A push pin, or thumbtack

Image via Wikipedia

The thumbtack serves as an anchor, an anchor holding information in sequence, an incomplete task within the realm of accomplishment or a memory suspended in a false sense of the present. It wields absolute power for without it we are left with either piles of unorganized and partial ideas or worse, non-displayed works of 2nd grade artwork, forced family photos, and employee of the month certificate that still hangs prominently in the office 5 years after its merit has all but depreciated to nothing. It requires neither the use of superfluous language nor lofty descriptions to underscore the timeless importance of the Thumbtack.

Of course my introduction, albeit laced with sarcasm, is not far from the absolute truth. Wikipedia documents the use of push-pins, thumbtacks, or brass tacks as they are sometimes called, back to Napoleonic times; however, it seems plausible that similar instruments must have been utilized in devising warfare strategy for centuries predating the French military and political leader.

No larger than an inch in length and weighing less than an ounce, the importance this device certainly outclasses its physical characteristics. Prior to the fabrication of low-tack, reusable adhesives by Spencer Silver and 3M’s development of the Post-It note in the 1970’s, 10,000 years of human history had passed without a single sticky note posted anywhere, thus the abundant need and importance of the Thumbtack. Of course, I only speculate, but without the Thumbtack, much of human history might be different.

Imagine if a misplaced thumbtack in a tactical map caused the calvary forces commanded by Lord Cardigan to attack the Russians at a more fortified port than Sevastopol. Lord Cardigan’s forces are destroyed; The Charge of the Light Brigade never occurs, and Cardigan is never heralded as a military hero thus never giving birth to the Cardigan sweater forcing many retailers and fashionistas to reconsider their fall collections.

Without a thumbtack to hold his storyboard in place, Shakespeare mistakenly has Hamlet postulate, “The question is to be or not to be,” which sends the entire play spiraling into mediocrity effectively ruining his career much to the quiet applause of literature students for centuries to come.

Lastly, without the concept of the pushpin as an influence, one can deduce that the Lite Brite, one of the first educational toys, would have not come into existence, a tragic setback to toys as a means for educational development forcing Generation X’s and Generation Y’s parents to actually take part in the raising and educating of their children. Should this scenario of played out, crime would be lower, the standard of living would be higher, and Jersey Shore would have never made it past its pilot episode.

So, what does this all mean? It means despite the physical/outward appearance of someone or something, he/she/it can still have a marked and profound influence for generations to come. Although I joke about the significance of the Thumbtack, I cannot iterate loudly enough (LOOK I”M WRITING IN ALL CAPS SO I MUST BE SHOUTING) that even moments of miniscule importance to us can play carry tremendous consequences in the lives of others. So, as you go forth today, try to smile at a passer-by, lend a helping hand, or just take the time to say hello to an old friend, relative or simply a stranger. Take pride in not just the flashy moments but in the minutia. Do all things right, even the small things, because like the Thumbtack, the small things sometimes can and will have the largest ripple effect.

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  • http://www.kitchenandresidentialdesign.com Paul Anater

    It’s good to have you back!

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Thanks Paul. I had forgotten the joy of participating in these posts. It’s great to see everyone’s different take on the topic. Hope you’re doing well down in SOFL.

      • Paul Anater

        Thank you for participating again, it was great to count your voice among the people who joined in this week. Life in FL is going well although I seem to be gone more than I’m here this year. I hope you made it through Irene unscathed.

        • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

          Aside from the ominous skies and angry surf, Charleston weathered Irene well. Certainly was a new experience for a boy from Atlanta though. Can’t wait for the next letsblogoff post.

  • http://twitter.com/lifeforinstance Life, for instance

    I’ll repeat it Jamey, “even moments of miniscule importance to us can play carry tremendous consequences in the lives of others” just cause I like it! :-)
    I’ll never look at a thumbtack in the same way again! 

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II


      I’m glad that my words were able to revolutionize your view of the push-pin/thumbtack. I had a great time writing it — was nice to stray from my normal subject matter. 

      All the best,


  • http://www.thoughtfulcontent.org Denese Bottrell

    Lite Brite! My favorite toy of all time. Except for possibly, Battleship…. which, come to think of it, has some resemblance to thumbtacks too. Who knew? And, thanks for the reminder to appreciate all of life’s little moments. Great post! Wonder what #LetsBlogOff headquarters has in store for us next…

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Thanks Denese. I think I would venture to say Candy Land may oust Lite Brite and Battleship in top ranking toys/games of my childhood, but those two are certainly high on the list. 

      Thanks again!!

  • http://twitter.com/modicana Pat Eggleton

    I like the idea of them as “anchors” and I love your idea of imagining how they might have changed history.

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Thanks for stopping by, Pat. This topic made me really consider how little things, such as the thumbtack, really can be the anchor that steadies our ships (read: lives) in times of turbulence. What are your anchors? Perhaps family, friends, a quiet place to read, or a hobby like cooking, perhaps?

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