Monday, March 3, 2014

Lao-Tze: The Value of the Non-Existent

     Researching in depth, one of the references of Marshal McLuhan's book, surprisingly changed my outlook on what I, once perceived - and still to a varying degree still perceive - to be a glorified "magazine". The more time I had spent reading McLuhan's book throughout the term, the more it seemed like a piece of abstract art rather than informative literature. However, as I researched Lao-Tze as referenced in, "The Medium is the Massage" I pieced together how McLuhan had used Lao-Tze's passage to prove a commentary of our media culture.

     The Passage that McLuhan used from the ancient writings of Lao-Tze's from Tao Te Ching outlined how we, as a modernized western world, have come to define ourselves by what we are not. Using both Lao-Tze’s ancient passage and McLuhan’s commentary it becomes clear that it is our isolation that has defined us, but it is the extremity of that isolation that has now pushed us into the realms of technological communication. I believe that these passages together are trying to prove that we have gone from one extreme to another. We have ultimately gone from the isolated, personal, individualistic ideologies of the West and have entered (as McLuhan calls it) a fused "oriental" way of life.

Collage of Iconic representations of both Lao-Tze and Marshall McLuhan. In the center they are morphed into one. 

Individual photo-credits to: 


  1. I found it interesting that McLuhan included something from Eastern tradition when most of his examples are westernized. His idea that media is collapsing the world into a world of gossip (at least this is what I'm taking from McLuhan's idea of a global village) has some truth to it, but when he includes parables from the "Oriental" side of things, I think that he doesn't grasp what living in with an “easternized” mindset is truly like--I'm not saying I understand it either (because I've been raised in a white, middle-class, house). However, I do believe that if McLuhan is going to raise the question of existence and juxtapose his thesis with Lao-Tze, he should have included more examples of the "oriental" frame of mind. I think that the western hemisphere and eastern hemisphere have very different ideas of how people belong to the world. Examples of such are: if you look at most Chinese paintings, very few of them feature people, if they do they do have men, women, children etc. in the paintings, the people are small/minuscule in the landscapes. This is a demonstration to show how people are a small part of the world. In western paintings, (if people are featured), they are large, in the center of the image and the subject... they demand attention.

  2. I really liked how you pointed our that it is our isolation that has pushed us to rely on technology for communication. When you said that, I couldn't help but think of people hiding behind anonymous social media accounts and creating a fake identity. Those types of people are incredibly isolated, retreat from face-to-face social interaction, and rely on technology in order to communicate. So yes, the concept that you have come to seems to be very real.

  3. I think you are right that McLuhan is trying to prove that we have gone from one extreme to another. I found this page to be interesting and challenging to interpret. Personally, I don't agree that technology is "Oientalizing" the West. I think that a large sum of people in the West gravitate toward technological means of communication because they don't feel that they are getting the connections they are seeking in everyday life. I don't think that technology and new forms of communication has changed the individualism that the West is known for.