MARSHALL McLUHAN AND DIVINATION

PROPHET

‘One who utters divinely inspired revelations; one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight; one who foretells future events’. Says our lord and master savior, the grimoir, aka the dictionary.

As history has shown, prophets are not popular. Prophets are not popular not because they dress weirdly, have greasy hear or are baldheads. Nor are they not popular because they speak the truth – which the media makes sure to tell everyone else is a lie. Prophets are not popular because they happen to be the only ones who, in the state of global confusion, can predict with a fair amount of accuracy what will happen next. They even dare to have fun in the process of uttering divinely inspired revelations, which is really unacceptable. Says our lord and master, the top dog, guardian of fences and borders, limits and labors.

Everyone else is unable to predict anything worth the while because most are caught in speculating and capitalizing on the fear of war, the other, aliens, zombies, foreigners, refugees, and hippies who threaten the world order with going to the wilderness to create havoc there, living off the grid, building huts and taking a piss in random holes in the woods. The unpaid for holes. Says, our lord and master, the capitalist system, aka death.

Some prophets leave us a legacy in the form of magical thinking, which is to say the kind of thinking that reconfigures our perception of the dictionary, the top dog, and death.

MARSHALL McLUHAN

Andrew McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan’s son, sends me the oracle cards that McLuhan designed for D.E.W. Line in 1969, which is a reference to the 3,000 mile long DEW Line, a system of 63 radar stations that acted as an early detection invasion buffer during the Cold War. Says Open Culture, the best free cultural and educational media on the web.

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This is a set of playing cards that features an aphorism on each card. McLuhan provided a little white book too in the form of the rules of the game, true divinatory style. You can play cards with these cards, but what McLuhan intended for them was to be used exclusively for divination. That is to say, you have something on your mind? Ask the cards about it. Not your mother, not the government. Ask the cards. Smart move.

There is really nothing like an intellectual acknowledging the power of divination, which is to say, the power of synchronous events over the general, singular stupidity pervading all political systems that insist on passing off their symbolic power as real.

I’m playing with these cards and with what I imagine must have been McLuhan’s thoughts behind the idea. What real fun he must have had, sitting there with a pack of 54 devils, and devising solutions to all problems in 30 seconds flat.

RULES OF GAME

The instructions for the game are quite sophisticated, as they deal with the very basic stuff of what makes our lives seem like stories. What do we fear the most? What do we desire the most? How do we allow the permutation with the cards to offer an insight into what we think we fear, and what we think we desire – for who’s to say indeed, who and what dictates what we fear and what we desire the most? Psychoanalysts would say that language dictates everything, but hells bells, as McLuhan has demonstrated, the media dictates a lot of what we end up speaking already, making us think in the process that our string of utterances comes from the bottom of our hearts – or is that, our corporate hearts? Better to divine quickly with the cards, before I let my true emotions infuse my capitalist-minded mind.

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I follow McLuhan’s instructions to the letter here:

This is an 8-card spread, beginning with 2 cards framing the story

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Take any card. Relate the aphorism to your current hang-up.

Call to mind a private or corporate problem as you shuffle the cards. Select a card and apply its message.

What I have on my mind is something related to the state of affairs at work. Recently 15 tenured professors got fired, and well, don’t ask me to invoke reasons, for there aren’t any. Most reasons are today called ‘money’, and the way in which money is invoked in all decisions, more often than not, has very little to do with reason. Let’s just say that it’s a complicated relation, as money is involved with itself. Money loves no one. Or else, money loves the occasional schmuck who looks the best on Television.

So I’m thinking. There’s very little respect at work. Not just towards me, as a researcher and teacher, but towards everyone else.

For this first move I get the Jack of Clubs. The aphorism reads: ‘When you’re flat on your back don’t raise your head or your friends will kick you in the teeth.’ I’m thinking, what friends? People at work have turned emotional about everything, what with every corporatist researcher fearing for his and her pants, and going from being deliriously joyful – ‘Christ, I’m glad it wasn’t me who got fired’ – to  moving down the register to expressing guilt – ‘Christ, can we save a colleague, how about proposing a substantial pay cut in our salaries?’All to the union’s exasperation. You have no friends.

