McLuhan’s example: Faith’s compatibility with reason [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

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We continue to explore Catholic ‘media philosopher’ Marshall McLuhan as a role model for Catholic communicators in the Year of Faith. Read all Marshall McLuhan Mondays here.

Recently, I’ve been discovering the meaning of faith in my own life. It’s a trust in God that requires grace to know and interiorize.

Marshall McLuhan modeled faith in an unmistakable way. His son, Eric, often notes that Marshall’s coming into full communion with the Catholic Church was seen by some as ‘intellectual suicide.’ How could his Catholic faith be compatible with true academic scholarship?

Marshall McLuhan’s colleague Wilson Bryan Key writes,

He was, indeed, a Christian who fervently believed in his faith, but not with the easy, hypocritical phrases of the Fundamentalist Biblepushers, but by the example he tried to set in his daily life. It was frequently difficult to reconcile the astute, critical scholar of history, the brilliant, worldly (catholic, in its nonreligious sense) student of human foible and frailty, with the simple faith he appeared to exhibit toward his God. I once questioned him about the conflict and inconsistency I perceived, between blind faith and intellectual integrity. He replied simply, “I am Catholic! That resolves most of my dilemmas. I can get on with my work. Period!”

McLuhan’s response seems rather terse and confusing. However, it’s when we realize that faith is not blind that we ‘can get on with our work.’ This past week, Pope Benedict XVI’s catechesis was on the rationality of faith. Here’s an excerpt (emphasis mine):

Indeed, although a mystery, God is not absurd. … If, in contemplating the mystery, reason sees only darkness, this is not because the mystery contains no light, rather because it contains too much. Just as when we turn our eyes directly to the sun, we see only shadow – who would say that the sun is not bright? …

God, with His grace, illuminates reason and opens up new horizons, immeasurable and infinite. Therefore, faith is a continuous stimulus to seek, never to cease or acquiesce in the inexhaustible search for truth and reality. … Intellect and faith are not foreign or antagonistic to divine Revelation, they are both prerequisites for understanding its meaning, for receiving its authentic message, for approaching the threshold of the mystery.

Having faith means believing, trusting in God. That trust ‘resolves most of our dilemmas’ and yet compels us to ‘get on with our work’ — to continue seeking Truth. Faith is a great mystery, and yet as Key recalls, McLuhan’s Catholic faith was simple.

Perhaps that’s why Christ so clearly said we need childlike faith. Children are so simple and trusting, yet always asking questions with an excited and unquenchable curiosity.

What role does faith have in your own life?

Site Inspiration – Morris Catholic High School

Morris Catholic HS - Screen Shot i

This school gets it. Morris Catholic High School in Denville, New Jersey, masterfully uses new media to connect with its young students, impress parents, and communicate with current or potential community members.

The greatest part? Their president, Michael St. Pierre, introduced the school to new media. The school hired a 27-year-old alumni as director of communications and alumni relations, whose teenaged brother now attends the school. It’s a beautiful combination with beautiful results.

Media Highlights:

  • President’s tumblr blog – Why not ask your president, dean of students, etc., to blog on tumblr? The platform is easier to master than WordPress, Blogger, Facebook or Twitter — and high schoolers are all over tumblr.
  • Podcasts galore – Morris Catholic produces podcasts acting as backstage passes, with “MC Sports” on Soundcloud, “The Shout MC” chats about campus culture, “MC in the Spotlight” features individuals from students to staff who make Morris Catholic.
  • TechEd podcast – Are you a techie? In education? This podcast features discussion and tips from Catholic techies like my buddies Matt Warner and Tom Shakely. That Morris produces this podcast demonstrates their passion for excellence in educational technology…which speaks volumes to potential parents, students, faculty, AND….(dun dun dun) benefactors!
  • Active Twitter @MCHSCrusader – Updated, interacting with other Twitter users, and posting multimedia like event photos make this handle a winner.
  • Official School App – Listen to school podcasts, stay updated with news & blogs, connect via social media, and donate to MCHS on your smartphone! I love this. Meet your community members wherever they are via an app.
  • Tech in the classrooms: Incorporating podcast production, Adobe Creative Suite, iPads, smartboards, and more in their classrooms, Morris Catholic students’ education is clearly up-to-speed. When they graduate, they’ll be on-par with the outside world’s media ken.

