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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Every night when I go to bed, it is as if I am going to the cinema. My dreams are like movies.

Last night, I had a Wabi-Sabi dream. The aesthetics of Wabi-Sabi is also a kind of Zen aesthetics and the Zen mindset. It has to do with the beauty in imperfect and impermanent things. It is the direct opposite of modernism or modern culture, which seeks absolute perfection and is keen on the pursuit of happiness. The Wabi-Sabi vision of beauty is quite different. It finds beauty in ordinary, imperfect and often flawed things. Andy Warhol said that there is beauty in everything, just not everybody sees it. Perhaps Wabi-Sabi has to do with discovering beauty in things that the modern eye does not find impressive.

In my dream last night, I was back at a school I used to teach at. Such a theme tends to be recurring often — I am at an old office, either in a corporate setting or an educational setting. In the last dream, I was looking into a cabinet where I stored my personal belongings. It was not a big cabinet. I did not have many belongings. What I saw were old issues of my Buddhist magazine, probably dated back to the 90s when I used to publish often. I could see it from the cover design. There were no more than ten issues. But I had a nostalgic feeling. For some reason, there was also a radio in the cabinet. The radio was turned on. It was broadcasting a storytelling show. It was old-style storytelling. Reminds me of the storytelling radio shows of my childhood. I tried to find out what radio station that was, without success. Then, I woke up.

I often have vivid dreams like this. Although there is a sense of nostalgia or regret, there is also a strange sense of beauty in it. It was a Wabi-Sabi dream alright.

In the midst of our Coronavirus crisis, we will find that it is difficult to return to things that we normally cherish or enjoy. Things are not the same. Perhaps they will never return to what they were previously. But as Andy Warhol said, there is beauty everywhere. Whether we will see it depends on how mindful and open we are. It is a good time to train our Wabi-Sabi eyes.

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Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

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