9/1/11

Marshall McLuhan Amateur


amateur

Sneed Martin, Larson E. Whipsnade, Chester
Snavely, A. Pismo Clam, J. P. Pinkerton Snoop-
ington, Mahatma Kane Jeeves-he was always the
man on the flying trapeze. On the stage, on the
silver screen, all through his life, he swung between
the ridiculous and the sublime, using humor as
a probe.

Humor as a system of communications and as a
probe of our environment—of what's really going
on—affords us our most appealing anti-environ-
mental tool. It does not deal in theory, but in imme-
diate experience, and is often the best guide to
changing perceptions. Older societies thrived on
purely literary plots. They demanded story lines.
Today's humor, on the contrary, has no story line-
no sequence. It is usually a compressed overlay
of stories.

amateur

"My education was of the most ordinary descrip-
tion, consisting of little more than the rudiments
of reading, writing, and arithmetic at a common day
school. My hours out of school were passed at
home and in the streets." Michael Faraday, who
had little mathematics and no formal schooling
beyond the primary grades, is celebrated as an
experimenter who discovered the induction of
electricity. He was one of the great founders of
modern physics. It is generally acknowledged that

Faraday's ignorance of mathematics contributed
to his inspiration, that it compelled him to develop
a simple, nonmathematical concept when he looked
for an explanation of his electrical and magnetic
phenomena. Faraday had two qualities that more
than made up for his lack of education: fantastic
intuition and independence and originality of mind.

Professionalism is environmental. Amateurism is
anti-environmental. Professionalism merges the
individual into patterns of total environment.
Amateurism seeks the development of the total
awareness of the individual and the critical aware-
ness of the groundrules of society. The amateur
can afford to lose. The professional tends to
classify and to specialize, to accept uncritically the
groundrules of the environment. The groundrules
provided by the mass response of his colleagues
serve as a pervasive environment of which he is
contentedly and unaware. The "expert" is the man
who stays put.

"There are children playing in the street who could
solve some of my top problems in physics, because
they have modes of sensory perception that I lost
long ago."

—J. Robert Oppenheimer

amateur