Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye
Met in symposium one day
With Bernard Lonergan, SJ
To consider a question he’d raised, and to try
To answer it once and for all here below.
“What do I do when I know?”
That is the question, and so –
“What are you doing, Marshall McLuhan,
When you know?” Bernard Lonergan asked,
“And what do I know when I do that?” said Marshall.
“And why is that knowing?” said Frye.
“By the way, I admire your Method, said Northrop,”
“And I love your Anatomy,” Bernard replied,
And, Marshall, your Classical Trivium’s a gem.”
McLuhan responded, but shyly, “Ahem.
Thank you. It’s not what creates all the fuss –
My fallacy does that – but let me suggest
That we stay with the question we’re here to discuss,
Or we’ll be here forever.” “Not I,” Frye confessed.
“Well,” Lonergan said, “I think that it’s best
To start with experience and try to attend
To that first conscious level. Then, in our quest
To know, we move up to the next, we transcend
The empirical level by asking, ‘What is it?’
‘What happened and why?’ Do you follow, my friends?”
“Yes, questions,” said Frye, “for intelligence –
To make sense, so to speak, of our common senses,
To move beyond experience,
Overcome our resistance and defences.
In my theory of myth I may have ignored
The myth that knowing is taking a look.”
“Let me repeat – I hope you’re not bored –
But in Insight I have demythologized
That old notion. It’s all there – just read the book.”
“We’ve read it,” they said, “and we’ve now recognized
That there’s more to knowing than one might suppose.”
“I feel a conversion coming on,”
Said Marshall, “an intellectual one.”
“Hold on to that – our work isn’t quite done.
There’s still a further question to pose:
‘Is it thus? Is it true? Can it really be so?’
Understanding may be incorrect, incomplete,
Or just probably true. We really don’t know
Until we have judged it.”
They responded, “Bravo!”
Transcendent the method, resplendent the day,
With Marshall and Northrop and Bernard agreeing
That truth’s in the judgment, and insight’s the way
To dispel the old myth about knowing and seeing.
Now Dylan can know what McLuhan is doing
When he knows what he knows, and why that is knowing,