Saturday, July 22, 2017

Google, Marshall McLuhan, and Catholicism

Google makes a point of ignoring the birthdays of traditional celebrities of the western tradition. It wouldn't be caught dead celebrating the feast days of Catholic saints. Instead, it makes a point of celebrating the 'feast days' of offbeat, marginalized figures, non-whites, often women, often unknown, sometimes of dubious distinction. This isn't a bad thing as such, except insofar as it leads to ignorance about meritorious figures in the traditional western canon of celebrities. It is most certainly, however, a very politically correct thing.

When Google chose the Canadian pioneer of media theory, Marshall McLuhan, as its 'saint' for the day (his birthday was July 21, 1911), I have little reason to believe that they had in mind feting this Canadian professor for having converted from agnosticism to the Catholic Faith. Here are the delicious facts, however, lifted directly from Wikipedia:
While studying the trivium at Cambridge, he took the first steps toward his eventual conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1937, founded on his reading of G. K. Chesterton. In 1935, he wrote to his mother: "[H]ad I not encountered Chesterton, I would have remained agnostic for many years at least." At the end of March 1937, McLuhan completed what was a slow but total conversion process, when he was formally received into the Roman Catholic Church. After consulting a minister, his father accepted the decision to convert. His mother, however, felt that his conversion would hurt his career and was inconsolable. McLuhan was devout throughout his life, but his religion remained a private matter. He had a lifelong interest in the number three (e.g., the trivium, the Trinity) and sometimes said that the Virgin Mary provided intellectual guidance for him. For the rest of his career, he taught in Roman Catholic institutions of higher education. From 1937 to 1944, he taught English at Saint Louis University (with an interruption from 1939–40 when he returned to Cambridge). There he taught courses on Shakespeare and tutored and befriended Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912–2003), who went on to write his Ph.D. dissertation on a topic that McLuhan had called to his attention, and who also became a well-known authority on communication and technology.
Who was it that said "even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while"?

No comments: