Like the hinge, the body speaks when it is out of whack. The word, spoken and written, as well as the subtler words ‘spoken’ by the body, are figurative hinges. These expressions are often historical narratives of a kind. These hinges (are) present (on) a threshold, inviting, and wait for us to cross.
I’ve had, over recent years, as ageing bodies do, opportunities to reflect on what my body is expressing. How am I to honour and restore, revivify and welcome new life into this evolving temple?* I imagine the intention in terms of a conversation, an exchange that is occuring perpetually within myself and with my environment: natural, cultural and institutional. Where am I investing energy and how am I, and those around me, benefitting (or not) from this expenditure? What are the shifts and adjustments necessary in my ‘energetic portfolio’ that will allow for me to be a happy, healthy medium?
The body is, we’re told, a temple, and I’ve meandered over to the idea that whereas the flesh is the relational, or connecting, aspect of the animate being, one way to think of the body is as that which contains. The temple, like the flesh/body, ideally, has the capacity for both connecting and containing. This facility may remind us that we are, to use a term from Buddhism, co-arising, inter-being. We contain and are contained by a multitude (of bodies).
Hinges are surprising elements in quite a few Byzantine icons depicting the anastasis (resurrection). I’ve been looking at these pictures since Easter, rather astonished. The doors of death have been smashed to smithereens! The glorifed figure, whose human boundedness has been exploded (become unhinged?), stands afloat on the broken doors, a liberated wholeness that shows the way to unitive consciousness [Gal.3:23-9]. We see hinges, keys, nails, bolts, locks and other tiny bits from the locks that sealed shut the gates of hell in the abysmal dark below. Has this litter of hinges and other gatekeeping paraphernalia been prefigured in an earlier story, I wonder, that of Jacob wrestling with the angel? In that story [Gen. 32: 24-26] the angel got through to Jacob finally by dislocating his hip. The Divine works with/in hinges. (Limping gods I find strangely consoling. Jean Vanier is a teacher par excellence here.)
The icons show the glorified figure in a few different postures. Of course, Jesus is always standing at the centre. I am particularly fond of the representation of him leaning over, hinge-like, to collect Adam. But in the figures in which the Christ is seen to be standing more upright, as in the St. Mark’s fresco, he appears as the central spindle, the pivot of the hinge, (centre of what becomes a revolution!) while reaching out in both directions to gather his friends. Here is the Word, made Flesh, the Hinge of Salvation.
Fresco, St. Mark’s Venice
Writing in the aftermath of World War I, the mystic and poet, W.B Yeats anticipated the hinge-busting possibilities of resurrection, of life radically renewed. He wrote in his poem The Second Coming ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold . . . ‘. This well-known line, has profound resonance in our time, and yet the world keeps turning (and, indeed, things keep falling apart!).
I am thinking, with the icons in mind, about where we identify the centre? Modern cosmology teaches that the centre is everywhere: the central spindle is nowhere else but now & here. You are it. The centre. Your hinges delight in moving, in reaching out. These are necessary experiments for us as limited and hinged beings in order that we move our awareness closer to the very old intuition that has ‘God as an infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’.
Yes, yes: there are no hinges in a sphere. That’s the point. The hinge has been finally overwhelmed. There comes a moment when there is no need for more crossings. Then, we will have arrived.
Still, for the time being hinges, I believe, are portals for Divine action. Keep yours at just the right tension where you can, neither too loose nor too tight that your connecting and containing, keeps you in good health.
* A serendipitous footnote in Maggie Ross’ book Silence: A User’s Guide led me to Margaret Barker’s Temple Theology, an intriguing, if off-the-beaten-track exploration of the historical temple. A quick google will take you to the many available resources.