Current political discourse includes frequent references to “unhinged,” describing a wild, uncontrolled state of mind—sometimes accompanied by ranting, disconnection from reality or paranoid delusions. The term has evolved beyond its original definition—“lacking a hinge mechanism.” As is sometimes true, the meanings can get interesting when —see 1privilege— literal descriptions turn metaphorical.
Hinges are tributes to 2ancient human ingenuity. For eons, they’ve enabled entry and egress through doors, windows, fences or hatches. Along with doors and latches, hinges were so important to Roman society that the goddess 3Cardea was named as the deity watching over them. The Romans knew that without hinges, entrances and exits could not exist.
One small detail, though: If someone’s doors, gates or windows can’t be secured, they’re useless, flopping around in response to the wind’s direction or moving to the slightest touch. (Perhaps ironically, the hinges might allow or encourage that unfastened movement!)
This wordplay got me to wondering: Could we also think of unhinged individuals as unlatched? These might be people whose secure connections to their emotional or rational moorings have disappeared or diminished. Could the lack of moral, cognitive or relational anchors render the unlatched/unhinged individual dangerous to others? Amoral might come to mind as a related concept, as well as psychopathic, self-delusional, narcissistic or even evil.
Why bring this up? It seems to me that, in caring for perhaps-unhinged people, we might focus on repairing their social intelligence, or on refastening the unlatched person to ideals such as empathy, the greater good, civility, other-centeredness, humility or honesty. Spiritual characteristics, all of them.
Without the personal attributes of these metaphorical hinges/latches, any of us can become confounded, behaving as though we are minor gods come to Earth, responsible for nothing other than our own well-being.
A truly unhinged way to live….
1This descriptor of favorable treatment is derived from Latin roots (privilus + lex/legis meaning “laws applying to only one person.” Present-day usage may overlook the subtle implication that there are some folks who think that they deserve special treatment from the legal system. That they are above the law….
2For a fascinating read about the history of hinges and latches, see The History of Hinges and Their Uses – HingeOutlet; Hinge History – Traditional Building or Latch – Wikipedia .
3In Roman mythology, Cardea was favored by Janus (as in “January”) and tasked with thwarting demons from entering homes, protection especially important for sleeping children.
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