Allan Watts used to say that the trouble with English was that it could only describe parts of things and not the thing as a whole. He used the illustration of a cat passing behind a picket fence. Each space between the pickets was part of the description, and each was limited by what you could see – part of the head, then part of the neck and so on.
He contrasted this to the Chinese written system, which is made up of ideograms, or symbolic pictures of objects and concepts. Thus, the symbol for a cat could be rendered in such a way that the reader understood that it was a grey tabby, kind of old, moving slowly, a myriad of characteristics. It was in this way that Watts showed how we in the West have an incomplete understanding of the world as we communicate and think in a linear way (one letter follows another) while the Chinese use ideograms to communicate the whole.
“Alphabetic writing is a representation of sound, whereas the ideogram represents vision and, furthermore, represents the world directly-not being a sign for a sound which is the name of a thing. As for names, the sound “bird” has nothing in it that reminds one of a bird, and for some reason it would strike us a childish to substitute more direct names, such as tweetie, powee, or quark.” Alan Watts, Tao, the Watercourse Way, 1975, p14.
The natural world is not a linear system. There are an infinite number of variables that interact constantly. Indeed, we know that the only constant is change. So to accurately describe one moment with all it’s variables would take ages in our linear, alphabetic language.
As we approach the New Year (the Chinese New Year will not be here until February 14) rather than making resolutions, I invite you to decide to approach the world differently – pay attention to the natural world, for it is in that natural world that you will start to see great wisdom. Once this process starts, the Chinese way of approaching how the part fits into the whole makes a lot more sense than our Western concept of breaking things down trying to gain control. Indeed, as we in the West try to gain absolute control over the natural world, we end up trying to take more and more control through creating more and more devices which purport to give us more control. We finally become slaves to the devices of our own making, and still we cannot control even a small part of our world.
Take a look at the areas in you business that don’t seem to be working and try and observe what is blocking the energy from flowing smoothly in that physical space. At home, look around your yard. Where do things not grow? What areas are used often by your animals and where do they Not Go? Inside, what room do you tend Not to Use? Where do things gather (clutter magnets)?
Instead of trying to fix something quickly, take the time to pay attention and observe how the world operates in any location you observe. Don’t be in a hurry. Once you have a pretty good idea of what’s not being used or is out of control, what can you do to make it more harmonious? Of course, that’s what I do for a living, but there’s a lot you can do before you need my services. And if whatever you do does not give you the results you hoped for, then we do need to talk. Hopefully, you will start to see that Feng Shui is not some mysterious or magical thing – it is very practical and based on considered observation of our natural world.
I think much of our problems today come from the fact that we (and I mean here our culture) keep attempting to remove our focus from the natural world and direct it to man made things. What is the latest incarnation of this? Back seat DVD screens in cars! People think they are buying distraction and quiet, but they are really demonstrating to their children that the man-made, the artificial, is more desirable than the natural. And that, my friends, is a symptom of a real sickness.