A fabulous website serves a school well, but that’s the bare minimum for today’s high schoolers. Morris Catholic raises the bar for any school, especially Catholic schools, by engaging new media to fulfill every aspect of their mission. What an inspiration!

Find Music for Projects: How Licenses Work and Free Resources

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Dear Catholic new media producer,

Creative Commons is your friend. For the past month, I’ve been creating a 20-minute video about my employer’s ministry. One of the most important and daunting tasks involved was finding the music.

Whether you’re making videos or podcasts, ensure that you’re giving credit where it’s due and using music legally. Read about Creative Commons licenses but here’s the gist…

Artists allow you to use their songs according to certain criteria: 1.) Will the song be used commercially or noncommercially? 2.) Will the song be modified? 3.) Will the song be attributed to the artist in some capacity?

  • EASIEST TO FIND FREE: Are you using this song for a non-commercial ministry project AND able to credit the artist? You’ll easily find free, legally-available music. Look for an “Attribution” or “Attribution-Noncommercial” license.
  • FAIRLY EASY TO FIND FREE: Are you using this for a commercial project AND able to credit the artist? Look for an “Attribution” license.
  • HARDEST TO FIND FREE: Are you using this for a project BUT unable to credit the artist? You’ll be a bit more hard-pressed to find music. Search for a “Sans Attribution” license.
  • …ALSO CONSIDER… If you see a song marked with the phrase “NoDerivs,” you must use the song verbatim. If you’re looking to mix together a song with other sound effects, for instance, don’t use “NoDerivs”-licensed songs.

My Favorite Sources for FREE Music

1. Free Music Archive: Search this database according to your needs. They’ve got a great variety of genres, and they make finding music licensed according to your needs a piece o’ cake.

2. Incompetech: Kevin MacLeod is my hero. His music is available under a simple “Attribution” license, and you can also obtain a “Sans Attribution” license easily through his website. All genres.

3. Josh Woodward: Previously-highlighted here on the blog, but another hero. All albums available under “Attribution” license, including instrumental versions of all his songs. Mostly acoustic guitar.

4. Jason Shaw / Audionautix: Another great source of “Attribution”-licensed works. Several genres!

5. Public Domain 4U: Does your project lend itself to an old-school sound? Songs that have aged into the public domain have no legal restrictions. Obtain great oldies here.

6. Jamendo: All genres, languages and countries can be found, previewed, and downloaded at Jamendo. Artists tag their own music, so sometimes you’ll need to be creative in your search terms. Use their great Advanced Search to find music appropriately-licensed for your project.

7. Live Music Archive: Non-commercial use only! This music arm of Internet Archive (nice resource, by the way) allows users to upload live music recordings to be downloaded for non-commercial use. Browse the list of artists – ranging from obscure indie bands to artists with Top 40 fame. Not easily searchable.

Double-check individual song licenses before using. Happy creating!

Do you have any favorite resources to share?

Payable on Death – What Inspired Me to Surrender to Jesus

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“I’m sheltered by your blood, your sweat, your tears.
Lord, you prayed for me…and you cried for me…and you died for me.
Identify your real master. Recognize and obey the sacrifice.”
Selah by P.O.D.

Eleven years ago, I decided to give my life to God. Today, for the first time in my life, I will see the reason why.

