Projects Vary, Repairers’ Intentions Do Not

In most small towns, there is a small, yet symbolic, piece of history that often gets overlooked and the majesty of it is confined to local historians and visitors of the town who decide to read the dusty plaque under it.  These pieces of history range from town to town, while grand pieces of history are central to some cities across the world. Cities tend to maintain paramount pieces of history because it encourages tourism, while small towns, such as Placerville, California, leave the maintenance of historic pieces to ambitious volunteers. Either approach aims to mask the impending trajectory of aging through covering any signs of weakness, but, as Elizabeth Spelman states in Repair, the very action of repair implies extinction:

Repairers deal with the used objects of the world, with those things bearing evidence of the trajectory towards destruction and termination. As repairers, they undertake to halt the march toward extinction, but their very existence reminds us that such extinction is inevitable” (136).

Here, Spelman states that although repairers bring about change and are welcomed in most circumstances, their existence is consistently representing fate.

Notable pieces of history, such as the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, are maintained at the highest level in order to ensure that it does not fade or deteriorate quickly. Its impending fate of deterioration will be met one day, similar to the lives lost inside the notorious structure. Its repair allows the history to be brought back to live through artwork, books and tours through the Colosseum which celebrate the uniqueness of the edifice, while condemning the reason for its notability. Grand pieces such as the Colosseum do not require a plaque to detail the history because it is such a staple in archaic structures that it is embarrassing to not understand the history behind it. Pieces like the Colosseum are expected to need repairs over time, and the city welcomes the face-lift because it can promote the piece even more. Even though repairs improve the structure, they imply weakness and a further step into nothingness. Grand pieces similar to the Colosseum are expected to be repaired and in top shape for presentation and to honor its history; on the other hand, small pieces of history in local towns are not as familiar with constant repairs.

California is home to the ‘49ers, aptly named after the rush to discover gold once it was discovered in the state in 1848. Towns sprung up all across the state, which were then abandon when the rush ended; Placerville, California was a gold mining town in California with a vast history involving gold and the “Hangman’s Tree”, a tree that was literally used to hang outlaws in the nineteenth century. Over time, the town committee tried to move on from the past and reinvent itself as a more robust town instead of a landmark from the nineteenth century. Board members tried to tear down a couple historic buildings located on the main street, but one man, a family member of mine, decided to devote his time to restoring these old buildings as accurately as possible. I saw first-hand is effort to restore these buildings with the help of local historians who marked each notable spot and attempted to replicate them. The restoration has faced many challenges, but will ultimately bring historic monuments back to life.

No matter the size of the job, repairers are only present when there is a flaw in a building, piece of clothing, artwork, etc. Both the Colosseum and the buildings in Placerville have deep-rooted history that should be maintained through the edifices. The former piece is very grand and a symbol of many repairs that keep the spirit alive and attract more people to go back in time and forget about the impending destruction; the latter piece is not as well known but also allows visitors to halt time and revisit old practices such as hanging outlaws and miners’ bars. Whether a volunteer is the repairer or a government official, both intend to halt the impending destruction in order to allow the memories and history live on a little longer.

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When it’s okay to say ‘I’m Sorry’

I’m sorry are two words often misused. Being sorry is defined as “feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.” Step back and think; how many times a day do you say you’re sorry without even realizing it? People need to stop apologizing for things they don’t mean. You don’t want to go out with your friend? You shouldn’t have to apologize. You have certain feelings about someone or something that someone disagrees with? Don’t say you’re sorry, you can’t help how you feel. These two words seemed to have lost there meaning a long time ago. An apology should be very powerful, not just two meaningless words that people spit out way too often.

If you’re going to waste your breathe saying you’re sorry, make sure you actually mean it. People need to understand that saying “I’m sorry” isn’t going to solve all their problems. Because of how loosely these words are used, it has completely lost it’s effect. Saying sorry, to many people, is as natural as saying hello and goodbye. No one likes to see someone upset, so their first reaction is to turn around and say they are sorry for something that an apology is not necessary for. In Spelman’s opinion,

“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” (Spelman 83).

She acknowledges that if you’re going to apologize than you better have done something that deserves an apology.

I find that I apologize too many times a day. It is very rare that I actually need to apologize to someone for something that actually causes damage. I have also realized, when I apologize to someone I also need to apologize to myself because I get so upset with myself that I need to find it within me to move on. As a gymnast you learn that conditioning is crucial to your success. If you do not keep up with your strength than you will not be able to get through those final skills in your bar routine, that last pass in your floor routine, or even be able to successfully complete two vaults in a row. Not conditioning is detrimental to your progress. I realized what it was like to be sorry to myself rather than to someone else when I was a gymnast. We would condition for an hour either in the beginning or the end of our daily 5 hour practice. When we would condition at the end I was already so physically exhausted I found myself pretending to do 30 pull ups while I really did 15 or saying I climbed the rope 3 times when I only climbed twice. As hard as it was I could’ve done it but I took the easy way out instead of pushing myself. When that competition season rolled around and we had to start putting routines together I found it very difficult to keep up with my team members. I managed to just get by, but I realized and was truly regretful of my decision to take the easy way out. For that I apologized to myself and my coaches who put in a lot of time and effort to get us to a new level.

