“Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”
This quote sums up the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which has no direct translation in English. “Wabi” is said to be defined as “rustic simplicity” or “understated elegance.” “Sabi” is translated to “taking pleasure in the imperfect.” This photograph of an abandoned toy truck captures the principle beautifully. The imperfection of the truck (and even the photograph thereof) is evident. Although the truck lost its wheels long before I took this photograph, its purpose has not yet been fulfilled – not completely. It is now immortalized in this photograph, which has subsequently become the subject of this post. Nothing is finished, really. This post will be replaced tomorrow by a less melancholy subject, and slowly it will fade from memory. Nothing lasts. The Romantic poets were students of the ephemeral, finding beauty in the brief life of all things. Even the Augustan poet Horace, famous for his introduction of the phrase “carpe diem,” was fascinated with fleeting time. There is a beauty to this photograph, though; however, I could not put my finger on it before I connected it with wabi-sabi. Now it has become clear why its perfectly imperfect composition and subject evoked such strong feelings of melancholy on the one hand, and pleasant nostalgia on the other. The Japanese phrase captures in two words, what it has taken me a lifetime to understand.
Nothing lasts. Nothing is finished. Nothing is perfect.
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