Eleven years ago, I was thirteen years old and listening to tattooed, pierced, dreadlocked rock bands. My parents did a beautiful job raising me in the Catholic faith, but I had yet to make the personal decision to hand over my will for God’s. I went to Mass with my family, and I knew that religion was important, but among classmates I spoke with a filthy mouth and contemplated whether my life was truly worth living. (The usual teenage angst…)

Eleven years ago, my dad took me to the local Family Christian Store, rewarding me with a CD for good grades. That day was different, though, because I walked up the stairs to the music section and suddenly saw this poster:

Immediately drawn, I sampled the music, loved it, and promptly handed the CD to the clerk.

These four tattooed, pierced, dreadlocked men shocked me. Everything about their music and – after reading interviews with them – their lives said: God is alive, and we know Him. He is the ultimate treasure to be sought, the unquenchable fire, and the greatest Master. Their album went multi-platinum internationally, and on every stage, they pointed to Christ as their reason for living.

This band’s unabashed witness led me to pray eleven years ago, “God, if this is what it means to serve you, then I want to. I want what they have.”

Today, I work full-time for the Catholic Church…yes, thanks to my parents, church, Catholic apologists, catechists…but also thanks to P.O.D. who finally pried open my heart to God’s light. This evening, my husband and I are going to see them in concert for the first time.

I won’t be surprised if tears are shed.

Catholics Ought to Partake in Extreme Violence [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

The late, great Marshall McLuhan. Photo by Manuel Bidermanas.
The late, great Marshall McLuhan. Photo by Manuel Bidermanas.

Headline got your attention? We’re discussing Marshall McLuhan here each Monday, and how he’s a role model for Catholic communicators during the Year of Faith.

McLuhan always called it as he saw it. He began his essay, “Violence in the Media” with a Gospel verse of which I was reminded this weekend. In Matthew 11:12, Christ says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.” McLuhan’s passage:

“The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence.” Violence against the Kingdom of Heaven proceeds by prayer and petition, prayer being one of the more extreme forms of violence, since it is conducted by superhuman force. It should not be surprising, therefore, that the ages of the utmost physical violence have also produced the greatest exemplars of heroic sanctity, as in the sixteenth century, and also today. Violence means the violation of territories, whether political or psychic, physical or moral.

Have you ever thought about prayer as a violent act? McLuhan calls it one of the most extreme forms! In prayer, our humanity reaches out to the divine. Earth calls out to Heaven. How much greater could a territory be violated than as in prayer?

Our age is one of the most violent — as McLuhan says. (Did you catch it? He says, “as in the sixteenth century, and also today.”) In fact, when we count murders alone, adding up all the abortions, capital punishments, suicides, victims of war, genocide, sexual abuse, and religious martyrs, our age outdoes them all. Then, add up the other sorts of violence, and the amount seems completely unfathomable. Terrifying? Depressing? McLuhan’s point should not be missed: Physically violent times produce great saints! As the saying goes, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” But why? McLuhan’s works stress the source of violence: the quest for personal identity. Searching for who we are, we violate others’ territory (commit violence) in the process.

That’s a thoroughly Catholic concept. Our Catechism tells us that prayer is, in the words of St. John Damascene, “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God…” because “man is in search of God” (pps. 2559, 2566). “Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence” (2566). So, when people suffer extreme identity loss, they commit extreme violence.

Today, we Catholics are surrounded by extreme violence and identity loss in so many different forms. In the midst of it all, we must storm the Kingdom of Heaven with prayer. Only in God will we find our identity. Only in God will our world find its identity.

Therefore, be extremely violent…pray, pray, pray.

How do we come to faith? [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Photo: McLuhan in his office (University of Toronto)
Photo: McLuhan in his office (University of Toronto)

As we continue to explore Marshall McLuhan as a model for Catholic communicators in this Year of Faith, we ask him the question, “How do we come to faith?” or “How do we strengthen our faith?”

