Sunday, February 27, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 33.1 (Marshal McLuhan)

McLuhan, Marshall
Understanding Media:
The Extensions of Man

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books for a course with Charles Bernstein. I remember Charles started playing a game in class wherein each time a form of media that had yet to be mentioned came up, he would ask the class if it were "hot" or "cold." We would answer one or the other and discuss our reasons for thinking it so. It was kind of fin, as I recall.

I realize I have not been delineating my thoughts on friendship as clearly as Aristotle. But then I am not Aristotle. So there.

I was thinking overnight about friendships rekindled. I have had many friendships that were very intense and very close at one time, only to be severed for one reason or another, usually a change in location by one or the other person. Years pass without communication. One day, one or the other of us renews contact. We decide to meet at a cafe in New York or DC or wherever. Just to say hello and see how things are going, how things have changed.

It begins as an exercise in nostalgia. I am seeking a link to my past, which seems more distant yet somehow more urgent every day. The circumstances that created my life up until now have disappeared irrevocably, but many of the actors in the drama are still alive. I reach out in the hope of touching some element of a past that disappeared at almost the instant it occurred.

On rare occasions, a new friendship blooms. Somehow the mutual feelings of good will have survived the passage of time and our two lives suddenly seem freshly linked. We talk about how things are now, where we think they are going, etc. Our ideas of the world still seem relevant to one another. On most occasions, however, the opposite is true. The conversation revolves entirely around the past. Remember that time we...etc.

This is a sign that the friendship no longer exists in the present. It is a relic of another era. Not without value, mind you. Talking about the past, remembering what occurred, checking the facts of your own version of the story against those of someone with whom you shared it, is very valuable indeed, but the possibility of a friendship moving forward on this basis is slim. At least for me.

When I walk away from conversations like this, I feel at once elated and sad. I take pleasure in remembering the past and sharing those memories with others, but I feel sad about the fact that throughout the telling of the old stories I am no longer connected to the person before me or the past out which they seem miraculously to have sprung.

And yet that does not keep me from looking at the profiles of old friends on Facebook or performing google image searches under the names of my childhood friends. It has at times made me a little cynical about the lastingness of friendships. If a friendship is based mostly on proximity, perhaps a little on shared interests, then it is doomed to die away at some point if one or the other of those factors is removed. And if you know that going in, why bother in the first place?

But then there are those friendships that break all of these rules. They last despite change, they evolve, the mutual feelings between two people grow stronger and not weaker over time. How explain those?

from Understanding Media

In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium--that is, of any extension of ourselves--result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

is interesting McLuhan was a Catholic - not a futurist really, found the whole technological bubble world we live in oppressive, invasive, and dangerous to the person.