I knew a family who lived in darkness. Come night-time, the family would patter between the black walls of their Paris apartment, sorting out clothing, packing things away, as effortlessly as we move under electric lights. They’d learned to live in the shadows and to ‘see’ their familiar world anew.
I should note that the family could well afford electric lighting. They just preferred to time their waking hours with the rhythm of the sun - rising early, retiring early. When I asked why they lived like this, they said it was to create the right conditions for beauty. One does not just stumble into a beautiful life, they said, it has to be actively managed, carefully planned.
The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi is a practice that alters perception too, shifting how we see the world around us, as well as ourselves.Wabi-sabi is the intense happiness felt in the face of beauty: wintry mist, cobblestone streets, flickering candlelight. It delights in rustic simplicity, in flaws and imperfections, in natural ageing.
The search for beauty in the West has become a shopping catalogue of consumer products. We are sold beauty - buy these clothes, cosmetics, furnishings, cars, houses; these are beautiful, we’re told.
But beauty is not something that’s for sale. Rather, to live a beautiful life, first we must learn how to see.