By Jullie Y. Daza
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“Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. . . Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive.”
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
Words of Joseph Campbell, preeminent American scholar, writer, teacher, and advocate of mythology as “the song of the universe, the music of the spheres.” Campbell lamented the fade-out of myth from modern society, the reason there is so much law and little lawfulness, so much disenchantment and so little enchantment left. His book, The Power of Myth, was a bestseller in the mid-1980s.
A decade or so later, circa 1998, feng shui master Paul Lau would arrive in Manila from Hong Kong and Singapore and draw rainbows across the skies of our ordinary, daily lives with his charming stories of fairies and nymphs, enchanted gardens and superbright autumn moons. Feng shui was his magic wand. Suddenly everyone was curious to find out, “What is feng shui, and what does wind-and-water have to do with good fortune and harmonious relationships?”
Whatever feng shui means to the charlatans and pretenders who have been coming out of the woodwork, it is not fortune-telling and it is not a religion, definitely it is not a gimmick to make money at the expense of the ignorant and uninitiate. Yes, for all that misuse and abuse, feng shui has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds in colorful arcs and sweeps, and I daresay the most obvious explanation is that feng shui rituals and practices bring us back to our collective histories as childlike folk who believed in spirits and sprites, supernatural heroes and winged angels, in curses, spells, and impossible stories of love. Mythology, rather than technology, was what life was about.
As Paul observed, Filipino customs and traditions are rooted in Christianity with its roster of saints and martyrs who devoted their lives to serving God. Not everyone belongs to such a high spiritual plane, however, although everyone needs to aspire to a system of values and beliefs higher than himself. As Campbell put it, we are all seeking the experience of being alive. Thus we celebrate with festive colors, ear-splitting drumbeats and fireworks, abundant food, little things like giving the kids red money envelopes, decorating the dining table with fresh flowers and fruits, watching a lion-and-dragon dance, and wishing everyone a sweet, sticky, prosperous Lunar New Year under a multitude of red lanterns. The magic spell is cast with the words Kung Hei Fat Choi! – Congratulations and be prosperous! – no mention of happy, new, year.