The Desire for Control and Feng Shui

Once an architectural style intended to align constructs in auspicious geometries, feng shui has devolved into a decorating style in the New Age conscious. It is the first and least effective method of attacking the House employed by the Navidson family. The original intent of feng shui relied on redirecting spatial flow in a particular place so as to maximize tranquility, a mathematical system relying on astronomy and geometry to create positive constructs, i.e. more or less good, sound, pleasing architecture. Mysticism was an element of the philosophy, but as it developed the process became increasingly scientific. The lodestone of fortune telling evolved into the first magnetic compasses, astrology evolved into some of the earliest comprehensive studies of astronomy. Still, this remained a philosophy of harmony, a means in which to style human architecture with the pleasing qualities of the outside. This process generally did not rely upon trinkets scattered about living rooms, but it has come to mean just that in a certain kind of educated, consumerist culture. Feng Shui was one of many targets in the Cultural Revolution, but became very popular in the United States as a style of decorating, loaded with the language of hocus-pocus and lacking much of the core discipline that made feng shui a natural science in its days of practice. What was art and science evolved, by transfer to the homogeneous consumerist culture, into a product that can be purchased in how-to manuals, self-help guides, and terrible, terrible furniture.

Of interesting note is a Google function tracking a time line for how feng shui is mentioned in articles:,tl_num:100&prmd=b&ei=U8nJS-DwDMGblgeR9_X7BQ&oi=timeline_navigation_bar&ct=timeline-navbar&cd=3&ved=0CG4QywEoBA

Notice the spike in articles pertaining to the past few decades, and skim through the quality of some of those articles. Starting at the approximate halfway point in a list of 100 pertinent articles, the dialogue shifts from feng shui as a science of historical and mathematical significance to a series of anonymous write-ups on how to clean your garage and websites offering to sell special cures for the imbalances of everyday life. The selected summary words from Google offer some hilarious perspectives on the natural science: “What is the essence of Feng Shui? Is it clearing clutter? Rearranging your furniture? Purchasing a special object or ‘cure’? Feng Shui is about all those things,” apparently. Mathematical calculations are not necessary because, well, that would be boring. To make this clear: Karen is addressing a physical impossibility, a growing, albeit obfuscated menace, with a style of modern decorating.

A concept that really does not carry over into a possessive culture is the intended harmony between a person and a space. Rather, the language of modern feng shui practice has come to express dominance over the space, the need for the individual to possess the outside and force harmony upon it. It inherently contains a language of power because a home is supposed to be property, a defensive wall against the outside world rather than a space in balance. This is certainly the language that Karen is communicating in as she purchases more and more junk in an attempt to subjugate the House. As Zampano’s bogus criticism suggests, William may be attempting to express dominance by exploring and mastering the endless corridor, but Karen is engaged in a kind of intellectual imperialism over what cannot and should not be explained. The House defies any attempt to understand it precisely because it embodies the unknown, and its emptiness proportionally infects anyone attempting to discern its mystery.

The infection of the conscious-less House is not without a sense of irony, however. In trying to impose order upon her home, Karen almost loses her husband and children. Any sense of what “home” was supposed to mean are ultimately lost to the abyss, along with her stupid trinkets.


~ by benjyblanco on April 17, 2010.

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