by Leslie Lanes
“The Medium is the Message”
I was recently inspired to revisit a window into Marshall McLuhan’s life story when I learned that one of his daughters lives in my home town of Ashland, Oregon. I remember being in awe of his work when I was in college, not really understanding what he was saying but feeling the weight of hidden meaning in his words. I always felt he was ahead of his time and maybe even still way ahead of ours. I also liked the rebellious nature that I sensed in him as a person, willing to say things that went against the grain of contemporary society. “The Medium is the Message”
Hearing this famous quote got me thinking about the Circle as a medium. Those of us in the ‘circle’ and ‘dialogue’ world teach a way of conversing together. We teach a way of being together, a way of calling in a larger field than any one person’s individual field. We demonstrate a way of deep listening to one another…all through the medium of circle. In this case, the medium of the circle provides the right ingredients in order to allow a quality of presence to emerge. This quality of experience will accompany whatever topic as content that may arise in the circle. So in this sense, the very medium of the circle is a message in and of itself. ...and a little further into his work…
“Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.”
In 1964 Marshall McLuhan was one of the first to foresee and describe a matrix of connection throughout the world that would change the social order. He referred to the concept of the global village which at the time was revolutionary. He articulated his perceptions of media as extensions of the human body in his book, Understanding Media. And so, how is the medium of the circle an extension of the human body? Maybe this example is a bit far-fetched, But what about the candle in the center representing the light that abides at the center of each of us? And the fact that there are individuals that are sitting on the rim of the circle contributing to the inspiration that comes into the center.
There is another interesting insight that I learned from McLuhan. He spoke about the invention of the alphabet and the resulting effect it had on highlighting the visual senses in the communication process. And so, it gave sight a priority over what before was a dependence upon hearing. In today’s world we see how difficult it is for people to really listen to one another. And this very simple circle guideline ends up being a major obstacle in the ability to communicate in circle and in relationships of all kinds – from the family conversations in our kitchens to the tables of negotiation between the leaders of countries on the national scene.
All throughout McLuhan’s work, I hear a warning not to get lost in the technological world. And so, though we may use the advances that have come our way, I see even more, how important the medium of the circle is in today’s world. May our teaching and most of all our demonstrating the circle principles in our daily lives continue. After all, we are the medium AND the message!