Through my studies of feng shui, I have come across a new idea called the biophilia hypothesis, a term that also suggests how nature can affect our well-being.
According to Wikipedia, biophilia was originally created in the 1980’s by Eric Fromm, a psychologist and philosopher, but was popularized by Edward O. Wilson through his book titled Biophilia and further developed by the Biophilia Hypothesis, by Stephen R. Kellert. I read both, but found Kellert’s book much easier to comprehend.
So, what is the biophilia hypothesis and what does it have to do with feng shu? The prefix, bio, means life, while philia is the Greek word for love, used to express an attraction or affinity for something. The opposite of philia is a phobia, when we are afraid or have an aversion to something. So, biophilia is the “love of life”. If feng shui is “living in harmony with nature”, biophilia is the “innate attraction that man has for nature”. They say that we are naturally born with these feelings.
Biophilia hypothesis suggests how man is instinctively connected to nature. One example is that males have a natural desire to hunt and fish, while females yearn to care for our young. These activities arouse feelings of extreme satisfaction. Could this be true?
Many of us live in environments that are disconnected with nature. Our concrete cities lack greenery and natural life. Maybe that’s why we all crave for those beach, skiing, hiking and relaxing vacations that reconnect us with nature in some form. We need the balance of yin-yang.
Back in the day when I worked in Tokyo, our office required us to work a 5 1/2 day week, as Saturday mornings was mandatory. By the time I took vacation, I was exhausted and my resistance was so low, it was inevitable that I always ended up getting sick. Being always on alert, it seemed like letting down my guard left me very susceptible to any bug. But that was my life and thought nothing odd of it. Yes, it was very yang, and furthermore had absolutely no connection with nature. I didn’t even have a plant in our apartment that survived. I was young and very satisfied at the time.
But over time, what is very yang will slowly need balance and because yin and yang work in a cyclical motion, eventually the yang turns into yin. Sure enough, what happened was burn out and the need for change. As I approached my late twenties, the desire to nest pulled stronger. Fortunately, things worked out and starting a family changed my perceptions as well as properties in life. For me, “caring for my young” or motherhood did bring about extreme satisfaction. Whether looking after children or animals I do think, instinctively, women love to nurture and find it rewarding in some form. Also, I got tired of the concrete jungle. I wanted and probably needed to see more “green”. Wilson’s term of “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life” rings true. We need to connect to other forms of life, we cannot live alone.
Although I can’t speak from experience on male desires of hunting and fishing, from my experience of raising three boys I do think they are wired different from women. Such differences are natural not forced upon them. For example, my girlfriend’s daughter mentioned how she couldn’t understand how the boys in her dorm could spend literally hours and hours of playing video games in their room and be truly entertained. I must agree, they instinctively like the combat, gory and destructive games. From a psychological standpoint it’s similar to the hunting and fishing, the psychology of capture and domination. Given the chance to hunt and fish, I think most males do enjoy such activities, so it may be in born.
Biophilia suggests that we can’t separate ourselves with our innate connections with nature. There is always that pull. One interesting experiment that had beneficial findings was in a hospital environment. They had two rooms, one with no windows and the other with a view with trees and greenery. What they found was that the patients in the room with the view needed less medication and were discharged sooner. Could this be only due to the fact of having a window? That’s hard to say, but in Asia we say plants have healing powers. Just seeing natural environments make us feel better, encouraging faster recovery. In feng shui, we say that it’s an exchange of energy. Life gives life.
Being aware of our environment and optimizing our living spaces to be places where we can connect with nature is possible. Combining the findings of feng shui, how we live in harmony with nature, and biophilia, where we have a better understanding of why we connect with nature, make perfect sense of creating true holistic spaces.