“Feng no way” (Feng shui)


Feng shui has traditionally been a Chinese philosophy centered on harmonizing people with their environment. In the modern West, its primary manifestation is as overpriced redecorating. Its literal meaning is “wind water,” while a looser translation is, “You paid HOW much?”

Feng shui purports to be a type of architecture that uses invisible binding forces. It works, provided that metaphor is coupled with lumber and nails. One advertisement boasts, “Get your life moving by using the energy of specific feng shui colors in order to achieve the desired results. Color is very powerful, as it is an expression of light, and many homes and offices are starved for light. So bring on vibrant light energy with beautiful feng shui colors.”

This ad says nothing more than light and color can brighten a room, and this is the advice some people pay thousands of dollars for. Most persons selling feng shui wave one of the most common pseudoscience red flags, the appeal to irrelevant authority, in this case the ancient Chinese. Another frequent tactic, seen here, is including an isthmus of science in a mainland of gobbledygook, since color derives from the light spectrum. And no new age claim would be complete without a poorly-defined reference to energy.

There is no way to disprove most feng shui claims since they cannot be tested. There has been one notable exception. One feng shui customer followed the be-kind-to-nature suggestion to plant lucky bamboo in his yard. In so doing, he introduced into the ecosystem a plant it couldn’t handle.

In ancient Southeast Asia, temples, castles, and cities were built with the main entrance oriented to the south, since feng shui taught this to be the most fortunate side. There are few castles to orient in California, but there are plenty of folks with expendable income who orient it toward feng shui practitioners. These persons will rearrange living room, dining room, and bedroom sets for $3,000, which would be a fair price if the sets were included.

In the spirit of Do It Yourself home repair, I settled for snagging a promotional brochure and tackling feng shui on my own. Words from the brouchure are in italics.

From the outside, a good feng shui house has no Sha Chi energy attacking it, nor any Si Chi low energy sapping it. The only thing I saw outside were two rabbits, so I’m not too worried about this one. Besides, if there’s any Sha Chi or Si Chi energy there, they can fight it out.

Any big trees in the front yard could be blocking chi. So to live in harmony with nature, chop down that mature oak.

Keep all pathways, doors, and windows clear of debris. This is promoting the free movement of Chi, previously known as identifying fire hazards.

It is important to create a welcoming, strengthening channel of good energy. What is the first thing you see as your enter your house? The feng shui brochure I tossed in the trash. Where does your attention go right away? To my wife telling me I forgot to take out the trash.

Maybe your front door is aligned to the back door, so that most good energy enters the house, then escapes easily. Until now, I thought they were telling me the constant stream of chi was a good thing. But I guess it’s supposed to be trapped, which means never opening a door or window. Sounds like they should tap into the agoraphobe market.

Everything is in constant flow and change. Even after we create a strong feng shui foundation in your house, the work continues. So every time you screw up, I pay to bring you back.


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