Friday, March 21, 2014

Things Aren't What They Used to Be

Most things are inanimate, tossed about as generalities, lacking in sufficient qualities or dimensions to merit specific names of their own.  A thing is a noun by default, as though no other part of speech, would wish any part of it.  Nouns include persons and places, why not lump things in with them?  

Things, by the ambiguity of their nature, are hard to pin down, difficult to form any in-depth opinion about.  Things hamper attempts at communication, which is already in trouble because of the ease with which individuals and groups of individuals may come to some serious misunderstanding, all the while believing they are striving for accord.

On occasion, you'll hear one person ask another how things are, perhaps even a more emphatic, How are things going?  These types of things are events.  How are the events in your life?  Are they to your satisfaction?  Do they bring you any pleasure?  

In some cases, where two or more individuals who are acquainted gather, and their conversation turns to things, you know, undifferentiated things, an observer can begin to see the specter of irony in budding formation.  

A thing that does not return some dividend of interest, pleasure, or intrigue becomes, by default, a thing with negative attribution, a bad thing, a boring thing, a disaster.  Who ever heard of an undifferentiated thing being interesting, much less intriguing?  

This suggests a notion of a similarity between Capitalism, with its focus on return on investment and an aspect of the human psyche that could well be called Emotional Capitalism.  How easy it is to have dividends of interest and pleasure from the things we encounter rather than the sudden, uncomfortable awareness that our desks, shelves, and closets are filled with things for which we have no affection or, in many cases, use.

Even when things are looking up, when individuals are regarding the bright side of things, such matters emerge as mere make-do conversation, devoid of most attribution except for a tinge of positivism and a departure from the negative.

Things go better with adjectives, which are, in a dramatic sense, the characteristics of things, the defining qualities.  In your opinion, most persons approach mere things with such attitudes as suspicion, wariness, and an apprehension of forthcoming boredom.  Readers want specifics.  

If a reader were to come upon a sentence where, for instance, "She began to throw things at him," the reader would be well advised to skip ahead in hopes of greater specificity.  Did she, for instance, throw a steam iron or a cocktail shaker, or perhaps even a French press at him?  For that matter, who is he that she would throw such things, thus even the attribution of "such" refers back to a list of specifics that you tried, through their variety, to make as intriguing as possible.

You're happy at the thought that there are not many persons in your acquaintance who would dwell too long on mere things in their conversation.  For that matter, the presence of unattributed things in conversations tend to limit their range and potential.

For a certainty, things, unattributed things, should go on the list of words to be regarded with a focused suspicion, ranked along with such empty-emotional-calorie words as almost, very, somewhat, perhaps, and suddenly.

Among the many phrases in law that have Latin origins, one of relevance here is Res ipso loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.  Even this thing requires a significant attribution so that the reader understands what thing it is that does define itself.  You have no problem with such things as these; they should either speak for themselves or hire an adjective or two to inform the reader or listener what they are all about.

The things you care most about, to the point of regarding them as treasures and souvenirs, are well-articulated things, notes written in a handwriting you recognize as originating with a special person; a souvenir from a specific event or series of events; a gift; a picture, a story, a book, a box of strawberries; a memory.

All of which leads you to venture this:  The things you most value are those most agreeable in their task of articulating those two other qualities of the noun.  Things are your investment in persons, places, ideas, and events.

Things are the parts of you, assigned to items you care about, memories and objects transformed from the ambiguous and inconclusive to tangible presences. 

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