It’s only frackin’ oil.

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Metal Monkey Month, Water Snake Year

It’s around five and not yet fully light when I awake. The hour of the Tiger and the house is still. Joey our youngest, is rehearsing his band elsewhere for a big gig. And of course the others have all parted the nest now. Sheila’s still asleep. I stop for a moment to watch the rhythm of her breathing. Sometimes she snores. But not with the kind of commitment I bring to it.

This year, since you asked, we’re sleeping North East-South West in the North of the house.

It’s the Monkey month – actually a Metal Monkey – sometimes said to be the month of the gambler. Yesterday my friend, polymath and all-round good egg Professor Michael Paton emailed to ask if I’d stopped writing or had he fallen off the list? A fair enquiry; for one reason and another it’s been a while. This is by way of an answer. Which I’ll open with a question.

Here it is: how precisely does the cycle of the elements affect stock markets? I have been wrestling with this and related questions for some time. “Affect” is a very big word.

Today another day of such analysis lies ahead of me. Meanwhile, tomorrow afternoon I record a feng shui cd. But first I have to convince a movie mogul there’s too much Water in his basement. Later I’ll watch – on BBC iplayer – my client Kelly Hoppen bring her particular warm brand of humanity to tv’s Dragons Den. Can this have anything to do with that red wall in her office? Another day, another dollar.

Walking Cures

Michael’s half Solomon Islander which means both that he has the dignified look of an Easter Island statue and that he is restless. He has to walk. When we were in China together in 2005, I enjoyed sharing his morning lopes around Jingzhou, Changsha or whichever city we were in. He’s a man who talks as continuously and as effortlessly as he keeps moving, on a thousand topics: the meaning of the word “science”, nuance in the Book of Odes, rock’n’roll, why Qingdao is the beer centre of China and why the name of the beer is written Tsingtao not Qingdao. He’s recently translated five Chinese classics and he’s talking about them at the AFSC in Melbourne on Saturday the 7th September. If you’re in the appropriate hemisphere, do attend.

Cycles, to recap:  there are sixty different years. Twelve Animals, five Elements. Sixty. Each year has a different nature or chi. As indeed does each day, hour and month. Snake years – 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001 – are somewhat alike. Water Snakes – 1953 and 2013 – are very much alike: excitement in Korea, protracted austerity, foment in Egypt and so on. This resonance may hold the key to the cycles of markets, wars, climate change and even health. Oh and human folly is in the mix somewhere. And something bigger again that resists understanding: Tao, quantum, tian-ti-ren, what-have-you.

Making no further attempt to solve this puzzle before breakfast, I go to the kitchen to make tea and put on Andrew McMahon’s new mini album. It opens with Synaesthesia, his lovely song about professional jealousy.

“I see colours when I hear your voice.”

Melodic piano based rock, sweet, harmonious, honest. Out of Ben Folds by Bruce Hornsby.

The sun is high in the sky now, making my sunflowers even more golden and waking my dionaea. Cat and dog demand feeding. @DeniseODwyer’s Feng Shui Daily is on my Twitter feed already. What time does that woman get up?

And how does the Chinese gan zi cycle relate to human conflict? This is actually more related to the reasons I entered the world of Chinese mumbo jumbo all those years ago. And the beginnings of an answer is that there seem to be two types of conflict: Wood which is about space and need and Metal which is essentially about self-righteousness. Metal is accuracy, calculation, precision. Too much yang Metal translates as I’m right, you’re wrong, hence I have to kill you; take the years of revolution 1776, 1789, 1848, 1968 and so on. Wood is about expansion – lebensraum – as in the yin Wood year 1939 and (even more so) the double yang Wood of 1914.

Heavy Metal

When Joey was small, I remember him asking why so much murder had been done in the name of religion. We discussed it. It seemed that the Christian Church specialised in killing, maiming and punishing. How did that make sense? Any more than Buddhist monks in Burma killing Muslims right now. We concluded that it was because nobody was actually sure of anything. If my belief is flimsy I must kill those who disagree or else I might have to examine my own lack of faith. Hence inquisitions, holy wars, witch hunts. Metal types of conflict.

Last weekend, Richard Dawkins of Selfish Gene and God Delusion fame tweeted, expanding on his recent statement that essentially defines Islam as the calling of the backward. His reasoning is that hardly any Nobel Laureates have been Muslim. I enquire of him as to whether he has the Nobel statistics for women which will of course tend to prove they’re superstitious and wilfully ignorant too. He ignores me but I am trolled all afternoon by atheists who appear to recognise irony when they see it.

Markets are generally thought to be Metal. Many Chinese Masters are retained by billionaires. Some are heavy hitters but it’s the nature of this game that the successful methods are carefully guarded. I remember watching Master Peter Leung preparing for his investment group. His diagrams were like some cross of a devilishly complicated board game and a vast crossword; trigrams here, stems and branches there, ideograms all over the place.

