The narration in the age of the etheric (re)production

The reflection on writing is inevitably part of a broader research that is confronting daily the meaning of one’s own activity that, in my case, is that of researcher, author and teacher.

An activity that, for me, is the attempt to give form to something that does not have a form, if not for some moments, through an intuition; I refer to that wavering flow that continually decomposes and recomposes what we try to feel, process, and create when one tries to produce and share experience, knowledge and art in an open, critical and ever-changing dimension.

The only dimension, in my opinion, still possible in the contemporary world.

In the title of this paper I have called our age that of (re) etheric production. Rather than a definition, I consider it a heuristic hypothesis, which is temporary by assumption, in line with what I have just said. It seems interesting to me, to try to use it to orient ourselves in the contemporary, because – etheric – it is a term full of ambiguity, like everything that surrounds us, but it comes from a great philosophical and physical tradition, as well as various esoteric drifts that have led it to assume rich meanings of openness and to be a bridge between Western and other cultures.

The suggestion comes from Marshall McLuhan – who will be our traveling companion in this exploration – and will help us to understand what is the environment we are in and how it is made of; a premise, in my opinion, fundamental to the meeting of today, since, on one hand, all this conditions writing; on the other hand this is what we have to go through, to map, to make living by writing, in order to give a sense of necessity to this practice.

Let’s start with the quoting of a quotation:

“Arnold Toynbee made one approach to the transforming power of media in his concept of “etherialization,” which he holds to be the principle of progressive simplification and efficiency in any organization or technology. (…) For the man in a literate and homogenized society ceases to be sensitive to the diverse and discontinuous life of forms. He acquires the illusion of the third dimension and the “private point of view” as part of his Narcissus fixation, and is quite shut off from Blake’s awareness or that of the Psalmist, that we become what we behold”.

It is a passage taken from Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, which I quote deliberately with the original title, given that the Italian one The tools of communication, is obviously misleading for anyone who has read that seminal book.