THE MAN WHO SAW TOMORROW
It would not stretch things too much to say that the great thinker Marshall McLuhan saw things at least fifty years ahead of anyone else. I never read McLuhan very much. He is required reading for all communications majors which doesn’t include me, but I’ve been around a lot who were. McLuhan added catch-phrases like “global village” and “the medium is the message” to the language. He was a thinker, and like the Red Queen, a word meant exactly what he wanted it to mean – to him. Nevertheless, I do know that he saw far beyond the rest of us.
Global Village indeed. Can anyone doubt that that term is descriptive of where this world is headed? McLuhan coined it in 1961. We can never know exactly what McLuhan saw, whether it was crisp and clear or more nebulous, but he was definitely a seer. Even I can see a day will come when every shepherd and prospector will be able to communicate with anyone else on the planet. We are almost there now. We can only begin to imagine what kind of world lies ahead.
I had a chance to have dinner with Marshall McLuhan at his home in Toronto once and blew it by missing the airplane, the only plane I ever missed. It’s one of the regrets of my life which I have countered by thinking about the inadequacy I would have felt at the same table with him stuttering and sputtering and nodding, trying to fake that I knew what he was talking about.
His daughter, Teri, assured me there was nothing to worry about and that he was a man of simplicity and uncluttered innocence and that we would find each other refreshing. While I find that hard to believe, I regret I’ll never know. He died on New Year’s Eve a few years later.
Teri is a different matter. I met her as a consequence of a book I was given in 1972 entitled Touch the Earth. It may be my favorite book. In May of 1973, I was sitting across the desk of a TV station executive who was rambling on about this marvelous young woman who was making a film and would CPB be able to help fund her efforts? I spied Touch the Earth among other books on his desk and commented about it. He said if I had been paying attention, I would have realized that the author, T.C. McLuhan, was who he had been talking about. That’s the first time I knew T.C. McLuhan was female. With that, his phone rang. He answered and said, “Hold on, Teri, I have your biggest fan right in front of me.” He handed me the phone, and we fell in like in that moment. I was completely captivated by this talented and beautiful young woman with a beautiful heart.
I was able to get a little money for Teri to cap off her film project, a beautiful film she was making to run on PBS about the work of photographer, Edward S. Curtis, entitled Shadow Catcher recreating Curtis’s epic journey and masterful photography of Native Americans. Teri and I were fond friends for a while. We had her home to dinner and Hannah and I were invited to her film party when in July of 1975 Shadow Catcher ran on PBS.
I had so many life-changing events after that, and Teri and I drifted incommunicado for a long, long time, perhaps thirty years. She is a superb writer and has written a number of books, all of which can be found on Amazon.
Her filmmaking has taken her to a part of the world that many eschew as too dangerous. Her film was twenty-one years in the making, is entitled THE FRONTIER GANDHI: BADSHAH KHAN, A TORCH FOR PEACE (a feature length documentary – 92 minutes) launches into orbit the epic story of a remarkable Muslim peacemaker born into Pashtun warrior society of the strategic North-West Frontier Province of the Indian subcontinent — now Pakistan’s frontier region Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Pronounced “a miracle” by Mahatma Gandhi, Badshah Khan (1890-1988) raised a 100,000 strong nonviolent army of men, women, and young people — the Khudai Khidmatgars, or servants of God — drawn from the multi-ethnic traditions of Afghanistan and India. Muslims, as well as Hindus, Christians, Parsees, Sikhs, and Buddhists came together in the cause of peace, social justice, religious tolerance, and human dignity for all.
Through the miracle of email, I found Teri, and we have reconnected. A wonderful old friendship has been rediscovered and reborn with a freshness as if all the intervening years had disappeared. Her father saw it coming half a century ago.