Wabi-Sabi Slinky

My Slinky has a kink in it. You know how you can just never get a kink out of a Slinky? Still, I cannot and would not throw it away. Like a rosary or a prayer wheel, my Slinky moves between my hands singing zither-like arpeggios whenever I need a meditative grounding, which is often. Where the kink causes the twelve uppermost bands to arc up, a little slice of light peeks through and smiles at me from where the Slinkster sits on the windowsill. My Slinky and I go way back. Being old enough to have had to thoroughly accept the fact that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans, I now can operate with a patience not known to me in younger years by way of a personal philosophical axiom I call the Slinky Principle. We wake up, we try, we grow when we try rightly, but invariably, we find ourselves coming back to a lot of the same emotional turf over and over and over again. But, like the optimistic skyward tracery of my humble Slinky, I believe that each time we think we have only returned to some same place in our hearts, we actually have made it one spiral higher, and we are the richer for all that we had to revisit, relearn, or simply receive again. Long way of saying, everything comes around again … but better if you flow with it.

And, of course, the course of true Slinkies never does run smooth. Thus, the kink. The kinks. The rust or the dust or the inability to stand up perfectly straight. The traumas small and large that bend and shape us, but don’t break us. So many of us start out so shiny and bouncy and determined to make a really flashy grand entrance flipping down a grand staircase into the middle of a grand affair we think is the meaning of life. But, how many of us could really ever get our Slinkies, much less ourselves, to do that “right”? And, how many people do we know who shine all the more authentically because they just aren’t trying so hard?

My Slinky is very wabi-sabi. If the ideal of beauty in the West is the capitalized Classical Greek aspiration to perfection, then the lower case wabi-sabi of the East is both counterpoint and antidote. Wabi-sabi is more an internal feeling than an external aesthetic which, by accepting the impermanence of all things, reveals the beauty in imperfection, incompleteness, and the unique quirks therein. One Zen master describes the outlook as “… a sort of hopeful sadness that recognizes that nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished, but that even so, life is full of meaning.” Wabi-sabi allows for the enjoyment of a healthy loveliness much more than does the anxiety of striving to always look and be better, to be unblemished and burnished, to look more young when we obviously are older each day and to be more strong when we more often than not are plenty strong enough.

I’m getting a little more wabi-sabi now. Five years ago, I announced to my friends, and to myself, “I’m forty, I’m getting divorced … I’m going to be high-maintenance now!” A nice superficial effort on my part to counterbalance the heavy emotional weight of the time was to do what I hadn’t done for awhile, which was to simply take bodily care of myself. Thus began a serious series of highlighting appointments, bi-monthly manicures and pedicures, an hour each morning curling my hair instead of cleaning my house, almost an hour each night in the bathtub, and overdressing at every possible opportunity.

All of this was frivolous, of course, but also, at that particular point on the curve, rock-solid worthwhile in ways beyond any passing attractiveness. Now, my fingertips are all banged up again, flayed into the dirt of my garden more than onto the tabletop of my nail tech. I just got a bad haircut, but I let it hang with an attitude of “don’t you get it?” and just forget it myself. You’ll still have to drag my warm wet body out of the bathwater each night and pry my cold gone fingers from the fun clothes, but other than that, I’m pretty much finally living the truth that the prettiest parts of our selves are those that breathe the easiest.

And those that are a little bit kinky.