No, it’s not some technology acronym, like ISMS. I’m talking about when things become ‘isms, transcending their original intent and turning into quasi religious cults of dogma, passion, gurus and followers.

Anything can become an ‘ism. We currently live in the age of Scientism, where Science has acquired a cult-like religious air, smugly challenging every other notion of epistemology (how we come to understand “truth”). In Scientism, nothing exists unless it can be externally observed and measured. Subjective experience may be acknowledged as the legitimate purview of the individual, but it has no reality unless it can be deconstructed, observed, measured, and repeated by others.

‘Isms are pervasive. While a guru or teacher is a valuable adjunct to any new activity, “guru-ism” often develops as the Ego co-opts the teaching and turns it into a form of individual-worship.

Diets and exercise regimes often turn into ‘isms. It’s painful to read the research on obesity and realize that the failure rate is around 98% (98% of people who lose weight regain it and more, within 18 months). It turns out that the 2% who succeed are those who turn dieting and fitness into ‘isms, often to the exclusion of almost all other activities. They become obsessed with their bodies, counting every calorie and gram of fat or carbohydrate, spend hours at the gym, and eventually only associate with others within their “cult” of body worship.

An extension of Scientism is “measurement-ism”, where it is no longer enough to experience something viscerally and intuitively, it must be measured, tracked, and exceeded from one session to another in order to be valid and satisfying. This goes hand-in-hand with “Technolog-ism”, where virtual reality replaces personal experience. We email rather than speak to each other, watch other people shtupping on TV rather than having sex with our partners, and buy tasteless foods pre-cooked, processed, and nearly pre-digested in order to save time SO WE CAN SPEND IT DOING OTHER STUFF IN VIRTUAL REALITY!

I think many of us are hard-wired to try to turn things into ‘isms. Like the scripturally religious, many people have a burning need for certainty and a terrible discomfort with ambiguity. “Religions” of all kinds provide those of us so inclined with the comfort of the delusion of certainty, whether from Catholicism, Mormonism, Scientism, or Dietism.