Red - Column for 2/21

Feng Shui

Recently I've been reading about Feng Shui, which is the "Asian art of placement." Following the Feng Shui principles is supposed to bring you good luck. This interest is largely just an expression of an overall interest in decorating. Basically, now I have a house that I live in, I'm sort of trying (in a very unhurried way) to figure out what I like. I think other people have a much stronger sense of what they like then I do, and therefore an easier time with this part.

Anyway one of the styles that I find appealing at an intellectual level, is a kind of spare Asian style of decorating. (Sadly, this style does not lend itself well to the large overstuffed reading chairs for which I also have a fondness, and I'm not sure I can do both.) Since many of the articles using this spare style, make reference to Feng Shui I've been reading about it.

I've been particularly looking at Feng Shui for the office, since my office is essentially a fairly blank slate and desperately needs plants and stuff. I'm not sure I believe the chain letter kind of good luck and bad luck stories, but there are some interesting observations. The advice generally falls into two camps, the first is the kind that seems obvious once you think about it, the other is just pure superstition. I guess there are also the possibility of a placebo effect, as well. In that if you set your goals, and then rearrange the furniture in order to increase your luck in that regard, you will think about the goal more and may start working harder to get there - thereby bringing in the "the harder you work the luckier you get" factor.

First, for the advice that seems obvious once you think about it, a lot of this category comes from ...hmmm...what shall I call it... interpersonal power dynamics. For example, the Feng Shui books say that you should place your desk so that your back is not to a door. This makes a certain amount of sense -- I hate having people sneak up on me. So this is just a justification of that natural itchy feeling you get when someone is looking over your shoulder while you work. The solution, if you work in a cubical or some other environment where you can't move your desk, is to put up a mirror so you can see behind you while you work. Now, naturally this observation in the Feng Shui literature is couched in terms of reflecting certain types of bad energy. I think the phase is "deflect the poison arrows away from you." However, it's not a bad thought when you are setting up your office.

Another thing, not only should you not have your back to the door, if possible your desk should be placed far back in the room facing toward the door, but not in a direct line from the door. Again, you kind of know intuitively that this would be the "power" position in the room. With the came kind of logic, the "power" position at a conference table is also far away from the door and not with your back to it.

Interesting isn't it...

The Feng Shui practitioners also recommend, of course, the one thing I have the hardest time with, not having a cluttered desk. Apparently, clutter on the desk leads to stagnant energy, which I can kind of see...using a cluttered desk-cluttered mind analogy. They also have many recommendations using plants to effectively soften edges and block views (the latter being that power dynamic thing again), which all sound pretty nice.

Actually, as a design style it's pretty nice. It is also useful that it gives me a mechanism to think about those interpersonal power dynamics, which is something I tend to be oblivious about in general.

However, you will know I've gone a bit loopy when I decide I must have a green dragon on the East wall.

Columns by Red