“If a pattern exists, I’ll find it“, he’d say, exchanging yet another cigarette for a stubby pencil. He’s some sort of genius but we both knew there was more to it than logic. Not that that sweet bitter man was about to agree.

There are certain principles; Metal, for instance is stimulated by Fire and drained by Water. You might say that when the sun shines economies thrive. In years of constant downpour like 2007-12 they don’t. You might equally say, as some have, that markets are manic-depressive; hysterically optimistic then darkly deflated. Put these together and you have some sort of rationale.

Next I perform my ablutions which include running a cold bath that I’m not going to bathe in. Why a cold, unused bath? Because our bathroom is in the West where the nasty 7 Star is this year; doubled up during the Metal of August. The 7 brings interference and because the 7 is Metal, the bath will moderate it. A body of still Water of course is a very different thing from a fountain or Water feature. These last are “sentimental” Water which will hold a pocket of energy. The bath is simply Water draining Metal.

Marathon Man

Like Michael I walk when I can. This morning, as usual, I walk to my office. It’s about a mile. I am passed by a lady runner out for her morning jog. She has all the gear: sun visor, jogging suit, energy drink in a plastic cup with straw attached, ipod and headphones. On holidays and weekends the off-road path I take is dusted with runners.

I used to run thirty or so miles a week myself. Then one morning in mid-stride I noticed that I hated it. Exercise has to fit into lifestyle I think. If it’s forced, sooner or later it bends us out of shape. It’s the sign of choice not that we beat ourselves up when we miss a day but that we can fail, forgive ourselves and get back into rhythm. For me like Michael, that rhythm is the slower pace of walking. Running and working out are activities I enjoy having done rather than doing.

Careful with my baby

Matt Damon’s recent film “Promised Land” is an undemanding introduction to the madness of fracking.  It’s not a great movie – Damon’s totally wasted – but it sets out the arguments:  is squeezing the last oodle of shale out of the soil worth the risks? Depressed communities are tempted by the money oil brings, regardless of the earth tremors and polluted water. It also suggests how the frackers at Balcombe in rural Sussex may have elbowed in. Watch it perhaps, then Google Youngstown, Ohio.

What happens if we impregnate the Earth with chemicals? We really know so little about it. We can’t even predict earthquakes. Even if this abuse of the Earth were understood or controlled, all it would do is identify sources of fossil fuels which we shouldn’t be burning in the first place. Master Howard Choy defines feng shui as “doing the right thing in the right place at the right time.” It doesn’t take a feng shui Master to tell you where not to despoil the Earth.

Another way to define feng shui is living in tune with the environment. But that of course calls for an environment to live in tune with. Otherwise everything we do is shifting deck chairs on the Titanic.

Talking of which, there are currently one hundred and nine separate hydroelectric projects slated for the Tibetan Plateau, drawing on the massive power of the sources of the Ganges, the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Irrawaddy, the Mekong, the Yangtze and the Yellow River. Who knows the impact of this? Not me. Not the Chinese, Indian, Nepalese or Bhutan governments who propose them. Not anyone who might oppose them.

On tv last night I watched Caroline Lucas MP being dragged from the anti-fracking protest at Balcombe. Ms Lucas of course is the sole Green Member of Parliament. I was watching her eyes as her twentyish son was pulled away by police: a mixture of defiance, pride and very human fear. Careful with my baby, her eyes were saying. Fracking, random e.c.t. of the Earth is so clearly wrong thing, wrong place, wrong time. Wrong bloody everything

As I’ve said before, every generation thinks the world’s going to hell. The smart ones also know this thought occurs to every generation. And life goes on. But that doesn’t make it impossible that this time we could be right.

As above so below.

When I get to my Office. I activate it. I move a single crystal from North East to East, another from North East to North, a third from North to North West and finally one from South West to South. This moves the energy around, distributes the chi in line with the theory of ho tu. I breathe deeply at each starting point and take the breath to each destination. I need water for the plants so then I visit the communal kitchen where I routinely turn the microwave off at the mains.

If you happen to be in Melbourne in September, quiz Michael Paton about microbrewing methodology or the critique of Empire in the work of Thomas Keneally or pretty much any other subject upon which you want to be enlightened. His new book which will be just as groundbreaking, authoritative and thought-provoking, is available from

Buy him a drink for me.

Meanwhile along with models to predict and explain markets and warfare, I aim to identify models for climate change and other predicaments. Time may be short. Expect turbulence and something more from me early in the month of the Rooster.

My next starter feng shui course opens the weekend of September 14th/15th. Join us if you feel called.

You might like to take a look at me addressing the Grand Masters in Singapore last November to get an idea of what kind of nonsense you might be letting yourself in for:

Change, as the sage said, is the only constant. “We’re only flying for a while,” is how Andrew McMahon puts it.

So there it is, Michael. Sorry for the neglect. Hope to see you soon.

Richard Ashworth © 2013.

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