The Man Who Gave Away His House (apologies to Marshall McLuhan )

The other day I learned that blind fish who live in total darkness and have little food available can thrive in their surroundings. The fish, known as Mexican blind cavefish found their voice through Dr. Joshua Gross and I learned of his fascinating research on a CBC Radio interview.

I was interested in this phenomenon because I have this pet theory of existence which goes something like this: human beings are born with a profound intelligence that contains everything necessary to keep themselves living sound and strong. But along the journey of life there are forces which erode this built in survival mechanism. That something has to do with the medium of their existence.


Understanding this idea is the epiphany I stumbled across in my life journey in the past two months and I just have this unbridled passion to share it with you.


It started a month before my life became a viral affair, before I began my memoires titled, ”The Man Who Gave Away His House.” I was tossing ideas around, events in my life, and I remembered a friend of sorts, in particular, the late Dr. Marshall McLuhan. I used to audit his unusual class at the University of Toronto. McLuhan is the godfather of the exploration of modern media technology and coined world wide accepted aphorisms such as “The Medium Is The Message” and “The Global Village.”


I remembered walking into his cozy Coach House classroom one day to find him very focused on discussing the joy of using a simple HB pencil and textured paper to record his ideas. As I remembered, he was having a most fascinating and engaging heavy discourse on this seemingly simple topic for some unknown reason with some musician I had never heard of. But who?


Although my existence before my life went viral could best be described as a relic and not “with it” in terms of conventional media technology (I had no smart phone or simple computer, but did have a fountain pen), I turned to that rather new thing (for me), the internet, and typed in a Google search on my computer for Marshall McLuhan who had long ago since passed on. I stumbled upon his 75 year old son’s name, Eric, and after a follow up search engine request located Eric’s home page and sent him a simple email. We began a correspondence and he informed me that the musician I remembered was in fact a famous Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer.


This simple exchange of ideas would soon lead to my awareness of existence, to be “with it” and be part of the Global Village, because, as I would soon learn, the Medium IS in effect the Message.


If you are confused thus far read on because I have been in a state of confusion, some might even venture in a coma,  for the last 62 years until this point in my life.


While at the University of Toronto I was, as many were, totally confused by the ideas of this genius Marshall McLuhan. I didn’t “get it” when he pontificated about the importance of the various media which shaped public opinion and in essence our perception of existence.


McLuhan, today, is now the world wide accepted guru of understanding the media. The origins of his thoughts evolved from his first teaching post in the 1930s. He was exploring the mechanics of PERCEPTION OF EXISTANCE among his younger students which varied greatly from his own. From this exploration of thought, those who followed his evolving theories soon learned of just how important it was to understand the media of technologies in understanding the origins of ideas. He delved into all sorts of technological media from a society of oral story tellers to the printed word, from the erosion of books to the rise of radio and television and movies, right through to the age of the internet which would eventually bring us to understand that the world is a small unified place of ideas, none of which promoted individualism but rather unified us into a singularly Global Village.


I started to unravel these ideas with a simple email, followed up with a simple phone call on the topic of a foolproof  trustworthy computer, a  basic HP pencil and the subject of  Eric’s father, taking notes with my trustworthy user friendly 1930s vintage fountain pen, and eventually with several personal visits at Eric’s rural home stead. I also ordered through snail mail  a 1968 edition of the famous photo journalism magazine, Life, to go back in time, to see in brilliant photographs the setting of Marshall’s and Eric’s middle class home which was the main focus of one issue of this magazine, to feel and sense the simplicity of their life style with their black and white television and simple furniture. I used these various media platforms to get a perception of reality of who it was I was talking with.


Why would I go on and on about this? Well, let me tell you this: I took out a simple ad on Kajiji on April 5 of this year offering the use of my farmstead without charging rent in exchange for looking after my pets.


The next thing I knew over twenty million eager people all over the world, from Russia to Europe to the United States were following me.


I had become connected with the Global Village through the medium of the internet.


I have struggled intellectually very hard these last few months to come to terms with how this happened, and why and my thoughts come the closest to explaining this phenomena, which is why I started by saying I had experienced an epiphany.


Today, as I strolled past the lilac bushes growing on my property and took my customary dog walk toward the locks of the Rideau Canal, I could see the tiny white crested Cliff Swallows normally found borrowed in the sand quarries but now flying into my farmer neighbour’s 16 custom built miniature  bird houses, something I had not paid attention to months earlier. I was then, unaware of the nature of various existences. Not with it. But today, I could understand what was happening in front of me with respect to those wonderful bird houses. I was also  acutely aware when this hobby farmer was ploughing this unusual “chain harrow” and why he stopped his tractor rather suddenly. He could see this rather small bird, a Killdeer, feigning  injury as it flew over his left shoulder. The bird was trying to distract the farmer because the Killdeer’s mate had built a bird’s nest to the immediate right side of the tractor, only feet away from where the plough was. The farmer stopped and rode towards a new path and would return, likely in a few weeks time,  once the birds had hatched her four eggs and left their nest. That specific plough he was using would tear up the surface grass and leave small mounds which would eventually dry up. The plough was also parching the ground, allowing air into it which would allow for the dampness of yesterday’s rain to evaporate sooner. This way, the farmer would not get his next, larger tractor with a different heavier plough stuck in the wet soil when he was furthering preparing the land to seed.


I am spellbound by how little I knew about rural life before I relocated to the pre settlement tundra of Eastern Canada and just how much innate knowledge locals were bringing to the table as it were.


I once asked this seventy something farmer why he chose to till the land when there would be little monetary profit. His reply, which influenced my decision on my concept of a free farm was this: “Why wouldn’t I? Should I retire from physical work and just drop dead like friends of mine had? No sir. I farm because I am.”


Before my awareness of the media, the internet age, I was unaware in some respects that I even existed on this planet. But now, when I Google my name, I have come to the conclusion, with over 100,000 listings, that I do in fact exist. I am.  I belong. We all belong to this Global Village.


Enough about this sideline rant of mine, eh? How about who will be chosen? Who will run Free Farm Animal Home?


Be patient, this will be announced on July 1.