A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.


What would you do differently the second time around?

Marshall McLuhan (November 20, 1967, age 56).  What I would do

There is a parlor game Corinne likes to play called “Second time around.”  Everyone has to answer the question, “If you could live your life over again what would you do differently?”  Prizes go to the person who answers the question most honestly and most entertainingly.  I did not win.  My marks for honesty were credible but my marks for entertainment were as Mr. Jed Clampett would say on The Beverly Hillbillies “pitiful.”

I said I would do everything I did the first time around plus I’d do more, much more.  My biggest regret, you see, is that I have so many projects now in various stages of incompletion. And I’m afraid with this operation coming up that I’ll never complete them.  Corinne said I was being a downer that I was being too hard on myself, but I think not.

Me (November 2009, age 57).  The dangerous thrill of discovering new things

Marshall McLuhan toyed with many ideas and started many projects he never completed.  For example, he spent a great deal of time making notes and assembling files for the rewrite of his Ph.D. thesis for publication as a book, and his study The Laws of Media, which was to be his magnum opus on media.  Both projects were eventually completed.  But not until many years after his death, in 1980, and of course by other people, the thesis by his biographer Terry Gordon in 2006, 16 years later, and the Laws of Media by his son, Eric McLuhan in 1988, 8 years later.

I believe Marshall McLuhan left so much undone because he could not resist the lure, the thrill of discovering new things.  The constant pursuit of the new stopped him from getting things done.  This is a temptation I know that I also am suffering from myself.  Right now I have 12 projects on the go, five of which have to do with McLuhan, this blog being one of them.  I don’t have time to do anything more over the next year, yet new ideas come to me and I’m tempted to run after them.  Marshall McLuhan is a great teacher.  The fool it is said learns from his own mistakes, the wise man learns from the mistakes of others.  Thank you Marshall.

If you could live your life over again what would you do differently?  (Remember marks go for honesty and entertainment.)

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Philip Marchand. Marshall McLuhan: The medium and the messenger, 1989. P. 223-247.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, November 26th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Education, Vol. 1 No Comments