Coop, in his tool-blogging glee, introduced me to a word and concept that I hadn't heard before, though I wish I had. Wabi Sabi is the "beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete."
As the kind of guy who will walk right past a row of 150 pristine billet-barges to check out the gnarled, flat-black moped in the back of the lot, Wabi Sabi is an aesthetic that I can whole-heartedly stand behind.
One of my favorite rides is zipping through the alleys behind the various stores and businesses in Mesa. I love to see the worn reality behind the show, seeing the things that have been discarded or deemed unfit for public viewing.
More than once, Lady Luck has caught me photographing a rusting hulk that used to be heavy equipment when directly behind me is a Ansel-Adams-postcard-worthy landscape. I find modern ruins fascinating.
Here's the thing: objects and places that are worn, broken and imperfect have genuine character. Perfection is boring. If you don't believe me, drive through (ok, past) a gated/planned community sometime. I don't know, I guess some people like knowing that their neighbors have to keep their lawns mowed to a perfect 3.5 inches. Some people apparently hate dandelions. Some people can't bear the thought of a blemish in their plastic-wrapped, perfect little world.
But those things aren't real. It's just a show, a sterile wrapper hiding the true chaos of life and the spectre of death. Personally, I'd rather have a neighbor with a messy lawn and a genuine passion for life, instead of a genuine concern about the aluminum foil in my west-facing windows during the summer. I'll take the funky old bike that's caked with the grime of 20 years of daily riding over a perfectly polished garage-ornament. I'll go on a picnic in the crumbled ruins of an abandoned marble quarry instead of dinner at a corporate chain restaurant where the food is the same regardless of the part of the world I'm in.
Obviously, the philosophy is that life is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Trying to force life to be perfect, permanent and complete is impossible, and leads to suffering. Life is going to kill you eventually, try not to waste it worrying about correcting imperfection when there is so much beauty in imperfection. Instead, revel in the joy of seeing things not normally seen, appreciate a glorious moment instead of worrying about when it will end, and let things work out instead of trying to force them.
And for God's sake, stop washing your bike, get out there and ride it like you stole it.