09 February 2012

The Wabi-Sabi End

The other morning, I happened to walk into my daughter’s bedroom just moments after she’d finished reading S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. That was a favorite book of mine during adolescence, and I have to admit that I was very excited that she was reading it. (Yes, I know. That’s pretty weird.)

But it was that exact moment when I walked into the room: she was sitting on the bed, in the very act of closing the book… and the look on her face – oh, to have had a camera at the ready! It was a look of satisfaction and of wistfulness, of happiness and sadness all at once. That sorrowful feeling when it’s time to say goodbye to characters that seem like real people (except sometimes you like them more than real people) and that immense sense of gratitude that you got to spend time with them, and see them through the obstacles they faced, all the way to the wabi-sabi end.

Wabi-sabi? Wabi-what?

Amy Krouse Rosenthal defines the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi in her wonderful book, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life:

Sabi: a mood – often expressed through literature – of attentive melancholy.

Wabi: a cozier, more object-centered aesthetic of less as more.

Wabi-Sabi: As a single idea, wabi-sabi fuses two moods seamlessly: a sigh of bittersweet contentment, awareness of the transience of earthly things, and a resigned pleasure in simple things that bear the marks of that transience.

And that’s it, isn’t it? The delight in the wonder of words and that touch of melancholy that it’s over. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a book or two I want to finish reading.

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