The first thing you should know about me is that I don’t believe in any of that woo-woo, mumbo-jumbo, spiritual crap. And that goes double for organized religion. The last time I was in a synagogue was more than 40 years ago, when I was bar mitzvahed.
The second thing you should know is also my big secret: I’d really like to believe.
When I was young, I believed in all kinds of stuff. God, love, magic — whatever you were selling, I was buying. But later I turned into a cynic. Brutal disappointments convinced me there is no God, I divorced after 25 years of love and marriage, and magic turned out to be a bunch of stupid card tricks.
The thing is, when you get to be a certain age you begin to see the world the way it really is rather than the way you imagined it would be. Along with that realization comes the inevitable thunder of time running out, tick-freaking-tock, which for us non-believers is the scariest proposition of all. “My relationship with death remains the same — I’m strongly against it,” said Woody Allen.
Which is where that big-secret part comes in.
Recently it occurred to me that I had dismissed spirituality without really knowing anything about it. I found it easier to make a joke about, say, feng shui — the ancient Chinese blend of spirituality and home decorating — than to spend any time actually learning about it. This easy path has led me right down the road to nowhere. In fact, my girlfriend and I had a running joke about how she’s always asking the universe for things and the universe usually complies — while continuing to ignore my existence.
Determined to be heard, and to see if faith in my faithless world was even possible, I googled “feng shui manhattan.” And that’s how Laura Cerrano came into my life.
Laura is a feng shui consultant, who lives in Farmingdale, New York. When we spoke on the phone, she told me she’d learned everything she knows from her mother, Carole, who passed away two years ago. I told her about my skeptic’s journey and how I wanted to open my mind to all kinds of spiritual teachings and alternative healing, and Laura readily agreed to be my guide. My idea of feng shui, I explained, was fairly simple: She would come over to my apartment in Brooklyn, rearrange my furniture, and then I’d win the Powerball jackpot and marry Penelope Cruz.
“I’m pretty sure Penelope Cruz is already married,” Laura said. “And just placing objects won’t change things. You have to change your thoughts and take emotional, mental and physical action.”
Laura gave me one task to carry out before her visit. I was to buy 18 red envelopes (and I feel bad for those lonely Hallmark cards missing their mate in my local Rite Aid) and fill them with “my intentions” — written statements specifying what I want out of life, what I’m thankful for and what I’d like to change. The idea was a combination of giving thanks, that lame The Secret book and ordering room service from the universe.
Here’s some of what I wrote:
I’d like to stay healthy enough to play tennis until I’m a very, very old man.
I want my sons to stay healthy, be successful and enjoy what they do for a living.
I’d like to have enough money to do the things I’ve always wanted to do — like travel around the world.
I’d like to be with a woman who loves me for who I am and for me to love her the same way.
I’d like to remain friends with my ex-wife.
I’d like to wake up in the morning and feel excited about the day.
If feng shui can get the universe to cough up any of these things, then count me the hell in.