Wabi-sabi

(No, not wasabi. Wabi-sabi.)

“There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen

Wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection; of accepting transience. It reveres authenticity and is simple, slow, and uncluttered. It loves those little cracks in our lives that allow the light to seep in.

How much time do we spend trying to seal up those cracks? To create something that is watertight and seamless? Yes, there is a certain beauty in that, but it’s misleading. It’s the beauty of youth, of perfection. The whole skin-deep thing. We lust after it in our culture, and we suffer because of it.

One of the wonderful things about our particular profession is its willingness to go beyond skin-deep. Opera isn’t for everyone, and although that makes it difficult to spread the cost and pay the bills, there are advantages to acknowledging that we’ll never be quite glossy, glib and whitewashed enough to ascend the pop culture summit.

At its best, our industry is willing to get its hands dirty, to embrace the human experience, warts and all. Opera is so sprawling and multi-faceted that it has no chance to be perfect. Wabi-sabi is irretrievably embedded in what we do. There’s no way that it can be flawless, so we are freed just a bit from the tyranny of perfection.

Caveat: Some of you need precious little encouragement to ease up on your work ethic. You are perfectly comfortable with messiness.  This post is not for you. (You know who you are.)

But if you are consumed by a quest for perfectionism (and more on that loaded topic will be found in week 3), take a bit of this to heart. Trying to be perfect is overrated, unreasonable, and selfish in all of the wrong ways.  Give yourself permission to choose the places where the light seeps in, and be ready to embrace uncertainty.

“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.
The artist never entirely knows. We guess.
We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”

Agnes de Mille

Next week: Preparation, Persistence & Practice. Have a great weekend!

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