Archives for posts with tag: Feng Shui

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A couple of years ago my wife and I went on a holiday to the beautiful Greek island of Kefalonia and stumbled upon a house that so unashamedly proclaimed its whimsical good humour to the world at large that it was impossible not to stop and stare… and point… and smile… and take pictures… and generally fulfill every annoying tourist cliché in the book. Decked out from top to toe in a resplendent raspberry and vivid lime green, the place really did emanate its very own wave lengths of positive energy. Seriously, if you’d fiddled around with the dial of a transistor radio in the near vicinity, you’d have been able to have listened to the place humming happy little tunes to itself as it watched the world go by without a care in the world.

And whenever springtime rolls around again… and nature starts throwing a bit of colour about… and the miasmic drabness of a suburban winter finally starts to recede from view – I always find myself thinking back to that raspberry and lime green house with an overwhelming sense of nostalgic benevolence, and a seemingly instinctive desire for a radical injection of humour and vivacity into this woefully utilitarian world we seem to have built for ourselves.

If only the genius behind that resplendent Greek masterpiece were given free reign over the entirety of a modern city! How many dull grey office blocks would be transformed into 3 dimensional cubist masterpieces? How many cement grey subways would be commandeered for the artistic free-play of our alienated youth? How many toxic advertising billboards could be replaced with actual paintings? And I don’t mean the commissioned monstrosities knocked up by the Oxbridge turtleneck brigade for their boyhood friends in local government… or the cold pretentious oddities offered up (with sneering indifference) by your average urban architect hoping to surf his way to fame and notoriety on a wave of controversial reportage – I mean real art, and real city planning, and real building design by real people of the community. Fuck it. Why can’t the old fisherman from number 7 be given somewhere to memorialize the memory of his dead wife in sea shells? Why can’t the kids from the local junior school bedazzle the pavements around the local park with a hundred thousand painted sunflowers? Why can’t we draw smiley faces on the roundabouts… and grow strawberries up the railings of municipal buildings… and have stenciled processions of black and white doves for zebra crossings?

Why so drab?

Why so grey?

Why so serious?

Can there be any cultural crime as heinous as a societies loss of its own sense of humour?

Where in the name of God will we find ourselves if we start taking things too seriously?

Let’s face it – histories back-catalogue of particularly serious societies doesn’t exactly make for comfortable reading…

At the end of Jacques Tati’s seminal cinematic masterpiece “Playtime”, a sterile modernist Paris of glass, and steel, and right-angles is transformed into a giant fairground, where roundabouts become carousels and the world dances happily along to the sound of a circus organ. It was a desperate and brilliant plea for a more human version of reality – and as I endure my morning commute, crawling across the belly of a dead cement giant in my miserable little space-pod, I can’t help thinking that tati’s passionate plea is more relevant today than ever before.

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I know I run the risk of sounding like a blithering paranoiac on a steady diet of dodgy mushroom omelettes but ever since I first moved into this house six years ago, I’ve been utterly convinced that the place emanates some seriously bad vibrations. Up until yesterday, it really wouldn’t have surprised me to have discovered that we lived on the exact same spot where the locals used to hold witch burning parties in the early 1700s, or that the foundations of the place were laid over a Roman fortress decimated by smallpox. Now however, after finally dipping my fingers into the fascinating world of feng shui, I can confirm (though not with any great relish) that all of our property woes are the direct result of a near apocalyptic series of feng shui disasters. Seriously, this place could have been set up as an experiment in how to ruin your own life through the attraction of negative energy… and if we were ever to invite around a feng shui consultant to help us re-arrange the coffee tables, I doubt they’d even make it through the front door before they collapsed in a writhing, screaming heap and started frothing at the mouth.

Ten seconds into my online research and I start coming across lines like “Do you live in a cul-de-sac?” (Yes actually I do…) and “Is your backyard sloped?” (Yes actually it is…), and then other, altogether less encouraging lines like “these houses will have challenging Feng Shui that needs to be taken care of.” And it’s so painfully obvious that the word “challenging” is just a polite way of saying “seriously and irredeemably fucked” that I have to curb the compulsion to bundle my family into the car and check indefinitely into the nearest Travelodge. In contexts like this, “Challenging” is a serious word indeed, it hints at dark and disturbing truths that are too hideous to be faced in their naked form. “Challenging” is the word that teachers use in the school reports of their most criminally deranged pupils: “Johnny’s recent experiments with a chainsaw in the playground raised some challenging behavioural concerns”… or politicians trot out whenever they get busted: “a Government spokesperson conceded earlier today that the photos of the prime minister dressed as Mussolini whilst snorting cocaine off the naked breasts of a Thai prostitute have created a challenging PR situation.” Let’s face it, “challenging” is bad… and nobody in their right mind would want to get home from a tiring day at work to be “challenged” by the very existence of their property on the spot where it currently resides. There really is no escaping the fact that what we’re dealing with here is a remarkably concrete problem. A cul-de-sac is a cul-de-sac… a hill is a hill… and no amount of online feng shui hints or tips are ever going to amount to anything more than a second rate palliative care programme unless I call in the bulldozers and destroy the entire street, or convince the council to shift a few hundred thousand tonnes of top soil.