In his fascinating essay, “Passion and Precision: The Faith of Marshall McLuhan,” contemporary Derrick de Kerckhove recalls a conversation he once had with McLuhan on the subject:

I remember that once, pressed by an overload of worries, in the middle of a conversation about the French adaptation of his book From Cliche to Archetype, I asked him one of the few personal direct questions I ever ventured with him, “Marshall, what does faith mean to you?” and he answered right away, as a matter of fact, a simple evidence:
“Paying attention, faith is paying attention, not to the cliches of religion only, but to the ground of the total man, which is the archetype. You come to the faith by prayer and by paying attention.”

Prayer is easy enough to understand, but what is meant by ‘paying attention?’ Expounding McLuhan’s answer, de Kerckhove cites McLuhan’s exposition of Our Lord’s famous words in the Gospel of John:

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear”; that is, let him tune in on the right channel! Yet most people do not have ears to hear, but only to listen. To listen is merely to pay attention with one’s eyes, so to speak, namely to comprehend the way words come to you. But that is not hearing, that is not being “in tune” with the communication. Christ Himself uses this metaphor. He makes a distinction between listening and hearing. The scribes were “listeners”, they were looking at written words: “It is written that so and so … and you say so and so.” But they didn’t have a clue. They used their ears not for hearing, but only for listening. This is what happens today: you may have all the necessary titles and yet remain incapable of tuning in properly. Christ also said: “My sheep know my voice. I know my sheep and they know my voice. But if you cannot hear me, you do not belong to my fold.” This kind of thing is said many times in the Gospel: these people do not belong to my fold, they do not hear. If they hear my voice, it is because the Father let them. In other words, the Father has “programmed them from within to hear Christ.”

So while McLuhan’s first response: ‘pray’ means seeking the grace of faith, ‘paying attention’ means listening to Revelation and then opening ourselves to its reality & consequences for us as humanity, and as an individual. One of those consequences is submitting myself to its veracity. Those whom Jesus praised for their faith took that extra step.

This is precisely what the Catechism tells us about faith: “To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to “hear or listen to”) in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard” (pp.144), which is both a human act and a gift from God (pps. 153 & 154).

What does faith, then, mean in your own life? To which consequences of Revelation have you not fully submitted? The Year of Faith invites us to explore and respond to these questions. Pray and pay attention.

Next week: McLuhan on the liturgy

Meet the Man Whose Viral Video Auto-Tunes JPII to “Dynamite”

Clark Jaman

Have you seen this viral video yet? The producer, Clark Jaman, was gracious enough to share some thoughts with you, dear readers. I’m excited to continue spotlighting fellow young adults who are putting their gifts to work for the New Evangelization! Enjoy meeting this inspiring individual.

Clark, can you introduce yourself a bit? What’s your musical background, and why is your faith important to you?

Well, I am 23 years old, from Canada. I am a university student, majoring in English and minoring in Catholic studies, but my real passion is for the proper use of media and technology (particularly music production) for the new evangelization. When I am not in school, I work as a music producer/engineer.

I began taking music lessons at a very young age, but didn’t really identify as a musician until grade 7, when I started playing bass in my school’s jazz band. The program there was exceptional, and it inspired an interest in music which found an outlet when my parents bought me my first Strat in grade eight. In high school, music got me into trouble as I started playing in a screamo band with bandmates who had less than admirable interests. The band broke up in grade twelve, around the same time as everything else in my life came crashing down. I slipped into deep anger and depression, but God’s mercy saved me the summer after I graduated at NET ministries training camp.The rest is history.

What is JungleHeart Productions, and why did you start it?

I never planned on becoming a music producer; it was just a hobby until people started calling me and offering me jobs. After I produced my first full-length album, I decided to form JungleHeart as an entity that could eventually grow and become bigger than just myself. Right now, JungleHeart Productions isn’t much. It’s basically the name that I operate under for my music production projects.

The name is based on an analogy I heard while in the midst of my conversion at NET training. According to the analogy, every human heart is like a jungle island with a precious jewel in the centre, symbolic of that person coming to know Christ. You don’t have to hack all the way through the jungle to get to that jewel in one shot; it usually happens much more gradually. Many people, places and events will take hacks at the foliage from different angles until something eventually breaks through.

