The Creativity of Repair

As homo reparans we always feel the need to fix things. Whether it is mending a strained relationship, patching up a pair of jeans, or trying to cure our sick pet, we are almost always trying to fix things. Spelman explains that humans exhibit at least three kinds of impulses: our need and ability to create, destroy, and to repair. Spelman contrasts the ways that repair and creation are different, but points out a thought provoking parallel between the two.

“So much perhaps seems clear- but only if we refuse to notice all the deep fissures in the walls alleged to separate creation from repair. For one thing, a lot of repair work requires a great deal of creativity if its to be successful.” – Repair (page 128)

It had not occurred to me prior to reading this how much creativity repairs and restorations actually take. To have a successful repair most times the solution must be innovative to congeal the situation. Although sometimes repairers are not necessarily creating a new thing, concept, or relationship, the repairer must use their creative abilities to keep the thing, concept, or relationship at hand from going out of existence, or ceasing to work adequately again. Spelman highlights this concept by bringing up Willie the auto repairman and how he may not always be able to refer back to a manual when trying to fix a car.

Spelman goes on to make another thought provoking point about how the need for repair is not as drastic in our society. American society is very much an economic based society which means that new goods are needed and wanted more then repaired goods.

“Repair is at odds with the imperatives of a capitalist consumer economy except where the repairer needs new supplies to do her work or where new products or new services such as magazines, Web sites, or referral agencies can piggyback on the work of repair.” – Repair (page 136)

Spelman then elaborates that “repair is not about the new- it is by definition about the survival of the old”. Repairs are not about creating new objects or making progress but sustaining something or delaying the decay of something and figuring out how to continue on in the aftermath of the damage. Repairs are like a bandaid, its purpose is a temporary fix that will help in the long run.


I feel as if as humans we fail to realize how important the day-to-day repairs we do. As Spelman states we are “creatures who are inherently limited by the resources at our disposal, who are subject to the ever present possibility of failure and decay” we have come a long way with the use of “repair” against the odds against the human race.


Apologies: Restoration to Relationships

An apology is a form of emotional restoration. Just like the care of ethics, apologies are necessary to sustain and build relationships.

“A genuine apology thus involves a rather raw exposure of the apologizer: Having done the deed, one now not only reiterates having done it, but strips away any suggestion that there are extenuating circumstances that could relieve one of blame; it must be clear that he regrets what he has done and feels sorrow over what he has wrought. He doesn’t just wish things were otherwise; he fully acknowledges his role in bringing them to this sorry state. Moreover, apology is inappropriate if what one has done does not really constitute damage. If what I have done to you is something to be apologized for, it must be something that harms you.” – Repair (Page 83)

Having to apologize to another person can at times be a difficult task. I found the passage above interesting because I personally understand how hard it can be to swallow your pride and take ownership of your wrongdoings. Learning how to apologize and repair broken bonds is a skill that I believe improves with age and more importantly maturity.

“The vulnerability of the apologizer, the rawly personal quality of the apology, strongly invites, even if it does not require, a personally revealing response from the one to whom it is offered. Since apologies cannot be forced from people- the very fact of their being forced undermines their claim to sincerity- and since they involve a form of self-incrimination, an apology is a kind of offering, a kind of gift.” – Repair (Page 85)

To be considered a sincere apology the apologizer must be willing to be completely vulnerable to the one they wronged. If an apology is done for the mere sake of apologizing, that apology means nothing. Spelman elaborates and explains that a “sincere apology requires and thus exposes certain emotions in the apologizer”. Often times, during an apology, the apologizer will reveal the underlying reason for why they may have wronged the person they hurt. Jealousy, rage, mistrust, and disloyalty are all qualities a person can take ownership of in attempt to repair the relationship they may have strained.

“Indeed, forgiveness might be seen as a willingness not just to acknowledge the invitation to dance but to accept it, give it a whirl, to engage with a partner, even if warily.” – Repair (Page 85)

Being able to accept that the person you are apologizing to may not necessarily accept your apology is a daunting task. Spelman explains this using the analogy of an invitation to dance. The apology must not just be considered or acknowledged, but accepted and the two parties must engage to further repair the broken bond. As an apologizer, there is no control over whether the person wronged will accept or decline the apology given, but the sincerity of the apology can heavily affect the outcome.

I chose to highlight this portion of Chapter 4 in Repair because learning to apologize has been something I personally have struggled with from a young age. With maturity apologizing has become a more meaningful task for me, and not something that I feel obligated to do regardless if I believe I was right or wrong.


Equally Important Repair

Hannah Mackler

When we think of the word “repair” the image that comes to mind often involves a physical object being fixed. We fail to realize as humans how much repair work is involved on a daily basis. In Spellman’s Repair, the concept of repair being more then an action for just tangible objects is presented in Chapter 3. Spellman presents the concept in a way that gives the reader concrete examples of another type of repair, the care of ethics.

“True, it is not unusual to find reference to the maintenance of relationships- for example, women are said to “undertake to resolve conflicts by maintaining or strengthening their connections with those with whom they are in conflict”; their moral thinking is said to involve “a responsiveness to others that dictates providing care, preventing harm, and maintaining relationships”; and a reference to repair is clear in the idea that the “emotional work” women are supposed to do in the household involves “soothing tempers, boosting confidence, fueling pride, preventing fictions, and mending ego wounds.” But in fact there appears to be a striking similarity between the kind of knowledge and skills involved in “care ethics” thinking and those involved in doing careful repair work.” – Page 46. Repair 

I found the passage above from Spellman’s book Repair intriguing because it highlighted the emotional forms of repairing that, typically, women are known to do. Chapter 3 discusses how women are often not included in the discussion of “physical repair” and how they often are involved in “care ethics”. I found this passage interesting because it did not undermine the repair work of women but instead it presented the repair work done in a way that still showed how important emotional repair is. Every relationship established between humans needs emotional repairs from time to time and without the constant “fixing” no relationships would be built or sustained.

Spellman’s ability to compare and contrast different types of repairing in different situations shows the versatility of the action of repairing and how broad it is. By comparing the work of Willie, I was able to understand that although the jobs entail different things, they both are equally as important.

“Exploring some aspects of the lives of women has led to the suggestion that the household is a veritable repair shop.” – Page 50, Repair

I also found the passage in Chapter 3 about how we as people are “breakables” extremely interesting becuase it’s a point I had not yet considered how fragile human spirits and relationships are.

“We humans don’t just live in a world of breakables; we are breakables, our bodies and souls by their very nature subject to fracture and fissure. And we are social animals, our dependency upon each other given shape by the connections we find and forge among ourselves” Page 49, Repair

Spellman presents all of her information followed by concrete examples which makes the concepts easier for the reader to grasp. By giving real life examples of different types of repairs it allows the reader to really connect to the concept presented. The example in Chapter 3 about Ruth and the dilemma surrounding her getting pregnant shows a real life example of the care of ethics preformed (typically) by women. I don’t believe Spellman is trying to be inclusive when she says women are typically the “emotional repairers”, I think she was discrediting the stigma in our society that a man’s work is more important simply becuase of their gender. All forms of repair are important in this world and Spellman’s book does an immaculate job at highlighting the various kinds of repairing done on a daily basis.