Exploring ignorance (10) – the dialogue of being

In Exploring ignorance 8 and Exploring ignorance (9), the first sentence of Take Today is cited, together with passages from later in the same first paragraph:

The art and science of this century reveal and exploit the resonating bond in all things. (…) To naïve classifiers [however] a gap is merely empty (…) With medieval dread they abhor vacuums.

Such “naïve classifiers” dedicate themselves and their world to merger.

But there is something strange here. For if merger is the state of “all boundaries now gone” (Take Today 209), it would seem either that “the resonating bond” does not exist “in all things”, namely, not in merger — in which case “all things” would not be “all things”; or that merger somehow does implicate “the resonating bond” and therefore is included “in all things” — but how could it then be merger?

McLuhan was very much aware of this problem.  In fact, it forms the sole entrance-way into his thought.

So far from invalidating the perception of “the resonating bond in all things”, merger qua merger (merger exactly as merger, merger as “all boundaries now gone”) is that without which fundamental dialogue (“the resonating bond”) could not be fundamental dialogue!

As discussed in Exploring ignorance (6)Take Today 22 concludes as follows:

dialogue as a process of creating the new came before, and goes beyond, the change of “equivalents” that merely reflect or repeat the old.

“Dialogue” is fundamental: it “came before”. But if “dialogue” as “creating” were only the replication of itself as more and more “dialogue”, it would be no more than “the change of ‘equivalents’ that merely reflect or repeat the old”. And it would not be “dialogue” in the deep sense of “creating the new” and different. It would not , therefore, be that which earlier on Take Today 22 is called “innovation” and which, in a passage from the I Ching cited on that same page, is called “the Creative”.

Merger is needed by “dialogue” in order for it freely to ex-press itself as “creating”. Merger is that fundamental other to “dialogue” in the creation and continuing sustenance of which “dialogue” reaches out from itself to relate to that which is decisively other than it. In this way, and in this way only, is “dialogue”, in a fundamental way, “innovation”. But since merger is exactly the absence of dialogue, “all boundaries now gone”, this free need of “dialogue” at the same time renders it “hidden”. Its “creating” is a way of stepping back from visibility. Hence, as McLuhan cites the I Ching:

[The Creative] does indeed guide all happenings, but [it never becomes manifest;] it never behaves outwardly as the leader. Thus true strength is that strength which, mobile as it is hidden, concentrates on the work without being outwardly visible. (Take Today 22)

The hiddenness of “the Creative” does not result from it being closed; it results from it being open! “Dialogue” does not merely (merely!) relate to merger without ceasing to be “dialogue”, it relates to merger in order to be “dialogue”!

To “naïve classifiers [= merger moguls] a gap is merely empty”. They see gaps merely as “vacuums” which “with medieval dread they abhor”. Such inability to relate to the essential power which “does indeed guide all happenings” might seem to be merely negative. In stark opposition to “dialogue” which “concentrates on the work” of creating and sustaining fundamental difference, merger “concentrates” only on itself and never “goes beyond the change of ‘equivalents’ that merely reflect or repeat the old”. But exactly this closure is the sole need of “dialogue” and is, therefore, the unique sign of “dialogue” (subjective and objective genitive)!

This closed sign is nothing other than human being.

Human being is a sign that points in its closure beyond itself.

As will be detailed in future posts, it is exactly this “hidden” and “resonating bond” of “dialogue” even or especially with merger which enables “understanding media”.  For it is this “hidden” way which enables investigation to change from merger to “dialogue” and so exposes the common structure of media — “the resonating bond in all things” — in and through which intelligibility in general, and new sciences in the human domain in particular, are possible.

As McLuhan remarks early in Take Today:

Alice [in Wonderland] went through the vanishing point into the “total field” that bridges the worlds of visual and acoustic, civilized and primal spaces. (10)

“Understanding media” must take this same way. So it is that McLuhan remarks later in Take Today:

Explanations that ignore the perceptual complementarity of eye and ear lead to conceptual conflict — the divorce of rhyme and reason. (140)

McLuhan’s goal was to describe the movement from the conception of “conflict” between “rhyme and reason” (a conception of “conflict” which leads to the supposed ‘peace’ of merger and “rhyme”) to the perception of their differentiated “complementarity”.  This occurs at that moment when the “dialogue” or “the resonating bond” between merger (the “visual” goal of the perspectival “eye”) and other possibilities of communication (“the worlds of [the] acoustic”) is beheld as the “hidden” way and ground between them. And this occurs when merger recognizes itself, qua merger, as the peculiar closed sign of the “resonating”1 of that original/originating “bond” (subjective genitive).

  1.   In regard to “resonating”, cf “acoustic” and “ear” in the Take Today passages (10/140) immediately above.

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