My latest conspiracy theory is that feng shui was invented to trick Sensitive New Age Partners into moving furniture. Some spouses need a little nudge to set aside the latest spiritual self-help book and engage in manual labor. Statements like “Honey, we need to move the couch,” do not sound like nagging when you add, “… so the room will have good feng shui.” Rather than balking at another mindless household chore most of us are inclined to say, “Who am I to stand in the way of metaphysical peace and harmony?”
I have to confess I am one of those partners who need incentives to do the drudgework of life. Tell me that Zen Buddhism teaches that inner peace can be found while doing the dishes and I will do the dishes. Tell me that medieval monks taught we must practice the presence of God while sweeping and mopping the floor and I will pick up the broom and follow up with the mop. I am like the method actor who is always asking the question, “What’s my motivation?” Give me some inspiration and I’ll get ‘er done.
The philosopher William James taught that the most important question about religion is not, “Is it true?” but “Is it useful?” which is why his philosophy is called pragmatism. So if we adopt this mode of thinking we won’t need any conspiracy theories about feng shui or reductionist explanations for Zen meditation or contemplative living. We can simply ask, “Is it useful? Does it help our relationships? Do we feel greater peace and harmony in our lives?” If our answer to these questions is “Yes,” then we are definitely on to a good thing.
Even so, I have a little bit of a rebel in me. If I ever start a rock n’ roll band (which I occasionally threaten to do) I am going to call it Bad Feng Shui. My idea is that the band will open up our shows by striking a defiant pose on a stage full of poorly arranged furniture. We will wear dark sunglasses that convey our complete indifference to the tabletops, counters and open closets full of clutter. The expression on our face will say, “spirituality be damned.” In my imagination our audience will scream with delirium as crowds so often do for anti-authoritarian rock stars. Beatlemania will seem like a tempest in a teapot compared to Badfengshuimania!
This is my pipe dream. When it comes to day-to-day reality I am more of a pragmatist. I think I will keep moving furniture, mopping, sweeping, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, folding the laundry, running errands and all the other usual drudgery. It is good for my relationships. It makes for greater peace and harmony in my home. For a lack of a better term I am going to call it good feng shui.