“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci
Wabi-Sabi – a Japanese term – is a form of appreciation for the beauty of simplicity. It is an idea foreign to many westerners.
Wabi means a lack of materialistic ‘wealth’ while feeling free from a need of worldly things. Sabi is defined by a feeling of solitude and loneliness described in Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds as “the feeling you might have while walking alone on a deserted beach deep in contemplation.”
Together, the terms meld to give tribute to simplicity.
A story titled “The Fish Story,” as told in Presentation Zen, talks of the importance of reducing something to its essential form:
Vijay opened a store and put up a “we sell fresh fish here” sign. His father suggested taking out ‘we,’ because it gave the vibe that the company was more emphasized than the customer. The sign was changed to ‘Fresh fish sold here.’
Next, his brother suggested removing the word ‘here,’ as it was obvious where the fish was being sold. ‘Here’ was nixed and the sign read ‘Fresh fish sold.’
His sister said ‘sold’ could be removed from the sign because where else would it be sold? What remained was ‘Fresh fish.’
Finally, a neighbor mentioned the freshness of the fish was evident from the fish itself.
The sign simply said “FISH” at the point when Vijay realized the smell and appearance of his shop made the fact he sold fish obvious. So, in its final form, the sign became a picture of a fish with the word “fresh” inside.
“By stripping down an image to its essential meaning, an artist can amplify that meaning.” – Scott McCloud
How close to Wabi-Sabi are we in our life? Why?
In western culture, grunge is popular: a non-restrictive, messy, chaotic style because we believe less is not more. It’s proof that many of us aren’t close to Wabi-Sabi in our lives.
This isn’t good in a society that sees so many messages.
According to the American Marketing Association,“The average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day.”
What does that mean for your presentation? It’s in competition with many other messages, and most of those messages lean toward the grunge style. Why? Because people think more is better.
More is easier – as Churchill says, ‘I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter’ – but it isn’t better.
Simplicity can be confused with emptiness, and while emptiness is always simple, simplicity is not always empty.