Candles Always Cry

And Other Stories

Month: July, 2011

McLuhan at 3 AM

I just discovered McLuhan. That, and read a Tom Wolfe essay about him, written in 1965.

Tom Wolfe would receive at most a C for his essay, and I would get worse if I were tested on it.

McLuhan is the man who said that TV, and the phone, and electronics are not simply tools that man chooses to manipulate, to use for good or for bad, to be subject to or not. No. They change man. Change the way he perceives the world. He spoke about moving from a visual to an aural filter. Visual meant organized, cubicles, bureaucracy, and that was the legacy of print. Auditory is tribal, sensual. Not sure why auditory requires more interaction, why he equates auditory with tactile, and visual with standing outside.

I’ll need to read his book “Understanding Media”, to judge it further – and how it relates to today, and the internet.  I’m repelled a little by the smell of  haughty academia, where wisdom is trapped in the hundreds of sub-sub-categories of specialized studies. Or, I’m simply lazy.

I’ve always claimed that the internet, and other 2oth century technologies  tools; that there are fundamental human traits that don’t and won’t change. That there are truths. That’s at the core of it- the question of will it change what we are, or even as we evolve, is there some anchoring definition to what we are.

The awesomeness of internet phenomenon challenges that cherished belief of mine that there are truths – makes me wonder if we aren’t being swept by a tsunami history into a different future. It’s always there, the thrill of being part of the ride, and the awe of its power that makes people suddenly recall the romanticism of cows.

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Parallel Lines Never Meet

My Twitter feed goes something like this:

Israel is a monster. The anti #bde law is anti democratic. (righteous indignation)
I feel like my mind’s been shattered. 8 Year old #BPboy found dismembered. (raw emotion)
How to add your Facebook friends to Google Plus http://jkl3.jk (immediate, dynamic)
Can’t wait to watch the #worldcup (mundane, human)

And then it keeps going –

Listen to me – We must stop evil!
Listen to me – I’m in so much pain.
Listen to me – You must keep up!
Listen to me – I’m just an ordinary person chatting about stuff.

And then it keeps going –

While I’m here at my desk, with a press release to write, PPC keywords to research and input, emails to follow up on.

And it keeps going.

One after another, snippets of conversations slide onto my screen. So many conversations. So much ego, and investment, and parallel lines, and words that seem to go out into the world, but never get found.

Just One Sentence

This week, my assigned reading for Political Science 2 is “Cases in Comparative Science: Germany”.

I admit the foremost thought in my mind was how the textbook would present what for me is the only relevant piece of German political history – the holocaust. I attempted to approach it rationally. After all, this is a textbook about comparative politics. Germany is just one of fourteen countries described in the book. The Hitler regime lasted twelve years, of hundreds of years of history. This isn’t Eli Wiesel.

So I started to read about Napoleon, Otto Von Bismarck, the Weimar republic and finally the rise of Hitler. What I found at the end of the page and a half devoted to it was this:

“But before the Nazi war machine was ultimately defeated in 1945, it had exterminated some 6 million Jews and millions of other noncombatants on racial and ethnic grounds.”

Some 6 million Jews? I practically shouted. Some?

It’s an expression. It’s not belittling anything.  I calmed myself.

Couldn’t they have written ‘more than 6 million Jews’? I asked, still rattled.

And that would have helped? I answered myself.

No.

The textbook marched on, covering the post war and cold war and reunification periods before moving resolutely on to defining the current political system in Germany.

Still, my mind wheeled on. Couldn’t they have described the camps, Mein Kampf, the ghettos, the humiliation? Couldn’t they have described 60 years worth of lost faith and lost children or the mosaic of life rebuilt on still shuddering cracks? Couldn’t they have described my father’s deep isolation and distrust and frustration at being asked to forgive faster than he can heal?

I’m three generations and multiple countries away from the Hitler regime. My grandparents are Russian; they were witnesses, but not survivors of the holocaust. And yet, the holocaust is deeply seared into my identity. My understanding of forgiveness and healing, of multiculturalism and identity, of god and faith – have all been shaped by the “some 6 million Jews” that were killed, “on racial and ethnic grounds.”

How could a textbook possibly convey that?

It can’t, and I don’t expect it to. But mind and heart aren’t always in agreement, and my heart continues to rage that three generations of pain and hope, multiplied nationfold, can in any way be reduced to one sentence.