This week, i’ve been reading a book about wabisabi, which is not, as i initially believed, something you might order in a Japanese restaurant, but a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay. i wish i’d known about it sooner, as it provides a fantastic excuse for avoiding chores: ‘sorry, i can’t mow the lawn/paint the gates/ mend the shed, as it would destroy the wabi-sabi.’
i became interested in the whole philosophy thanks to an article sent to me by an elderly housebound cousin, who passes each day snipping out items from the newspaper and posting them off to family and friends. My mother did the same in her last years and, although she’s been dead for three decades, i still miss the weekly envelope stuffed with clippings.
By and large, she sent me cuttings containing advice of one sort or another. A typical batch might cover such subjects as what to do if you encounter an angry crowd, how to prevent hair loss and the benefits of eating several cloves of raw garlic before breakfast. however, she would also include book reviews, recipes, gardening tips and editorial errors, including a ‘spot the ball’ competition in which the ball was still in the picture, and headlines of the ‘County spelling bee postponed’ and ‘China may be using sea to hide submarines’ variety.
After she died, we found one final cutting stapled to her will. it concerned the exorbitant cost of funerals and she had written across the top: ‘Get three quotes.’
Cuttings were my mother’s way of reminding me that i was in her thoughts. The modern equivalent is, i suppose, when a wellwisher sends one a link to an online article. This always makes my heart sink. i spend far too many of my waking hours wrestling with the e-jetsam and e-flotsam in my inbox and the last thing i want is more impersonal, non-essential email.
i stick doggedly to the print versions of newspapers and magazines because, in getting to the sections i want to read, i invariably discover other items of interest. The efficiency of digital media is also, to my mind, its downfall as it removes the element of chance and discourages browsing.
Imust confess at this juncture that i’m not above a bit of snipping and posting myself. On Wednesday, i actually sent a piece from The Southern Star to our oldest son, Nat, concerning the missing stone from our stone circle (on farmland that was once ours, but is now owned by the state).
in 2016, a Prof Meaden published a book about the circle in which he proposed a new theory, viz. that it represented the union between two fertility deities: the sky god (male) and the earth god (female). According to the professor, the circle contains a male stone (no prizes for guessing what this looks like) positioned so that at sunrise on the first day of each of the eight Gaelic seasons it casts its giant shadow onto a different female stone.
Anyway, until last year, we were, it transpires, using a missing stone from the circle to prevent motorists from parking across our driveway. That stone was stolen from us by a person or persons unknown and is now, it transpires, being kept in a secret location by a Prof Atkins, who came to see me last week with the hope of establishing its provenance.
i liked Prof Atkins, a respected geneticist, who admitted that this was not his area of expertise, but is nevertheless convinced that the purpose of many of the most famous archaeological monuments in the British isles needs to be re-evaluated. he believes, for example, that ireland’s greatest archaeological site, Newgrange, is not, as we all supposed, a giant celestial clock, but represents the earth goddess’s womb.
When, on the winter solstice, it is briefly penetrated by a single ray of sunshine—which, given the weather in ireland, frequently fails to happen—what is being witnessed is the fecund sky god… Well, you get the picture.
‘We were, it transpires, using a missing stone from the circle to prevent motorists from parking on our drive
The sky god, fecund or otherwise, has been quite good to us following the dreadful damage wrought by hurricane Ophelia and storm Brian. The past few days have been cold, but sunny and when i come in from my afternoon walk, i’m grateful that i can lounge in front of a log fire in the drawing room at a time of day when i know many of my neighbours are facing a tedious commute.
‘Wabi-sabi,’ according to Leonard Koren, ‘is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.’ Exactly.
Jonathan Self is the author of Good Money: Become an Ethical Entrepreneur (Head of Zeus) and a raw dog-food maker (http://honeysrealdog food.com) who lives in Co Cork, Ireland
Next week Joe Gibbs