Sunday, February 6, 2011

Was Chanda a victim of the Tiger?

I have a friend who makes all of her decisions based on Chinese astrology. When she travels, when she takes a vacation, when she moves to a new home, when she married her husband – every last decision is calculated down to the ideal moment, taking into account double months and double moons – before she takes any action. This is because my friend was born in Hong Kong to Chinese parents who could not speak a word of English when they migrated to Canada, and so she was raised with a deep appreciation of her cultural roots.

Last year February 14th coincided with the Chinese New Year. I emailed to ask her if she and her husband were going to Vegas that year. (Her gambling too is deeply calculated to enhance the likelihood of winning). She responded horrified at the thought. No, they would be spending the day with as many friends and family as possible, eating large meals and being festive. But more importantly, they would be spending the days before Valentine’s Day preparing for the Year of the Tiger. Had I not started preparing as yet?

Her preparations had nothing to do with hearts and roses. It was all about cleaning and then more cleaning. The cleaning had to be intense she explained, because you could not clean the house for three days after the New Year. The cleaning included everything from dumping everything from the fridge to washing her hair. You cannot take last year’s used items into the New Year, she explained. Not in the Year of the Tiger when destructive forces were going to be unleashed. She hoped I was getting ready.

Since then, whenever a calamity occurs, she texts me two simple words, “You see?” Actually I do. This past year has been destructive for many. I don’t know anyone who did not have it rough this past year. Car accidents, job losses, deaths at war, floods, hurricanes, blizzards. 2010 was a year of upheavals and tumult, just as my friend predicted. That is how the tiger behaves, she explained. And therefore you have to extra careful, extra cautious when going through this year.

So when Chanda Rubin’s house burned down last December, the first person I called was my friend. I didn’t understand her convoluted explanation about timing and blessings, but the gist of it was that Chanda must not have had a Chinese friend to guide her through the process of building and preparing her new home. It’s not just a question of Feng Shui, she explained. You Westerners think that placing a mirror in the right spot is enough to balance your home. No, it takes more than that. You have to do everything at the right time. And you have to get a lucky charm that is specially blessed in a Chinese temple just for you.

Not having been raised in her culture, I have walked a fine line between outright skepticism and a prickly kind of inner discomfort. I can’t wrap my mind around the notion that a house getting burned to the ground could be prevented by consulting astrology guides regarding every aspect of its construction, and then by further guarding its safety by wearing a lucky charm. But I couldn’t help but wonder about my friend’s perspicacity with regard to the impact of the Tiger.

News reports say the house burned during an intense thunderstorm in a part of Louisiana known for getting an average of 62 inches of rainfall per year. Lightning has been speculated to be the likely cause. One news report said that Chanda’s home did not come equipped with expensive lightning rods that may have prevented the disaster. I have no idea if this is correct or not.

What I do know from her interviews is that Chanda was at home at the time. Thankfully, she got out safely after fire alarms alerted her to a problem. News reports said that it took 4.5 hours to put out the fire, at which point the entire top floor and attic of the house had been gutted, and the ground floor severely water damaged. Most of her tennis trophies were reportedly spared as they were in her parents’ possession.

It’s clich├ęd to say that her life was more important than any material possessions. But it seems to be part of human nature to be acquisitive, to buy and own nice things, and we experience true pain when we are separated from certain beloved possessions. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to lose a multi-million dollar house and its cherished possessions. I felt deeply for her.

Chanda Rubin was always a class act on the WTA, a solid player who never attracted drama. Her tennis reflected the combination of hard work and talent. She seemed to generally be liked. Sadly, her career ended up being date-stamped by injury. I wish for her a calmer and more fortuitous 2011.

My friend explained that the good news is that it is now the Year of the Rabbit, a much more docile creature compared to the fierce tiger. But rabbits are also vulnerable so you have to be cautious in a different kind of way. Like protecting your health. And not allowing yourself to get forced into doing things that you don’t want to do. And watch your tongue in this Year of the Rabbit, because your words can have disastrous consequences. This is a year to hunker down, to stay safe, to conserve your energies. Make smart choices today that you will profit from later. Be patient and think of the future.