By Christopher “Mac” MacDonald
Marshall McLuhan, in his famous 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, declared that “the medium is the message”
”McLuhan proposes that a communication medium itself, not the messages it carries, should be the primary focus of study. He showed that artifacts as media affect any society by their characteristics, or content.” (Wikipedia summation).
Nicholas Caarr, in his important book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, starts also with McLuhan in 1964 but has the advantage of applying all that we have learned since then about neuro-plasticity )how the human brain swiftly adapts , repairs and is malleable) so that he is able to offer in more alarming insights into how the Internet is literally changing how we think, not just what we think.
Carr, while taking care to note all the real advantages and pluses that the internet has given people like himself (and I whole-heartedly agree as Google has helped me swiftly unearth vast sources in minutes – which would have – decades ago, taken me days to excavate from library stacks) He notes the reality that not only is the “medium the message” – it is also changing how we think:
The boons are real. But they come at a price. As McLuhan suggested, media aren’t just channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski. (The Shallows, Chapter One, Kindle edition).
To make it all simple – we have moved aggressively from a “word-based culture (at least the last 500 years) to an “image-based culture” dominated by sight and sound and the lessening of any widespread ability to take in pages of well-crafted words beyond just a very few without being distracted.
The gravitational Reversal
Although we have found the need, in the Church, to make major accommodations to this shift from word to image-based communication of Truth there is an undeniable gravitational pull back to “the Word,” which is inherent in the Faith. God chose, not only to speak the Universe into existence via the Divine Logos (Word) His Son, but then chose to make the transmission of the Faith always find it’s core tether- it’s grounding – in the Word of God.
Thus as far way as we attempt to propel ourselves away and even re-create reality by technology and image (A postmodern Babel) we are always brought back to Earth by the logos – by the Word of God – both as incarnate Son and as Living Word.
To the extent that we give over to image instead of the subject it as a tool we commit idolatry – however well-meaning (and it can be quite so). But we are also always toying with fantasy.
Jesus was the most real human being who has ever walked this earth. He never entertained a single fantasy – not even in the Garden of Gethsemane when facing death. He asked for an alternative, but he did not suggest one.
The Logos/Word is the Meaning
All poor MarchallMcLuyhan was cluing in on was that in a world of shared and competing for cultural fictions – the latest technology, or delivery system would define the message – or at least share top-billing. And in the ever-changing fashion of truth in a world of competing fantasies he is correct – except they are all fantasies- each a linguistic and symbolic contrivance that has no inherent solidarity.
But the Word of God either one of them that God has given us- hios Son, the Divine logos in whom, through who, and for whom all of creation was made” (Col. 3:15-23) , or what is called the “Living Word” (the sciptures) where Jesus contrasted the worlds of men and His words:
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and [t]acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell and the [u]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not [v]act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell and the [w]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and its collapse was great.” (Matt. 7:24-27 NASB)
We are regrounded in the Wor- both in Jesus the living Logoa, and in God’s choice to bring us Gospel in a Book.