Leonard Koren

In 1992 I embarked on a quest to identify and describe the particular kind of beauty I felt most deeply drawn to. At the time I was living principally in Japan. By “beauty” I mean that complex of exciting, pleasurable sensations—ostensibly emanating from things—that makes us feel more alive and connected to the world. Often these feelings are accompanied by a compelling sense of truth, goodness, and/or love.
Why my interest in beauty? My father had recently died in a freak car accident and I found myself questioning the purpose of life. Of all the possibilities considered, the capacity to experience beauty seemed like one of the best reasons for living. Beauty is an involuntary response to a high-order pattern recognition. Perhaps it is even a glimpse into our mind’s underlying perceptual architecture. As such, beauty is a kind of “enlightenment” that reveals something fundamental about the way in which the world appears to us. I wanted to understand this process better.
I sensed that the species of beauty I was most attracted to was close at hand, hiding in plain sight as it were. It was not about good taste; possibly it was about its opposite. But it was a beauty that most sensitive, aesthetically inclined people would surely be able to recognize.

2 thoughts on “Leonard Koren

  1. shinichi Post author

    The Beauty of Wabi-Sabi

    by Leonard Koren

    originally published by Global Oneness Project


    In 1992, while living in Japan, I embarked on a project to locate and define the kind of beauty that I felt most deeply attracted to. By “beauty” I meant that complex of exciting, pleasurable sensations ostensibly emanating from things—objects, environments, and even ideas—that makes us feel more alive and connected to the world; that urgent feeling we equate with “the good,” “the right,” and “the true.”

    Instinctively I was drawn to the beauty of things coarse and unrefined; things rich in raw texture and rough tactility. Often these things are reactive to the effects of weathering and human treatment. I loved the tentative, delicate traces left by the sun, the wind, the heat, and the cold. I was fascinated by the language of rust, tarnish, warping, cracking, shrinkage, scarring, peeling, and other forms of attrition visibly recorded.

    Chromatically, I was enamored of objects and environments whose once-bright colors had faded into muddy tones, or into the smoky hues of dawn and dusk. I was particularly taken by the non-color colors, gray and black. When closely observed, there is an infinite spectrum of blue-grays, brown-grays, red-grays, yellow-grays. . . And green-blacks, orange-blacks, violet-blacks, purple-blacks. . . .

    I was also aroused by the beauty of things odd, misshapen, and/or slightly awkward; what conventional thinking might consider “not in good taste” or “ugly”. I was aroused by understated, unstudied, unassuming objects that possessed a quiet authority. I gravitated toward things that reduced the emotional distance between them and I; things that beckoned me to get closer, to touch, to relate with.

    And lastly, I was attracted to the beauty of things simple, but not ostentatiously austere. Things clean and unencumbered, but not sterilized. Materiality, pared down to essence, with the poetry intact.

    I was aroused by understated, unstudied, unassuming objects that possessed a quiet authority.


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