The author of The Medium is the Massage, Marshal McLuhan, deserves a space in the massage almanac for the positive PR impact he had on the early days of contemporary massage, not to mention my life. In 1967, the year of this book’s publication, massage was still associated in public’s mind with adult entertainment. To put the word “massage” on the cover of the hippest book of the day without a negative connotation was both shocking and brilliant. I still have my $1.45 copy.
This week, in honor of his Centenary, I have enjoyed dipping into, reading about and reflecting on this book and McLuhan. Here are a few thing you may not know:
- McLuhan coined the term “the global village” to describe how humans are moving from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity with a tribal base.
- He also coined and popularized “surfing” to mean rapid, irregular and multidirectional movement through a diverse body of documents or knowledge even before there was a world wide and web to surf on.
- The title of the book was a typesetting mistake. It was supposed to have been The Medium is the Message but when he saw the typo, McLuhan insisted on keeping it. There are four possible readings for the last word of the title, all of them accurate: “Message” and “Mess Age,” “Massage” and “Mass Age.”
- The book was a graphically innovative collage of multiple type faces, upside-down and sideways text, photographs, cartoons, drawings, news print that a generation of stoners would treasure.
- A major influence on McLuhan’s was Teihard de Chardin, a French philosopher and priest who, besides also having a significant impact on my adolescence, still resonates well today.
- Wired magazine annointed McLuhan its “Patron Saint” in its masthead for the first ten years of publication. Wired’s first executive editor, Kevin Kelly, continues McLuhan’s exploration of the role of technology and culture in his blog The Technium.
Happy Birthday, Marshall. Thank for letting me know I wasn’t so crazy. I certainly never would have guessed that massage would have become my medium.