AMERICAN FENG SHUI
THE ANTITHESIS OF HARMONIC DESIGN
HOW TO UNDO A CIVILIZATION IN FIVE EASY LESSONS
The World In Which We Find Ourselves, And The World As We Rearrange It
Feng shui is one of those annoying and superficial "takes" on ancient oriental customs that usually don't make it 50 miles inland from the California coast. The opposite of feng shui, however, has taken over the whole country. Instead of arranging our homes and our neighborhoods, our cities and our States in a comfortable, functional, productive and pleasing way, we all live in ever-increasing chaos.
For a long time. I've thought that our architects and homebuilders, realtors & mortgage bankers, planners and regulators were responsible for a lot of this. To make homes cheaper, or easier to build, or trendier, or more "modern," they began eliminating features, even whole rooms. Some of the changes were for the better: Extra bathrooms, indoor laundry rooms, separate kids' bedrooms, all made sense. But at what cost?
The first important amenity to go was the worst: No more front porch. You could no longer sit outside with your friends and family, enjoying the weather and the community, waving to the passers-by and talking to your neighbors. Your open public face was now in back of the house somewhere, probably behind a fence, up on an open deck that wasn't much good in a rainstorm or on a hot day. The connection to the neighborhood was broken. Families withdrew, falling in upon themselves, and began to lose any sense of community with their own neighbors. Throughout our society, the loss showed.
The next thing to go was the dining room. This was the one room in the house that was reserved for ceremonial occasions, special family events and holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays, Sunday dinners with Mom & Dad and Gramma & Grampa, a big feast spread out on a big table, something for the scrapbooks and the memories for years to come. Now all gone in favor of an "island kitchen," where no man celebrates or remembers anything or anyone. Or maybe a home office, to while away one's unemployed years in. But no place for tradition and family history, shared joys and generational communion. Is it any wonder that we're so cut off from our own parents and children? There's simply no place for them, literally.
The eat-in kitchen went next. Sometimes called a country kitchen, it was a large workspace and the center of the home. The stove served as the hearth, and that's where parents and children gathered to start and finish their days, sort out their troubles and share their little triumphs. Everyone was equal there, though Mom of course was in charge. It was her office and her dispensary, her meeting room and her hospitality suite. The back door was always unlocked, and the kids could always come in for a cookie or a lemonade. In a room, it was home. But it has been replaced by mean little galleys and high tech "spaces" full of stuff that seems designed to make people uncomfortable. Home is not so homey any more.
Here in Hawaii the houses were always so small that the garage or the carport served as a kind of open-air family room and front porch. But in the new developments, the whole front yard is one big driveway, and a mass of cars blocks the garage, which is often just a storage room now, covering half or all of the street side of the home. When you walk or drive down the streets, all you see is driveways, cars & closed garages. There is no connection to the neighborhood. The family are hidden inside the house all year long, night and day, rain or shine. At least two big-screen TV's are blasting away whenever anyone is home and awake. Children are zombied out in front of their own private video screens gawking at cartoons or DVD movies or computer games that rattle the roof. Dad is passed out in front of the endless Game. Mom is looking for companionship on the Internet. You can talk to strangers in China, but you can't talk to someone in the same room. Even within the home, there is no commonality, no communion, no community.
Our neighborhoods are the same. Many do not have sidewalks. There are no stores nearby and the schools and churches are miles away. The only common spaces are miserable little parks around retention ponds or next to the next phase of the development or beside the freeway. There is no town, no sense of place. Our neighborhoods have become vast collections of cookie-cutter storage bins to keep workers and students in between classes and worktimes. Every morning the entire robotic neighborhood pours out onto the roads, each locked in its' own ton of metal on wheels, windows rolled up, TV or radio blasting, cell phones connecting each car to some indeterminate point in space. And every night everyone rolls back to their bins, having had no occasion for human contact with their neighbors. What happened to the civi in civilization? We can't even spell it.
Out in the wider world, there is massive gridlock and death on the highways. We spend half our lives on the road, going nowhere, trapped in traffic, wrapped in metal. The freeways are like gigantic trains, tens of miles long, hundreds of yards wide, where each rider gets his or her own private, insulated car. Everyone creeps along at twenty or thirty miles per hour, wasting an hour or two every day commuting to jobs they could have done at home, or in some community facility near home. Everyone is obese, no one walks anywhere, our favorite foods are killing us and we can't afford health care. Trillions of dollars and whole lives are wasted like this, but we are all stuck in our cars and in our isolated suburbs and in our ephemeral jobs, ordered and disciplined, controlled and commanded by pheromones or something insectoid that we can neither see nor question. High-frequency clicks? Low-frequency rumblings? We don't know why we do all this. We just do it. We are Borg. Bees in a hive. Ants in a colony.
Is there any reason to expect that a world that is centered upon no center should be any less chaotic than each individual uncentered home? Are nations going to work any better together for being comprised of unthinking, uncommunicative, disjointed units? Is there ever likely to be some sane "New World Order" built upon such insane and inhuman foundations? Feng shui NOT!
People need community. They are crying out for it. The anti-communal corporate hegemony has no use for community. Community cannot be exploited for a profit. So we are creating our own communities online, internationally, for free. We all work enough, more than enough. We all contribute enough, more than enough, throughout our lives. We deserve to get something back. What we need is human infrastructure. Social engineering. Spiritual architecture. Feng shui. A country kitchen in the stars. A porch of one's own. A dining room and a real dinner. Because without it, we will soon be nothing but robots. Without each other, we will die. So we will take the infrastructure we have built and we will use it to create communities. And we will thrive.
Today you, yes, You must create some sense of community for yourself and the people you care about. Any simple gesture will do. Sit in a room with someone, if you can. Enjoy some tea or a few beers together. Write a love letter. Call your Dad. Join a group on the Internet. Turn your face to the light for a few moments. Breathe. It's good to be alive. Be alive. Everybody feng shui, tonight.
And get to work on that new front porch. Maybe the neighbors will help. We're social little animals, you know.
Thanks to the Goddess Of The Mountain, Connie of W. Va. Fur and Root. Go say hello to her. She'll be out on the front porch.
(cross-posted at CoffeeHouseStudio by cosanostradamus)
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