Monday, January 28, 2008

Measuring Good Luck

missingpoints classic: Measuring good luck
27 January 2003

Most malls have a kiosk that sells good luck charms. Mostly of Chinese origin, their wares include mirrors that you hang above your doorway and those insidious waving cats that are supposed to welcome the good luck in. Some of these cats even have a battery-operated "waving motion" that is just creepy. (Is that supposed to increase the luck, or just scare people into buying?)

These stores are reportedly doing well (And why shouldn't they? They have loads of lucky charms.), which just goes to show how much people believe in luck. But it's more than just believing in luck and fate. The faith in lucky charms also includes a belief that one can influence one's luck by wearing or hanging a charm somewhere in your house.

While a lot of people may dismiss these charms as nothing but balderdash, still you find many (these same people, in fact) buying them. It's the baka sakali attitude that says "malay mo, totoo pala," like a pagan version of Pascal's Wager. After all, what's the harm in spending a few hundred bucks on a figurine that also serves as a decorative piece?

But while I wouldn't mind plunking down a few pesos to buy a waving cat or an octagonal mirror, I will not pay someone a few hundred thousand to tell me that my house is arranged all wrong as an explanation for my bad luck.

It's almost Chinese New Year and every talk show will again have these feng shui "masters" giving their analysis as to how the arrangement of furniture affects the energy paths of the cosmos, in turn affecting the fortunes of those who live in that particular place. I find most of their suggestions and explanation amusing to say the least. One of them even suggested demolishing the Quirino Grandstand for better feng shui.

Their craft is based on the idea that there is energy all around us and that this can be harnessed through the proper interior design and architecture. The use of mirrors and crystals is supposed to enchance the good effects and minimize the bad and it is the job of feng shui consultants to tell us how we're supposed to do this.

This is where I start to become wary.

If, indeed, there is a scientific (meaning systematic) explanation for feng shui, then why do these "experts" keep spewing cliches and meaningless explanations? I'm all for acupuncture* since one sees the body's energy charts specifying the points where they should stick the needles, but with feng shui, it just seems like they just come up with cockamamie explanations that any con artist could concoct. I mean, anyone with a snake-oil seller's charm (and morals) can (and probably do) grab a compass and start rearranging furniture claiming that they block energy.

And get paid by rich gullible idiots for this.

I've yet to see a "money back guarantee" from one of these consultants. If they're so confident about their craft, then they should be willing to put their money where their mouths and compasses are. But no. Seriously, can I legally sue a feng shui expert if his re-arrangement of my house fails to produce results?

I am willing to pay an interior decorator a reasonable sum of money because his promise is to create a house that looks good. If it looks pleasing, then the money is worth it. But the promise in feng shui is good luck, and that I cannot measure. Which begs the question: how do you put a price on something that does not guarantee results?

The good luck charms I can understand. They're trinkets and jewelry, items with production costs. But to actually pay for a service that promises everything but may end up producing nothing (without any guarantee)?

Good luck. He needs more than a waving cat to convince me.

*Not anymore. Acupuncture, like Feng Shui, refuses to subject itself to double-blind testing and as such, cannot be considered a real science.

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