I have come to notice that my across-the-street neighbor, Mike Richardson, is an expert on feng shui. He talks about it all the time. He’s an expert because he knows how to pronounce it and he recognizes when it’s at play, a key ability when you want to avoid its dark power.

A typical comment he might make regarding his actions might be, “My wife told me to put it over there. I didn’t really want it there but I realized that it was all about feng shui so I just shut up and put it over there.”

Just like high-pressure steam boilers, Mike maintains that it’s dangerous to mess with feng shui when you don’t understand it. You can make rational arguments and present logical reasons for disagreement but it’s like arguing against religion or the superiority of the New York Yankees. He maintains that women in his life use feng shui all the time and he has no idea of the power, limitations, practical uses or even the actual meaning of feng shui.

So what exactly is feng shui? Is it a New Age energy scam or ancient generator of harmony and balance? The only sure thing is that no one in the Western Hemisphere really knows. Responsible people generally do not understand the theories of feng shui because they are too busy fact-checking statements coming from the White House to devote any time to re-positioning their couch in respect to the orientation of Lake Michigan.

If you want to believe my faulty interpretation, feng shui is the ancient Chinese knowledge and practice of harmonizing people with their environment through the understanding of energy forces. However, the energy forces we are understanding here have no basis in modern scientific principles like gravity, the nuclear forces or the electromagnetic force. They fall under the more broad and less stringent “energy” areas of earth, wind, fire and where your next of kin is buried.

It is widely suspected that women have a better grasp on its potential power. This is because men are too busy with lists provided by women of things to do around the house to study feng shui’s inner workings. Also, men generally have little patience for invisible energy forces unless they have been weaponized. An example of this is the ancient art of Taser where an out-of-shape and obese devotee can defeat a superior, able-bodied opponent if the Taser disciple’s timing is good and batteries are fully charged.

Don’t think that Mike is not in control of his own destiny. When important issues come up where Mike feels he has the moral high ground and the wisdom to take a certain path, he sticks to his principles and does things his way no matter the feng shui. For example, when he has a strong urge to take an afternoon nap, that nap gets taken.

When Mike decides that his wife’s car needs new brakes, he knows what needs to be done and does it. And, he does not take the car in to be serviced. Instead he does it the old- fashioned way: with his hands! He takes it apart, makes it right and puts everything back together. He uses wrenches, screwdrivers and other specialized tools like large hammers and there is never so much as a bolt left over when he is finished. Okay, sometimes a washer but never a bolt.

If there is a feng shui for mechanical things then Mike has it under control. Even in the bizarre world of refrigeration he can orient dead freezers to bring them back to life. He has diesel engines and hydraulics firmly under control. But ask him to place the right color tablecloth on the dining room table in the proper orientation and you are flirting with doomsday.

Someday, when houses are all oriented in the right direction and furniture is aligned with the energy of the earth, someone will figure out how to convert these elemental forces into electricity. Then we’ll be able to freely power appliances that really make the world a more harmonious place, appliances like beer coolers and air conditioners.

Until that time comes, we will have to power our beer coolers by paying our electric bills. I’m not a big feng shui fan but I do face north when I make out the check to the power company. Anyway, that’s how my wife oriented my desk.