And if it’s depressing to fall at the first hurdle, imagine how it feels to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and then slap the tarmac at the second hurdle as well. It seems that a good feng shui house requires “a smooth, strong and clear energy flow to its front door”. A nice, simple, gently curved pathway is the thing you’re after – something that imparts an air of cheerfulness and calm, maybe a couple of moderately proportioned bushes and a water feature to finish things off. “Big trees, old pots and recycling bins” blocking the way to the front door are (not unreasonably) frowned upon, whilst weeds, dead flowers and any other inauspicious signs of decay should be promptly removed from the scene. Needless to say, the path to my own front door deviates catastrophically from this feng shui blue-print. Picture instead a hideous procession of vomit yellow slabs (with some sort of fungal infection) lurching aggressively away from the front of the house like a drunk being ejected from a nightclub. Then picture this path taking a completely insane right angle about a third of the way down a decidedly patchy lawn before stumbling to the left for a few feet and then abruptly terminating at a narrow driveway of black tarmac. Throw in a few dandelions prising their way through the cracks in the slabs and finish off with a pair of ornamental cement tortoises – one of whom was sadly decapitated by the lawn-mower a few years back – and you get a good sense of the place.

You know, the more I think about the layout of that path the more it pisses me off. What kind of a fuckwit building company would force a family to skulk sideways into their own house like they were about to undertake a kidnapping? And I mean seriously, how could a home ever appear warm or inviting when you have to tip-toe down the side of your car and then navigate a series of jarring, unnatural right angles before you even get your God damn keys out? Feng shui… environmental psychology… the physics of light and space… geometrical relationships… common sense… call it what you like, it’s abundantly clear that our builders decided to turn a blind eye to any of these principles… and as a result of which we got well and truly shafted to save the price of a couple of dozen paving slabs. And would it really have cost our builders that much money to put a bit of weed repellent sheeting down? I could easily go off on one about all of this shit but this post is supposed to be about feng shui rather than unscrupulous building developers so I’ll save my wrath for the great day… and besides, the Tao Te Ching (which I always try to consult in times of high dudgeon) clearly states that there is no “greater misfortune than having an enemy.” Wise words indeed… and a difficult point to ignore – I suppose I could ruin the rest of my life tirelessly fighting for the “cause of the curved path” and the building giants would still throw about right angles like fucking hand grenades. Far better to remember yet another line from the Tao Te Ching, “stop thinking and end your problems”. Maybe we should just go off and live in a tent somewhere? A round tent. Like a Mongolian Yurt.

Anyway; once you’ve navigated the negative energy of the topography and the garden path, the next feng shui disaster waiting to throw a spanner into your psyche is the front door itself, which screeches like a stuck pig whenever it’s opened or closed… not to mention the fact that it’s impossible to swing the front door back even a full 90 degrees because of our tunnel-like hallway (for obvious reasons any entrance way worth its salt should be broad and inviting). Oh and then there’s the question of the bathroom located directly above it – which, also for obvious reasons, is a massive feng shui no no. I actually went so far as to check the position of the toilet bowl itself, and now realise that I have the great masochistic pleasure of metaphorically shitting directly over the entrance to my own little fiefdom every single morning! Allow me to quote just one more illustrative example from my friends at fengshui.about.com

What is the first thing you see as your enter your house? Where do you feel the energy (your attention) goes right away? Does it go straight to a bathroom that is close to the front door, or is it pushed right back by a mirror facing the front door? Do you have a staircase facing the front door? Maybe your front door is aligned to the back door, so that most of the good energy that enters the house easily escapes?

No prizes for guessing who has a back door directly lined up with his front door… a “french” backdoor no less, with nice big sheets of seven foot glass to bounce out any wayward positive energy that may have accidently made its way across the threshold. Also no prizes for guessing who has a stairway in his hall… and a downstairs toilet as the very first thing you pass as you walk into the property. I could go on for another ten pages about giant mirrors opposite beds, and hexagonal dining tables throwing off energy streams like killer fucking lazer beams, and sofa’s tucked behind doors, and colour schemes that would kill plant life on contact… but I think the point has been made.

You know, as naive as it sounds, until I read up on all this feng shui stuff I’d never really processed any of these issues. My dissatisfaction with the house was vague and free-floating – the endless tug of a thousand negative spatial arrangements just beneath the water margin of my own consciousness, bubbling away, day in, day out, like a toxic cauldron. Of course, now that I’ve seen the feng shui light as it were, everything about this weird house and it’s flat malevolent vibe is starting to make sense – and maybe as seemingly little a thing as the position of your toilet bowl and the angle of your garden path really does make a difference… it’s that whole death by a thousand pin pricks idea. And hey, why would I ever be arrogant enough to doubt the idea that a bunch of ancient Chinese sages who spent their entire lives living close to nature and contemplating this stuff would have less of an understanding of it than I do myself?

If like me, you’ve ever looked into getting a couple of red eyed tree frogs, you’ll no doubt have read the endless online articles about the need to replicate their natural environment… and that it really isn’t good enough to simply provide them with the necessary heat, light and food for their survival. Being tree frogs they need greenery and foliage and high places… and if you fail to provide as much for their “tree frog-ness” as their biological requirements, you’ll have a couple of very unhappy tree frogs indeed. Maybe they’ll be so pissed off that they’ll go on hunger strike and die. It might sound strange but in many ways I think this is where feng shui can play a part in our lives today. It’s a body of knowledge that is older than this strange world of glass and brick boxes we seem to have built around ourselves… and it’s sensitive enough to the psychology of human needs and environmental requirements to ground us back in nature… where, like all animals, we rightfully belong. Feng shui seems to understand a human’s “human-ness” in the same way that the owner of red eyed tree frogs needs to understand those tree frogs fundamental “frog-ness”. Something your average property developer wouldn’t give a fuck about.

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