Mother Nature Never says Sorry

“Homo sapiens is also homo reparans” (1). Human beings are the most complex and interesting creatures on the planet, but we are always referred to as homo sapiens- nothing more. My initial thought was that If we are homo reparans, aren’t we also so many other things? We repair, we talk, we apologize, we eat, and bring new lives into the world. As I thought more about this, I realized all of these actions we do as humans fall into the same theme of repair. We talk so we can explain ourselves and why we took such actions, we apologize to repair a conflict, and we eat to repair or fix our hunger pains. I realize repair goes miles longer than just of physical things. What became so interesting to me about this book is the difference between repair of physical and non physical things in life.

 

So, then, unlike cars, human beings suffer wear and tear, like cars, humans need not just maintenance but repair if they are to keep functioning; and in the provision of such repair, the household, by default, if not by design, for better and for worse, is to the larger society what the auto repair shop -along with the gas station and car wash- is to the world of automobiles” (35)

 

Spelman explains that a household serves as a human repair shop. Like a car, our household will put us in “in a state of basic functioning” (36). “The body has an awesome capacity to repair itself…But it can’t do that, and will cease doing it, without being fed and watered” (33). Our bodies are constantly self repairing to heal a cut, fight off sickness, bacteria, or infections. Our bodies will not do these “awesome” things without basic needs being met, that we can find in the household. But, unlike cars, there are some humans that need extra help from someone other than a member of the household.

 

“Recognition of nature’s undeniable powers becomes the occasion for some observers to reflect on the impermanence and transiency of everything, including human life; and that in turn may lead some to despair (all humans endeavor is in the end futile)…Oh, ruins, what dost thou tell us- that you, and thus also we ourselves, are vanquished by nature?…Is the natural world our “inevitable tomb” or our “eternal home”? 108

 

Mother Nature is a powerful woman- and sometimes even she makes mistakes. As a young girl with a dream to deliver babies, bring new lives into the world, and have a number of children myself, of course I think about Mother Nature and her toll on birth. As beautiful and complex as pregnancy is, there is a great deal that can go wrong. Spelman highlights nature as one of humanity’s reminders that repair is sometimes impossible, no matter how hard we try. When it comes to the ruins of the world, “H. reparans better take off its tool belt” (104) because there is simply nothing we can do. The biggest factor that would hold me back from becoming an obstetrician is ever having to tell someone, “I’m sorry, but it seems something has gone wrong with the pregnancy.” Although the household may have helped the hopeful mother function in society, it fails to help her with anything else. The household basically says, “Sorry, I don’t have to tools, so I can’t help you.” It is silly to compare a home to an automobile shop because of how complex humans are, and how simple a car and its physical parts are. How, and moreso – why-  does one apologize to someone for something so drastic? Sure, we feel deep sorrow for the expecting parents but why be sorry for something that is Mother Nature’s fault?

That, of course, is precisely why sincere apology is so welcoming: Once it has been offered, an acknowledgement of wrongdoing has been given, and neither the victim nor any other agents of justice need spend time rehearsing the harms that have been done or trying to pry a confession of the wrongdoer. The repair of the victim, to the relationship between victim and wrongdoer, and to the fabric of the society has begun (97)

To say sorry for something that is not even your fault is another example to how the term is extremely over used. In becoming an obstetrician, I could either make parents the happiest people on earth or the saddest, and they last term they would want to hear is “I’m sorry” because this would imply a miscarriage, or something has gone wrong with the pregnancy. Except as a doctor I should not be sorry because it is not my fault that this has happened. I understand we feel incredibly sorry and have sorrow for the expecting parents, but shouldn’t we rather say something along the lines of “I feel terrible that this has happened, but…”?

 

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Repair by Genuineness

The words “I’m sorry” are thrown around everyday for different reasons. It is used for the most intense navigations of forgiveness, such as “I’m sorry, but I fell in love with someone else” to a simple “I’m sorry I lost your pencil in math class.” We use the term “I’m sorry” to hopefully repair or restore even the most drastic or unapologetic acts we make, even if we don’t mean it. “I’m sorry” will save us time and an extreme amount of guilt.

 

That, of course, is precisely why sincere apology is so welcoming: Once it has been offered, an acknowledgement of wrongdoing has been given, and neither the victim nor any other agents of justice need spend time rehearsing the harms that have been done or trying to pry a confession of the wrongdoer. The repair of the victim, to the relationship between victim and wrongdoer, and to the fabric of the society has begun (97).

