McLuhan and Lent

This is a very special week for us. Here’s the tweet that started it all:

We launched with five articles and a vision to become a place to encourage critical thinking about technology and new media in light of Christian tradition. To celebrate the anniversary of our launch, our reading list this week will focus on a couple of special things we have going on right now. Keep your eye out this week for a press release announcing some other exciting developments here at Second Nature.

First, we’re featuring two articles from colleagues of Marshall McLuhan, Robert Logan and Derrick de Kerckhove, examining the relationship between McLuhan’s faith and his study of technology:

passion and precision the faith of marshall mcluhan

Passion and Precision: The Faith of Marshall McLuhan – Derrick de Kerckhove

McLuhan did not convey this impression or feeling of certitude with words. We rarely talked about religion directly. And yet I don’t know of any experience, any reading or any conversation with anyone which had a more determining influence on my own faith than Marshall’s calm assurance as to what really mattered in life. It was so strong that to this day I am convinced that the communication of faith is still a matter of mysterious personal contacts, in spite of the powerful means of communication available to the Church today for mass evangelization.

Did McLuhan’s Deeply Held Roman Catholic Convictions Bias His Scholarship? – Robert Logan

The only way his religious beliefs ever entered into my work with Marshall was that on our way to lunch we would stop at St. Basil’s Church to attend the 15-minute noon hour mass. McLuhan prayed to his God for his salvation and, being Jewish, I prayed to my God to understand what Marshall had said that morning. It was a peaceful time in which I had a chance to meditate on our morning’s exploration and to frame questions for our lunchtime conversation.

We’ve also been using our Wednesday blog posts during Lent as a time to reflect on spirituality and technology. If you’ve missed them so far, here’s a chance to catch up with them, in order:

Part 1: Ash Wednesday

“Instead of using our new-found time to pray or meditate or do charitable work or even just to rest we get addicted to our time-saving devices. We get our regular work done faster and do more during the day but then we go home and spend more time updating our LinkedIn profile to show off the work we did during the day or explaining to our Twitter followers how busy we were today and somewhere along the way we spend more time showing off about something we did and forget that we just wanted to have some extra time.”

Part 2: Weapons of Self-Restraint

“But what we don’t think about when we talk about weapons (or technology) is self-restraint. In fact, self-restraint is usually the last thing we think about when we use technology. When we use technology, we are extending and strengthening our personal influence on the world. We assert ourselves. We make bigger footprints with our shoes than we would with our feet. We dig deeper holes with shovels than we do with our hands. And we can process data astronomically faster with computer code than we can with our mind alone.”

Part 3: Facebook and the False Self

“I think it’s time for Christians to give up giving Facebook up for Lent. While I realize that the intention behind giving up Facebook–or any other digital social network–for Lent is good, I think that just deactivating or uninstalling Facebook for 40 days can be too facile of a way to approach social media. Yes, going cold turkey is a big sacrifice for many people. And yes, we should treat that itch to check social media as a call to prayer. But I think the cold turkey for Lent approach can go wrong in two ways.”

Part 4: On Noise and Meaning

“But I also realize sometimes when I reach for the radio I’m not looking for any kind of meaningful sound. Sometimes I’m just looking for background noise. Sometimes I’m tired and don’t want to think–but I need to fill the silence. These are the times when I would normally just flip through the stations throughout my drive, never finding something that I want to listen to because ultimately what I’m looking for isn’t on a radio station. I’m looking for something that isn’t there and I only end up with noise.”

Thanks for joining us in our first year and to all our new readers, welcome aboard!

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About the Contributor

Benjamin Robertson

Benjamin Robertson
Benjamin Robertson is a founding editor at Second Nature. He has worked in advertising for the Chicago Tribune and Gannett, and now is a web developer at Up&Up. He studied Communications and Media Studies under Dr. Read Schuchardt at Wheaton College in Illinois. He has presented papers on Marshall McLuhan, media ecology, and Christianity at the Media Ecology Association, National Communication Association, and the McLuhan's Philosophy of Media Centennial Conference in Brussels. He lives with his wife, Ruth, in Greenville, SC. His personal website is benjamingrobertson.com

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