Like Fritjof Capra, I instinctively see Eastern philosophy and Western science as yin and yang. They rarely disagree and usually reinforce each other, the East using the vocabulary of metaphor, the West that of empiricism. So indulge me as I apply this instinct to my current thread on stuff.
The Feng Shui view is that stuff, ie clutter, blocks the flow of energy (qi) in your house and, since you are not ultimately separate from the space around you, in you.
The relevant Western analog is that clutter wants to increase all by itself. You have to expend energy to keep your stuff from spreading, multiplying, breaking, rotting.
This idea is called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. “Clutter”, in the argot, is entropy, the amount of disorder in a system. Disorder will increase as surely as water flows downhill (from a high-energy state to a low-energy state). The “system” in question can be:
- your body, in which entropy manifests as aging and breaking,
- a glass of warm water that cools (trading the “order” of warmth here and cold there for the “disorder” of lukewarmth everywhere)
- your house or home office as it mysteriously gets submerged in stuff,
- the entire universe (which is incredibly bad news for us, since there is no other system that we can decamp to), and
- almost anything else.
Now, you might object that you can make water flow uphill, and you can warm a glass of water even in a cool room. Yes. But the key insight is that this takes energy, which must be added into the system. You have to pump, or boil, et cetera.
Hence the dilemma of stuff: First the clutter increases, thus (according to Feng Shui) blocking our energy, which is thus unavailable to reverse the cluttering, and so the shit–sorry, stuff–just happens.