marshall mcluhan and finnegan's wake and also a bit about astrology

“Nobody could pretend serious interest in my work who is not completely familiar with all of the works of James Joyce and the French symbolists.” – Marshall McLuhan

I recently listened to a (few) McLuhan lecture(s) and heard him make reference to Finnegan’s Wake, about the book being about the effects of media on man, which he says, “Most people don’t know that.” I’ve always wanted to trudge through it and this made me even more motivated to do so. Today I went to my favorite building in Chicago, the Harold Washington Library, and checked out a copy and some companion readers. My interest in McLuhan was reignited when he was mentioned on The Sopranos:

Dear lord how I LOVE media theory!! There is nothing that makes me feel as challenged yet satiated as media theory. I also took out Dana Polan’s book on The Sopranos to read between Finnegan’s Wake.

As usual, this time of year always finds me ear deep in some very strange, kismet-like coincidences. (I won’t go into personal details.) I don’t believe in astrology to any degree - I have, in the past, fallen victim to relying too heavily upon it as a tool - but there is something strange that always happens around this time of year. (I like to think it is because my dear friend Kristi, who passed on ten years ago, is smiling upon me. If spirituality is good for anything, it is good for a sense of relief.) Astrology predates heliocentrism and further

Astrologers usually have only a small knowledge of astronomy, and often do not take into account basic principles—such as the precession of the equinoxes, which changes the position of the sun with time. They commented on the example of Élizabeth Teissier, who claimed that, "The sun ends up in the same place in the sky on the same date each year," as the basis for claims that two people with the same birthday, but a number of years apart, should be under the same planetary influence. Charpak and Broch noted that, "There is a difference of about twenty-two thousand miles between Earth's location on any specific date in two successive years," and that thus they should not be under the same influence according to astrology. Over a 40 years period there would be a difference greater than 780,000 miles.

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Astrology is really trendy right now and I’ve never been one to follow trends very much. The rise in the “belief” in astrology (as noted above, most followers don’t have too much of an indepth knowledge of the core systems of astrology’s relationship to astronomy) actually worries me some. I see it as a means for turning outward in order to problem solve or to understand one’s place in the world, subjecting yourself to fate, throwing up your hands at accountability instead of taking the reigns. And this is by no means a scientific analysis, but most people I have met who place a lot of importance upon astrology tend to be just the type to lack responsibility for their own behaviors. There is a parallel here, I feel, to how the popular media affects us, just like much of what McLuhan professes. Being constantly inundated with media makes it nearly impossible for one to develop their own sense of self, leading to a disconnect between who you are and what you do, with regards to our relationships to work, labor and creativity as well as simply how we treat one another, how we dot our is and cross our ts, how we handle our affairs. This is so dangerous! We see it in the rise of Trump’s own brand of populism and how it turns well-meaning social justice seekers into finger pointers, bullies, near fascists. Neglecting to understand the Self, to develop a sense of being from the inside out, leads to a lack of empathy, a lack of understanding others… and now we’ve come full circle to “understanding” what drives my artistic practice… I use “understand” here very loosely :)

jillian musielak