When we communicate what are we really communicating about? What is the content of communication? Because you see, McLuhan’s come up with a very strange idea, that the medium itself is the message or putting it in a punny way to make it clearer, the medium is the massage. Not so much therefore finally, the content of what is being said is the thing you’re getting over, but what you’re getting over is the way of saying it.
So we have to go into what it is finally that we are communicating about when we communicate? What do we want to tell our friends? Our other people, our other selves. And I had a great deal of trouble. Really sympathizing with McLuhan’s point of view especially in what he has to say about television. Where he feels that the medium of television is highly participated and that the Mosaic technique of bringing that image across on the television screen is something entirely different say from a film, or from a painting. He expresses the notion that television is more tactile than visual, and therefore it involves you as the sense of touch involved to see because touch is the fundamental sense all the five senses are specializations of the sense of touch. So when you see, you’re touching light. When you hear you’re touching air. And when you taste and smell specially and smell you’re touching gas. The quality of gas. And finally, with your fingers, you have a way the most primitive sounds the sense that is least acute in its differentiations. But nevertheless, you see, all of them are forms of touch. And so you could say as the Buddhists say there, is one sense behind all our senses they have a sixth sense for example they say use the word vinyana, which means consciousness and they have knows consciousness, eye, consciousness here consciousness touch consciousness taste consciousness. Five.
But behind that they have maravinyana which means mind consciousness that is to say the unifying. Of the senses so that you will put together the sight of fish and the smell of fish and be able to integrate them and say well this is a single experience the fish look so and smell so touch is so. And so by the integration of the senses all being forms of touch Kind of course eventually come to a state of consciousness where you can hear colors. And see sounds. If you are very very sensitive indeed.
So, you might say now then, that all communication is information. But I want to show you that straight information is not the final thing we’re trying to communicate. You see, we live now in a culture where there is great disagreement about the values of life, what do we live for? There is no consensus. Because all the religions which you know where the philosophy is which gave us. What life is supposed to be all about they’re all fragmented. And so there is, being no common religion, there is no common view as to what life is about. In default of that common view. There is, especially in the academic world where people think out, ethical and political problems at tacit agreement that the the highest value we have that we can all agree upon is survival value. And therefore naturally when we communicate messages which have to do with survival. Where to find the food. Where to avoid the enemy. Then one says we are communicating about essentials. During the war, World War two, [a] friend of mine was in the office of the president of Northwestern University. And he had a number of watercolors around his office. And he said to this friend of mine, our war waving his hand paintings all this the development. We come down to essentials. Is this trip really necessary? Because this trip really necessary.
In other words what do you mean when you say is this trip really necessary when you say essential priority is given to essential industries and law. They are the industries of survival. Because we got it into our common sense even though we may not have intended to do this but it is fundamentally established in our common sense that survival is the thing that is good while there is life there is hope. And this of course is a really asinine point of view. Because it is not. A survival just going on. That we want. Yes we want survival. But survival in a certain way that is to say, in a certain style. And you will therefore see that in the end that book while there is always a survival content in communication, so far as that communication is information, what is finally more valued about communication than this survival value information is the style in which it’s given. It’s just in the same way as love-making. Finally, when it comes down to it, what do you want to say to the person. I love you. What are you going to communicate? An engineer would say when you say I love you with means that we’re going to do reproduction and therefore continue the race. But that’s not the point at all, it’s obvious that is not what is a what are children for. Just to continue you know there to be not and how do you love things you strove to give them a massage if it moves fondle it.
And so, it is finally what you’re communicating to someone you love is the rhythm. Whether it’s the rhythm of sexual intercourse or whether it’s the rhythm of dancing or whether it’s the rhythm of verbal play as in telling a story or in singing a song what you’re communicating there is a sort of caressing rhythm which says to you I’m so glad you’re here and that you. And receive my communication which is about nothing only to say in this way of a dancing with you I love you and that’s not really what it’s all about.
So then, you see the Buddhists call that factor of communication ‘suchness.’ For example, when we talk, you understand my words because each word that I use has a meaning. And so the words that I use refer to something other than themselves. So I use these symbols and you get what I’m talking about. Now listen carefully. What does that mean? That I communicate meaning to you by words, there’s a situation, now what’s the meaning of that situation? When you meditate a little bit on and you discover that it has no meaning at all. A cloud has no meaning, because it isn’t a symbol it’s what we call the thing. We were, the word cloud the sound ‘Cloud’ means that. But what does that mean you say it’s not a word. So it doesn’t mean anything. A cloud is jazz it’s the, it’s the part of the Dance of the universe. And so, likewise when I make sense to you and you say it makes sense to me we have a kind of interlocking that would correspond perhaps to a spider’s web. Where various rings of thread are joined to rings of thread inside rings of thread is joined together, so we join together by talking, see we play together by talking but what that more means some kind of jazz. And that suchness. In the practice of meditation, the most important thing is to get down to suchness. In everything that goes on a great Japanese Zen master when he was about to die wrote a poem which said. ‘From the bathtub to the bottom I have uttered stuff and nonsense.’ In other words above carbon which the baby is washing in the bathtub in which the corpses washed before burial. Alpha to Omega. Maternity ward to crematorium, or in all this time, said I’ve talked on and on.
And this is part of the whole thing of Zen to be able to hear all voices all communications all gestures all shapes all sensations whatsoever. In their fundamental form as lowing. When the baby starts to talk in the beginning, it’s speaks what Jacob Bergman called the natural language. And he says that man it is fall. Talking about the fall of Adam lost the natural language. And the natural language is understood by birds and beasts, because they speak it. Because a lot of what birds say is not communicative in our ordinary sense of delivering information, some of it delivers information. But a great deal of what they say doesn’t deliver any communication, it is just playing with sound.
And a great deal of what we do is playing with sound. I’m not particularly aware of this as a philosopher because a lot of people will be very critical of what I say and say you don’t really make any sense at all you sound as if you do you but. I’ll put it when the public into thinking that you haven’t got something important to say and all you’re doing is making noises and I say Granted that’s absolutely true but if I make interesting noises and manage to make a play of ideas that is in some way musical So the fascinating people say well. It’s the same sort of thing that we enjoy out of looking at a mountain or watching waves or the flight of birds. Because it is this dance.