“The Medium is the Message,” What Does That Mean?

 

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When humans developed writing, our ideas and our stories became more complex. With writing came the ability to formulate arguments. That led to the development of liberal arts, complex mathematics, philosophy…we could fill an encyclopedia with the various fields that developed from our ability to write.

Before writing, humans communicated primarily with speech. Because of our communications being mediated by speech rather than writing, we experienced a different reality. That is what media theorist, Marshal McLuhan, was writing about when he proposed that the medium is the message.

The medium (speech, writing, music, video, etc) is as important as the messages that we communicate with that medium. The medium is just as important because it shapes the message like a funnel shapes the liquid that passes through it.

Let’s say we need to measure the distance from the west coast of the United States of America to the east coast. But the only technology we have is a twelve inch ruler.

We could spend a few years, maybe more, measuring the United States foot by foot. If we are careful, we could get a fairly accurate measurement.

But who is going to take the time to do that? Instead, our lives would be shaped by the fact that we do not know the actual length of the United States. Land ownership would be very different. Boundaries would be vague at best. Especially when dealing with large areas like counties and states.

Life would be vastly different for the simple reason that we didn’t have a way to efficiently map out the land.

On the other hand, life would be different if we could only measure vast areas. And life is different still (not necessarily better or worse, just different) because we do have means of measuring long and short distances.

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Signs are a great technology for communicating restaurant menus, but a terrible technology for political discourse.

Each technology we adopt affects the messages we communicate. Each technology we adopt changes our reality. There are pros and cons to each technology, but they do not always balance evenly. Sometimes the pros outweigh the cons, sometimes the cons outweigh the pros. That is what Marshal McLuhan wanted us to consider when he proposed that the medium is the message.

In these times, it may be wise to consider how texting changes what we say, how reading blog posts versus reading books changes our thoughts, and whether or not new conveniences are actually improving our lives.

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Why It’s Important to View Art with an Open Mind

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You can look at evil things in art from two perspectives.

  1. You can see it as offensive and evil.
  2. You can see the truth that it tells.

When you see a painting with naked men and women as subjects, you could turn away and say it is pornographic and lustful. Lust is wrong. It is a sin.

Or you could use reason and critical thinking to determine the meaning of the painting, the truth it tells. Continue reading

Why Should Catholics Eat Healthy and Exercise?

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If my goal is heaven, oneness in love with God, then why does it matter if my body is healthy?

As Catholics, it is easy to understand why we need to pray and give. Christ clearly tells us to do those things. But when it comes to caring for our bodies, things aren’t so clear.

The Old Testament lays out dietary laws and some of the commandments give direction on how we should act with our bodies, but the dietary laws were essentially made obsolete by Christ and none of the commandments clearly tell us that we should exercise or practice healthy eating habits.

We should eat healthy and exercise though. We should take care of our bodies. And, ultimately, we know we should. We have all heard that our bodies are temples of God. But what does that mean? Continue reading

Giving Makes Us Free

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Giving things away as gifts is the way to true freedom.

A child who has taken ownership of a box of cookies is enslaved by them. The cookies require that the child either protect them or eat them, or else they will soon be under new ownership. They cause the child to worry, “I must guard these cookies because they belong to me.”

But if the child gives the cookies away, he no longer needs to protect them. The handcuff is removed. The worry vanishes.

Whatever we have – clothes, food, money, talents, presence, ideas, time – giving it away releases its handcuffs from our wrists.

Cultivate Gratitude

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“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

– G.K. Chesterton

Think back to a day when nothing seemed to go your way. Maybe you were supposed to get a raise at work, and instead your boss just handed you another lousy assignment with a tight deadline. Maybe you had been fighting with your family. Maybe you just lost a close friend. Your mind spent a lot of time thinking about its trouble at first because it wanted to find a solution. It wanted to make things better.

Now imagine being able to stop your mind from thinking about the bad things, and just shift it to thinking about the good. When you are upset about something, shifting your focus is not easy at first. But by cultivating gratitude, it becomes easy not only to stop thinking about the negative, but also to see the positive. Continue reading