I Could Use A Massage On My Message

As a side result of my new schedule I’ve been able to get back to reading quite a bit and I’ve picked back up “Understanding Media” by Marshall McLuhan. I had heard a lot about McLuhan through the years in my diggings through manuscripts, grimmoires, and texts for my Watcher training. And just about anyone with any exposure to pop-culture knows his quote “The medium is the me/assage” having been repeated out of a trillion mouths since he wrote it. Most references claim he was the foremost export, even in the 50’s, on media and it’s interaction with man. And by media, he didn’t just mean TV, books, and radio, he talks about media being all of the extensions of man, his language, the things he manufactures, and the laws he puts on his society.

So far it doesn’t disappoint. A bit dense and hard to wrap my head around sometimes, McLuhan lays down some heavy ideas on why we behave the way we do towards ourselves and the extensions of the human animal. And even though the man died before it’s widespread infection, I found it fascinating how it all still related to the internet, something that hadn’t even developed yet. I might get into this more when I finish the book, if the mood takes me. But until then, I wanted to share this tale he quotes to explain how “…technical change alters not only habits of life, but patterns of thought and valuation.” From the outlook of the Chinese sage:

As Tzu-Gung was traveling through the regions north of the river Han, he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meager.

Tzu-Gung said. “There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day, and whereby you can do much with little effort. Would you not like to hear of it?”

Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, “And what would that be?”

Tzu-Gung replied, “You take a wooden lever, weighted at the back and light in front. In this way you can bring up water so quickly that it just gushes out. This is called a draw- well.”

Then anger rose up in the old man’s face and he said, “1 have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul. Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them.”

Heavy, huh?

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