I feel that it is unrealistic to instantaneously convert somebody with one of my songs or music videos, but I want every “JungleHeart Production” to take a hack at the foliage that separates individuals from their creator.

You just released your first video in a possible Autotune the Clergy series, “John Paul II Singing Dynamite” – which has over 15,000 views as of now. What was the inspiration behind this video / the idea for the series?

Autotuning is a really strange thing. It is very controversial, but all the people who bicker about it don’t have a clue what it is or how to use it. Everyone in the music industry just accepts it as a necessary tool which has to be used for professional work to sound professional, just like compression, reverb etc. For some reason, people never get hung up on things like compression, which is abused much more than tuning.

Nonetheless, “autotuning” has become very popular. When I saw the success of other auto tuning videos on YouTube, it was my natural response to baptize it and try it out on the gospel. It seems to have worked pretty good so far.

Tell us about your experience producing the video.

I started working on the project in March, I think. I dragged JP II’s speech into my audio workstation one night and started chopping out the parts that could possibly be autotuned to fit Dynamite. I chose the song Dynamite because it’s a really catchy song that just about everyone on YouTube would recognize. I didn’t finish editing the video until the night before I posted it, so I guess in total it took about 7 or 8 months to complete. I could have done it much quicker, though, if I wasn’t so busy with my client projects and school.

What kinds of reactions have you gotten to this video, and what is your response to those reactions?

I wasn’t sure what kind of feedback I would get on the video. I was worried that people might be offended by it. But so far I have read over 100 comments on the video, and only one of them was negative. I’m really happy with all the good cheer. People really appreciate that I use my gifts as an engineer to glorify God, and I’ve recieved a lot of support.

My favourite comment on YouTube so far: “I’m an atheist but for some reason I feel like like going back to Christianity just because of this video.” The 7 months of work I put into this video is worth it, just to read that.

People have also been downloading the song from my website, JungleHeartProductions.com, and some have paid money for it. That’s never happened before, and it’s so exciting for me!

What are your plans / hopes / aspirations for Auto-Tune the Clergy? For JungleHeart?

I would like to do another episode soon. I am finishing up a huge production project that I’ve been working on since July; a 10-track praise and worship album. As soon as I finish, I am going to autotune another speech. I’ve been getting lots of requests, so we’ll see what I can come up with.

I have big plans for JungleHeart Productions, but most of them are many years down the road. Right now I am starting to focus on building an online audience, especially through YouTube. I am posting a video every week on my channel, ClarkJaman. I also have a second channel, ClarkJaman2 and another one called ChristianPrayers.

I keep in touch with anyone and everyone through my Facebook. I’m trying to learn how to use Twitter as well. See you around! :)

Free webinars for Catholic new evangelizers

seminar

Need some free professional development? My favorite sources are leaders in their field of expertise, and you can learn from them (sometimes for free) by signing up for webinars.

What is a Webinar? Consider it like a seminar you attend, but your attendance is ‘virtual’ through the Internet. You’ll be sent an email with a date, time, and link for viewing the webinar. Typically, you will see the presenter’s slides and hear their voice during the presentation. Afterwards, he or she may take questions from the viewers who type their questions into a box on the webinar page.

My Recommendations for Catholic New Evangelizers

1. Nonprofit Webinars: My top pick. This site offers webinars on a wide variety of topics — from marketing and media on a budget to fundraising and development, targeted to persons working in nonprofit organizations. Even if I can’t tune into the live webinar, I always sign up for sessions that interest me. When the webinar is over, I’ll be emailed a link to the slides/video archive, so I can watch at my leisure.

Today, leaders from Meeting for Results and Guided Insights speak on utilizing virtual meetings.

2. Ave Maria Press Webinars: More geared towards the spiritual, Ave Maria Press offers less-frequent webinars on subjects specifically geared towards Catholics in ministry.

Tomorrow, the great Lisa Hendey offers her expertise on incorporating Advent into your ministerial work.

