The Japanese have an idea which permeates throughout their entire culture. It is both a design ideal, and a philosophy, a way of seeing the world. It is something that is sorely missing in western culture as we are constantly told to strive for more, better, newer.
This idea is known as Wabi Sabi, though each term can be used independently, and some purists say that they actually shouldn’t be used together at all.
Wabi stems from the Japanese word wa, meaning harmony and peace. By extension Wabi means unmaterialistic, humble and free. Originally it described the sadness and loneliness found in poverty: the desolation of being a hermit. Then around the 4th century BC it transformed into being humble and free from possessions by choice. It became something to be celebrated, rather than feared.
Sabi literally means ‘bloom of time’. It is a word to describe the life cycle an item goes through; from brand new to slowly being corroded by time and use. It refers to the rust and patina an item collects, and to the fleetingness of beauty.
So to combine the two terms we develop the ideal of Wabi Sabi: the acknowledgement of imperfections and scarring an item has garnered through use, then finding a new level of beauty because of these imperfections. Finding meaning the story that this object tells.
The reason I’m being a pretentious dickhead is because I’m finally getting some new knee sleeves.
I bought by first set of SBDs over 5 years ago, which if nothing else is a testament to the craftsmanship that goes into making them (also a corner stone of the wabi-sabi ideal). I have lifted them in nearly every session since buying them, a rough estimate puts that at well over 1000 training sessions.
I have competed in strongman, powerlifting and weightlifting in them. They have seen me through several injuries and more PB’s than I can remember. After 5 years they certainly have some personality.
But an Eleiko barbell started them on their slow decline a couple of months ago. A small rip turned into a big hole. It’s gone past the point of character and has rounded the corner in dangerous. It’s time for some new ones.
I’m still keeping these though. There is still plenty of life there. But new pair is on the way. Wonder where they’ll be in 5 years’ time?
Union Barbell – Finding Clarity Through Strength
As much as I loathe to link to a past employer, if you want to learn more about the idea of Wabi Sabi you can read this more in-depth article I wrote a few years ago.