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‘So what is the problem?’, McLuhan is asking me. I call to mind the problem with lying. Everyone on the job lies about everything. As everything needs to be ‘relevant’, serving our lord and master globalization, aka money in my pocket rather than in your pocket, I see there’s a problem with my sense of integrity. No space for it here. I get the 2 of Hearts for this, reminding me of a languid situation: ‘It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all’. This is the ‘spot on’ card, I decide. McLuhan says I have to apply this to my problem. Love and lies. There. It’s so applied that it makes my teeth hurt.

INSIGHT

We move on.

‘Take three cards and experiment with different arrangements of these until they yield new insights and patterns into your problem.’

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Now we get to my specialty which is reading playing cards according to suit, number, and color.

4 of Hearts don’t rock the boat, 7 of Hearts make my heart croak, and 10 of Spades bury the road. This is my line, as I go from the stable loveliness of the 4 of Hearts, with some heartache in the 7, and then to death. ‘Christ, I used to love this place,’ I say to myself. My university used to be global in the 70s, what with its fascinating Marxist roots. Now it’s all local rot. Called ‘global ranking’.

The aphorisms address this problem thus, first by way of questioning, then by way of passing judgment, and then by way of executing the sentence.

‘How do you like kids? Well cooked, he said sternly.’ – This one makes me think of the students. We don’t have resources to do any cooking any more. So we’ll end up with raw meat very soon. Disgusting.

‘Since the invention of elastic the space occupied by women has been reduced to one third.’ – This one makes me spit on the floor. Wait, maybe I should wait until I’m at the office. While I still have an office.

‘Every new technique is a service environment that junks the earlier ones.’ We can call this one the Burial of the Dead. I think T.S. Eliot would have liked this wasteland.

The black card ending this string means bad news. If the black card is the 10 of Spades, then it means hysterically bad news. Like death. One last scream, before they make you redundant. The whole English program where I work is under heavy suspicion of having rendered itself redundant. We are, of course, not redundant, but a new technique is in town. As our name is not Philosophy – these folks are important – or Communication and Design – these folks are even more important – we must suffer the consequence. Alas, we speak a language that every schmuck in town can now speak.

SOLUTION

We move on to the next cards.

‘Deal yourself three cards. Pick a pair to maximize the comic side of your problem.’

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I get the Jack of Diamonds saying: ‘To the blind all things are sudden’. And then it gets really prophetic in the 4 of Diamonds. ‘The hand that rocked the cradle just kicked the bucket.’ By the time I get to the full stop of that previous sentence, I can already feel Murphy’s Law hitting me over my head: ‘If it can happen, it will.’ It’s the Ace of Hearts that ends this string. The house. My house. This is not the house of my working place, but my house. I’ve been wishing for a log house in the woods, where I can sit comfortably, and away from lies and disrespect. This is not comical. This is serious.

A solution is coming. Indeed as they say, know your place. Some spend years trying to figure out where they fit in, in this world of messages and mediums. But it’s simple. Your place is where you’re respected. It’s not enough to say it: ‘I respect you’ – our head of department has just said that recently to all of us working in the English program, and I felt my teeth screeching. I felt like mumbling sheepishly something about deconstruction and language, and the difference between showing and telling, but I stopped in my tracks. It would have meant a waste of my precious breath. They’re preparing for the burial of the dead.

SCORE

So, how am I doing in the scoring department according to McLuhan? This he says:

‘If you get your breakthrough in thirty seconds or less, you are a top Dew Liner.’ I take this. I’ll go home where I belong to. The log house in the woods, where I live comfortably.

‘Those who get their million dollar solution in less than two minutes have not yet been promoted to the level of their incompetence.’ Ohhh, I leave this to the bosses.

‘If it takes you three minutes or more, try another problem.’

My hat off to the man prophet. He scored again. I scored too, and everyone is happy. Meanwhile, I think I’m going to consider very carefully Andrew McLuhan’s desire for me to free lance write for Planet Waves, a website dedicated to smart astrology and media studies. Yes, sir. As they say, the dead speak the truth. I think I’m going to wire Marshall McLuhan to another stellar magician who has been on my mind lately, Giordano Bruno. Armed with these two souls, I bet I can hammer home that log house in the woods, where I live comfortably, and where I can write about cards and stars, joining the choir of prophets and their thunderous drums and voices.

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One Comment

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  1. Oh, that’s nasty. And: you go, girl!

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