Tuesday, February 7, 2023


An idea which has been taken form in my mind recently is the idea of thingism. Or perhaps Thing-ism.

Basically, thingism is a strong belief in anything that is a "thing".

Surely you have encountered an expression such as "it became a thing", or "it's a thing here", or "I didn't even know that was a thing."

There's an interesting discussion of this idiom here, under the amusing title, "When Did 'a Thing' Become a Thing?".

But I don't want to get waylaid into the fever-swamps of millennial language usage, not to mention fuddy-duddy harrumphing at millennial language usage. 

I mean "thing" in a more fundamental sense, one that predates this particular idiom.

In fact, it predates almost everything, both in the order of time and in the order of consciousness. I'm getting at something very fundamental here.

Whatever you are interested in at any given moment is a "thing". Whatever you are engaged in is a "thing". Whatever you get excited about (especially) is "a thing".

Obviously, however, something can be more "a thing" than something else.

For instance, Christmas is much more of "a thing" than April Fool's Day.

Wine is much more of "a thing" to a wine connoisseur than to someone who only ever drinks it when he's offered a glass.

A Tale of Two Cities is more of "a thing" than A Child's History of England, both by the same author.

Telling ghost stories around the campfire is more of "a thing" than telling a ghost story in a café in a busy street.

And so on.

What am I talking about here? Am I talking about excitement? Am I talking about "hype"? Am I talking about interest?

Yes, yes, and yes. But I think there's something in "a thing" beyond this cluster of adjectives. Something that's very difficult to put into words.

Something is "a thing" when it glows in consciousness. When it draws us. When we find it worth making a fuss over, approaching in a somewhat ceremonial manner, or celebrating.

Obviously, one can have more or fewer "Things" in this sense. Indeed, I have met people who have few if any "Things" in their lives-- or so it seemed to me. They never get excited about anything, never celebrate anything, and have disdain for any ceremony or "fuss" whatsoever.

I've had a lifelong dread of such people. When I was a teenager I called them "death worshippers", long before J.K. Rowling had brought her "Death Eaters" into existence.

Perhaps I'm unfair to such people. As someone once said in a different context, who am I to judge? Nevertheless, there it is.

The opposite camp are the people I like the most. The ones who make "a Thing" about almost everything.

(I've always loved the line in Citizen Kane: "You can't buy a bag of peanuts in this town without someone writing a song about you.")

Where Thing-ism is strong, songs are written, pranks are performed, anniversaries are celebrated, nicknames are given, subjects are debated, marches are held, treasures hunts are organized, souvenirs are kept, websites are made, clubs are formed, adjectives such as "Wordsworthian" or "Chestertonian" are formed, and so on.

Not that you have to do anything to make it "a Thing". It's an attitude, not an action.

Where Thing-ism is weak, people go to work, do shopping, do laundry, raise their families, watch television, live from holiday to holiday, and finally die with gratitude to have the whole tiresome business over with. "Life is just one damned thing after another" expresses their philosophy.

Yes, this is a caricature. But, like all caricatures, an exaggeration rather than a fabrication.

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