the flaws that appear due to the passage of time.
Wabi-sabi honors three simple realities: 1) nothing lasts, 2) nothing is finished, and 3) nothing is perfect. Joshua’s philosophy grasps these simple realities completely, yet Joshua looks upon these realities as being perfectly designed flaws in conscious awareness.
To illustrate perfect flaws, Joshua urged me to enter the following ancient Chinese story in the book:
An elderly Chinese woman had two large water pots; each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”
The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.
“For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
Joshua reminds us that we are loved as we are – with our perfectly designed flaws. He urges us to accept that it is our flaws that result in creating beauty, not perfection like so many seek, but natural beauty. Let nature be the mirror. Furthermore, Joshua wants us to remember this story when you judge the perfect flaws of others or when you feel ashamed of your own perfect flaws. I have grown to accept that our nature to judge ourselves is one of our perfect flaws, and this characteristic of human nature serves a perfect function.
Acceptance of our innate perfect flaws results in a release of stress. We experience freedom as we release unrealistic expectations of perfection. We feel more lighthearted when we let go of idealistic notions. For example, I stop expecting perfection from my body, my relationships, my job, my boss, my government, and so on. Expecting perfection always results in disappointment, and feeling disappointed is a form of needless suffering.
I advocate and hold the intention of doing my best. However, I accept that my best effort may fluctuate as I pass through peaks and valleys on my journey. An intention to do my best is an easy shift away from expecting perfection. Doing my best is truly all I can do, so expecting myself to do better than my best is unrealistic and stress inducing. Doing my best includes the intention to learn from my mistakes, and in this intention, I fully accept and own the mistakes I make. Intending to do better next time is not equal to expecting perfection next time. I’m sure you get my point.
As I see it, living a wabi-sabi life brings peace of mind and heart. Accepting perfect flaws in All That Is allows us to appreciate simplicity and enjoy beauty in our imperfection. Hearing the joy and love in the ancient Chinese story shared here, if you call me a crackpot I will laugh.