Msnowe's Blog


Posted in Emily Dickinson, Hinges, NYC, Unhinged by m.snowe on July 26, 2008

The Missing All — prevented Me
From missing minor Things.
If nothing larger than a World’s
Departure from a Hinge
Or Sun’s extinction, be observed —
‘Twas not so large that I
Could lift my Forehead from my work
For Curiosity.

-E. Dickinson

“First you need a good job. You need to be ambitious. You need to find a good apartment. You need to look good. Then you need to find someone, and they must also have all these things. Then, you need to get a raise, so that you can save enough for ….” –Random street talk.

Overhearing random conversations, it has become apparent that these aspects of life in the city seem to be paramount, and one hinges upon the next like cardboard paper dolls attached at the hand. Then, M.Snowe started thinking about hinges.

Hinges, by definition, are not autonomous–they can exist by themselves, but for them to perform their function, fulfill their humble nature–they rely upon other completely different, yet intertwined parts. Hinges are vital for opening and closing doors. They often are multiple–at least two or three to an object, used in tandem. They have fixed axises, and connect two solid objects together in order for the whole contraption to operate smoothly.

That’s the literal hinge at least. Figuratively, to have something “hinged” by something else denotes that for one thing to occur, something else must also happen in order for a desired result (Hence, the connection of two objects). Hinging can occur with solid objects of the human form as well. For someone to “hinge” their emotions or actions on some event or person is a dangerous, but ultimately unavoidable and frequent practice. Usually, hinging you life or even just aspects of your life on or around something or someone else is an unwise and fitful pursuit. The universally given advice is thus: “don’t hinge your happiness upon some thing/person.”

Making sure that you don’t hinge your livelihood on someone/something else is compelling advice, to be sure. Unfortunately, like so many pieces of advice, the message provided is multitudes easier to convey than to actually put into practice. But how is it that the opposite of figurative hinging is also a negative? To be “unhinged” is perhaps even worse than to hinge–in that it implies you’ve lost touch, lost your sense of reality. Perhaps the truth is that when we hinge, we actually become unhinged.

How? Because, similar to door hinges, if someone/something does not perform the way we desire it to, (and we’ve hinged upon it), then we are stuck–stuck feeling low, stuck feeling unaccomplished, stuck feeling incomplete. Incompletion is perhaps the best description out of that bunch. There is a disturbance, and we can’t go forward. For a world so obsessed with the Cult of the Individual, attached to ipods and blackberries and distracting devices that place us all inside digital bubbles–suddenly–we are only half of ourselves…and we’re not sure how to cope. And so we get desperate. We try to patch things up.

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind —
As if my Brain had split —
I tried to match it — Seam by Seam —
But could not make it fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before —
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
Like Balls — upon a Floor.

New York is full of hinges–the literal, and the figurative. Every door squeaks with a grim finality of overused determination, and every choice made seems to have more, larger hinges on it than the all doors to St. Patrick’s cathedral combined–Some people are looking for money, others, success–and still others, a relationship or an apartment. And it seems that happiness and fulfillment hinge on an individually-defined amalgam of all these things. Our minds are cleaved in so many fractions of “needs,” hinged one upon one another, pellmell, with the hope of wholeness thrown in at some undetermined end, for good measure. As we hinge all the circumstances and conditional phrases together, we lose all sense of where to let the happiness reside in the partitioned, hinged mess of what we hope to be. It seems like Dickinson wasn’t writing poems for the pastoral peoples of Massachusetts, but for the harried harpies of New York City, circa 2008. Do we have too many balls in the air, and (to rather ungraciously mix some metaphors), are all those balls hinged together into a hodgepodge of unnecessary and unattainable goals?

To be fair, we have been trained to see things linearly–cause and effect, actions and karma, one year after the next–all in sequence. There is always a precluding factor, and no one can really be sure whether it was the chicken or the egg. Everything is one giant matrix of “if, then” statements. No wonder we adhere to hinges, which normally only swing in one direction, and restrict the ability to take an alternate path. You can go one way, or another, and each has a different set of consequences.

But it’s important to remember, as people with emotional and physical needs, some hinges are a good and necessary part of life–no one is asking you to disregard those who you love. In fact, it is the determination of which limited set of hinges you cannot live without that makes life worth living.

We met as Sparks — Diverging Flints
Sent various — scattered ways —
We parted as the Central Flint
Were cloven with an Adze
Subsisting on the Light We bore
Before We felt the Dark —
A Flint unto this Day — perhaps —
But for that single Spark.