Marshall McLuhan’s catch phrase had an Easter influence?

"Easter Mass" by Vladimir Makovsky (1888)
“Easter Mass” by Vladimir Makovsky (1888)

I’ve referred on many occasions to Marshall McLuhan’s ‘catch phrase’ – “global village.” In his Understanding Media, he writes:

…since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear.

McLuhan often summed up modern reality by calling it a “global village.” But what were his influences?

If he had any influences in coining the term, McLuhan’s son, Dr. Eric McLuhan, believes one source may have been Easter-related:

[James] Joyce published Finnegans Wake in 1939. In it he uses two phrases, both allude to the Pope’s annual Easter message to the City (of Rome) and the World: Urbi et Orbi. Joyce turned this into “urban and orbal” in one place in the Wake, and into “the urb, it orbs” in another. (Source)

Dr. McLuhan also cites his father’s friend Wyndham Lewis as a possible inspiration, as well, in Lewis’ America and Cosmic Man. McLuhan says of his father:

Now, McLuhan was a great fan of Joyce’s and had read the Wake closely for years. Also he and Lewis discussed these and related matters frequently during the years of their association. And he had marked the phrases in Joyce and the paragraph in Lewis’s book, and pointed them both out at one time or another. But I think the truth of the matter simply that he was thinking along those lines and came up with the phrase and after the fact found it echoed in both writers.

So, perhaps the “global village” only coincidentally is tied to Joyce and the Urbi et Orbi. (That, by the way, is given by the Pope not only on Easter but also Christmas and upon his election.) I wonder what McLuhan would’ve said about two Urbi et Orbi blessings “orbing” through the world this month in real-time via Internet!


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