3. Peter and Paul Ministries: Connect with these Catholic new evangelizers through Facebook, Twitter, or G+ to get notified when they host an occasional webinar. You can watch recordings of their previous webinars/hangouts: “Apostles in New Media” (I was blessed to present), “Really Using Social Media for Ministry,” “Catholic New Media Hangout,” “New Media and the Black Catholic Community” and their interview with Team Orthodoxy on evangelization tactics.

More Personalized Experience: Want a more regularly-scheduled, personal, learning experience? Consider signing up for Pastoral Media Formation, a program I’ve highlighted previously. You’ll not only get weekly live training, but also personal phone call follow-ups, tips by email, and occasional webinars with Catholic media leaders. The cost is worth the benefits.

What’s your take?

Do you have any other sources to share? What webinar topics would you like to see?

Explaining Sex to Playboy Magazine, a la Theology of the Body [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

McLuhan with wife Corinne at The University of San Francisco, 1970.
McLuhan with wife Corinne at The University of San Francisco, 1970.

Folks may regard my upholding Marshall McLuhan as a model for the Year of Faith… strange. After all, he never claimed to be a mouthpiece for the Catholic faith, despite his ubiquitous presence in various media.

But I think he is truly a model lay Catholic, and a wonderful model for new evangelizers, because he made a profound impression on the world. His Catholicity could not be ignored by his contemporaries, as I’ll continue to prove in these weekly blogs. In our time, he has been taken as the official Patron Saint of Wired magazine.

We can also see his unmistakably Catholic impression in the subtitle for Playboy magazine’s 1969 interview with him: “A candid conversation with the high priest of popcult and metaphysician of media.”

Yes, he engaged Playboy in conversation. Being an ardently devout convert to Catholicism, we might safely assume he wasn’t among the publication’s readership. Yet, his passion to spread awareness of media’s impact on humanity didn’t keep him from accepting Playboy‘s invitation to chat. I greatly admire that.

What I also admire is McLuhan’s call-it-as-he-saw-it attitude toward any subject, including sex and drugs. Clearly, unbridled sexual activity and drug use were growing in popularity when this interview took place. Did popular opinion — and the fact that he was speaking with Playboy — stop McLuhan from making the obvious observations about how it would all lead to empty sex and violence? Nope. He went there, and very matter-of-factly.

And they printed it.

Here’s a bit of the lengthy interview (which covered a vast array of topics). For convenience’s sake, I’ve highlighted McLuhan’s relevant statements:

Once a society enters the all-involving tribal mode, it is inevitable that our attitudes toward sexuality change. We see, for example, the ease with which young people live guiltlessly with one another, or, as among the hippies, in communal ménages. This is completely tribal.

[…] we are all inundated by a tidal wave of emphasis on sex. Far from liberating the libido, however, such onslaughts seem to have induced jaded attitudes and a kind of psychosexual Weltschmerz. No sensitivity of sensual response can survive such an assault, which stimulates the mechanical view of the body as capable of experiencing specific thrills, but not total sexual-emotional involvement and transcendence. It contributes to the schism between sexual enjoyment and reproduction that is so prevalent, and also strengthens the case for homosexuality. Projecting current trends, the love machine would appear a natural development in the near future — not just the current computerized datefinder, but a machine whereby ultimate orgasm is achieved by direct mechanical stimulation of the pleasure circuits of the brain.

McLuhan’s son Eric has said that his father would have greatly enjoyed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and I continue to find evidence for that. McLuhan’s thoughts always remind me — as they demonstrate above — that JPII’s brilliant T.O.B. was not entirely new, but a natural development of Catholic thought.

What’s the ultimate new evangelization message that I learn from McLuhan’s Playboy interview? Let your faith become an integral part of you, and it will resonate in everything you do. Immerse yourself in it, as McLuhan did, and everyone with whom you speak will encounter an unmistakable — and irresistible — witness to Catholicism.