 

Take our criminal justice system as an example of how not getting a sincere apology will prevent repair. Spelman argues that “the law focuses on those harms only to the extent necessary to establish the guilt of the offender and the appropriate level of punishment to be meted out” (55). A rape victim will be permanently mentally scarred because the criminal will be thrown into jail and the victim will never have to talk to the criminal ever again if they choose. I believe this is the biggest reason rape victims struggle to recover, because they know the rapist is not sorry. They do not care about how the victim feels or they would not have done it. Once the criminal is proven guilty, they are “unsalvageable or not worth of repair.” If they are not sentenced for life, this could affect the community again in the future because they will learn their actions were wrong – which is why they are in jail- but not why they were wrong.

 

There is a difference between genuinely using the term “I’m sorry” and just saying it to seem more polite. In the context of the previously stated quote from Spelman, she is referring to an apology where someone really wants to make sure they repair the relationship- that is why it “is so welcoming.” I have had many experiences in my life where someone used the term “I’m sorry” but did not really mean it, including myself. For example, I was a hostess at a restaurant in my hometown from freshman to junior year. On Friday nights the dining room would get packed, and around 7-8:00 the line to wait would start get longer and longer. If someone would ask, “Can I have a table for six?” I would have to answer, “I’m sorry it is probably going to be a 30 minute wait.” Whether she answered “Okay that’s fine!” or “Oh, that’s too long,” I would feel the exact same emotion; neutral. I’m not actually sorry that you have to wait, because we are still getting business either way. In this case, there is no repairing the relationship between myself and the woman who wants a table because A) It is not my fault there is not a table available and B) I am not genuinely sorry.

 

To say sorry for something that is not even your fault is another example to how the term is extremely over used. Recently it has been my dream to become an OBGYN and bring new lives into the world. I could either make parents the happiest people on earth or the saddest, and they last term they would want to hear is “I’m sorry” because this would imply a miscarriage, or something has gone wrong with the pregnancy. Except as a doctor I should not be sorry because it is not my fault that this has happened. I understand we feel incredibly sorry and have sorrow for the expecting parents, but shouldn’t we rather say something along the lines of “I feel terrible that this has happened, but…”?
The victim may hear everyone in the world, besides the one person she actually wants to hear it from say “I’m so sorry for what happened” because of our criminal justice system. “I’m sorry” is not going to bring a baby’s life back, or get a party of six their table, so why do we use it?

Repairing The Brain vs. The Engine

Although they never say to judge a book by its cover, when I saw Elizabeth Spelman’s book entitled “Repair,” I could only help but think it would be a story about a young woman or man who wants to repair a relationship with an ex lover. As soon as I read the first paragraph I was mistaken, but already intrigued. Spelman states that “homo sapiens is also homo reparans” (1). Human beings are the most complex and interesting creatures on the planet, but we are always referred to as homo sapiens- nothing more. My initial thought was that If we are homo reparans, aren’t we also so many other things? We repair, we talk, we apologize, we eat. As I thought more about this, I realized all of these actions we do as humans fall into the same theme of repair. We talk so we can explain ourselves and why we took such actions, we apologize to repair a conflict, and we eat to repair or fix our hunger pains. I realize repair goes miles longer than just of physical things, such as the cars that Willie, or bikes that Fred fix on a daily basis. What became so interesting to me about this book is the difference between repair of physical and non physical things in life.

 

“So, then, unlike cars, human beings suffer wear and tear, like cars, humans need not just maintenance but repair if they are to keep functioning; and in the provision of such repair, the household, by default, if not by design, for better and for worse, is to the larger society what the auto repair shop -along with the gas station and car wash- is to the world of automobiles” (35).

 

Spelman explains that a household serves as a human repair shop. Like a car, our household will put us in “in a state of basic functioning” (36). “The body has an awesome capacity to repair itself…But it can’t do that, and will cease doing it, without being fed and watered” (33). Our bodies are constantly self repairing to heal a cut, fight off sickness, bacteria, or infections. Our bodies will not do these “awesome” things without basic needs being met, that we can find in the household. But, unlike cars, there are some humans that need extra help from someone other than a member of the repair shop.

 

“While cars can’t be violated by attempts to repair them (except in the sense that their structural integrity might be violated), there are moral constraints on our attempts to repair others, to “straighten them out against their will” (36).

 

The obvious difference between repairing a car back to its basic function and a human to their basic function, is that cars do not have emotions. It is hard to suggest to someone to seek help when they are struggling because we do not want to offend them. If someone has depression and they never leave their house, to our definition, they are not functioning in society. We cannot tell someone they don’t function properly like we can easily take a bike or car to the repair shop. Unlike a car, we have medicines and other resources to help us. Whether it be medicine for ADHD, or to calm our anxiety, we cannot “straighten [someone] out against their will” (36) if they do not want to be “fixed”. To go back to my point of talking, humans confide in someone who knows how to help ourselves repair. The household human repair shop can only do so much for us emotionally once we learn the basics. We turn to someone to help us when we need to be repaired mentally. But, where do the emotional repairers of the world- therapists, counselors, doctors- go when they need to be repaired?