“The medium is the message,” or so wrote Marshall McLuhan when he coined the expression in the first chapter in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. The statement summarized his view of “the potent influence of television, computers and other electronic disseminators of information in shaping styles of thinking” that were about to influence our world in ways few individuals imagined in the 1960s.
Back then this PN publisher had begun a college education concentrating on the study of communications, a local focus that had begun during childhood when publishing the “The Rolling Oaks News” via carbon copies on onion skin, produced on the typewriter in my dad’s office in Muncie, Indiana.
Way before digital cameras or social media, written words in “The Rolling Oaks News” showcased good times and lessons learned with kids in our neighborhood. Chronicling young neighbors who played hard with printed words, the medium was the message.
All these many years later, I’m grateful that a friend who works with teenagers suggested this poem by an unknown author. He recalled, he thought, hearing Paul Harvey read “The Paradox of Our Time” on a radio broadcast back in the late 1990s.
The Paradox of Our Time
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve done larger things, but not better things.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less; we plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait; we have higher incomes, but lower morals; we have more food, but less appeasement; we build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.
These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet to kill.
It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology has brought this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to make a difference, or to just hit delete…
Upon further investigation, the paradox of our time seems steadfast as this print medium is the message.
“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me,” words written by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller in 1955, also seem particularly fitting for this Thanksgiving message in 2023.
Be kind. Be faithful. Be grateful.
– Stephanie Penick