Plenty of people have watched The Shining (1980) to reach the end and find themselves thinking, “What exatly was the shine? Just what was that adorably insane little boy doing?”
The shine is important enough that it’s the film’s title, yet it’s possible to watch the entire movie and not understand exactly what it means. That’s partially attributable to the story’s mysterious nature, and partially to Stanley Kubrick’s skilled method of withholding details that would provide clearer meaning behind many of the film’s components.
Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) tells Danny (Danny Lloyd) that “shining” is, at its core, a fusion of telepathy and clairvoyance. Being able to shine means being able to communicate with others using the mind, and gives people the ability to see things that have happened in the past, or will happen in the future.
Danny’s powerful shining ability is what makes apparent all the ghosts and visions within the hotel. Danny visually manifests things that have happened in the past, and is able to communicate with Dick via the shine.