Finding something that deserves a real apology isn’t too common. More times than not you’ll find yourself apologizing for something that is not worthy of one. What if apologies didn’t exist? Do you think people would be more careful of what they do knowing they could never repair the damage? I think that people are so careless because they know if someone gets hurt they can always try and make it up to them. Thinking this way is not a good idea because it leads to careless behavior. I believe that everyone should think as if they didn’t have the opportunity to apologize and maybe they will think twice before doing or saying specific things. If you are going to apologize make sure it’s worth it and make sure you are not throwing around the words ‘i’m sorry’ for something meaningless.

A Crack in the Foundation

        There is no feeling quite like building something with your own two hands although repair is not strictly limited to fixing what is physically broken, but also filling in gaps where something is missing. In Elizabeth Spelman’s Repair: The Impulse to Restore, she provides many excellent examples and anecdotes of the different forms of repair. As a college student, I realize that throughout my lifetime I’ve done a decent amount of repairs from mending damaged friendships to even have changed a flat tire or two. On the first page of the book, Spelman says “our bodies and souls are also by their very nature subject to fracture and fissure” (Spelman 1). With this in mind, I am certain that my biggest repairs are still ahead of me, which is why I must first repair myself in order to face the trials waiting for me down the road of my life.  

      Growing up as the younger sibling, I have had my fair share of feeling like second best. From losing in races we would run around the house, to each year having my teachers asking if I was Alex’s, their favorite student’s sister, my ego was in a state of disrepair. This feeling of never quite being as successful as him manifested itself in me physically. I ate away my feelings of resentment. It was not until the summer before I began middle school that my new reality caught up with me. Although often times we wish to repair something the instant it is broken, I did not fully realize my state of disrepair until I noticed my brother’s disrepair. His perfect facade was crumbling, and with it came diagnoses. As I watched my seemingly perfect older brother struggle and start the slow process of his own repair, I found my drive. Although this repair was not out of necessity, it was fueled by my natural instinct as an H. Reparan to make a change for the better. As Spelman says in the book, “to repair is to acknowledge and respond to the fracturability of the world in which we live” (Spelman 5). That summer I made my first major self repair.

      My first major self repair both served as a moment of restoring my personal health in addition to inhibiting me to be able to make further repairs in the future. Each repair is like mending a crack in the wall of a house. Sometimes, only a little bit of plaster is needed, while in other instances a section of the wall may need more extensive fixes. By putting forth the effort to repair the wall rather than allow it to come crashing down, we set ourselves up for an easier, more manageable fix in the future. Growing and personally improving ourselves rather than melting under the pressure not only improves our current situations, but also further down the roads of our life.

 

Creators & Repairers

Think of a famous inventor. Easy, right? Let’s see there’s: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Eli Whitney; the list goes go on and on. Now, think a famous repairman or conservator. Not a single one comes to mind, am I right? But, why is that?

Elizabeth Spelman says

In any event, repair is necessary because – theological views aside – we are manifestly imperfect creatures in an imperfect world (136).

Creation and repair are both imperative and important but yet, one gets a little more of that limelight. As humans, we are constantly adapting to new environments, advancing in the sciences, and changing to satisfy our wants. Therefore, new things are created but old things must also be mended to last a little bit longer.

At a young age, you learn about who invented the telephone in history class or who created the number system in math class and as you grow older, more developers and designers are introduced. Do you ever hear about those who restore our beloved monuments or conserve our national parks? As humans, we don’t like the fact that we have flaws; we like to be perceived as being under control and strong enough to take care of ourselves. We cannot repair without knowing what needs repairing; we must evaluate and see where something went wrong.

When we finally determine what needs fixing, we have to decide if fixing is required or if keeping it in its state of brokenness is more appropriate. Spelman says,

But sometimes no kind of repair is appropriate precisely because the successful repair of any kind would destroy the object in question (132).

To repair, you must destroy. Some would rather keep the object shattered than destroy it again, in order for it, to be fixed once more. In a sense, repairers are destroyers and creators are creators. The definition of the word destroy is to cause (something) to end or no longer exist, to cause the destruction of (something), or to damage (something) so badly it cannot be repaired [merriam-webster.com]. Creating and destroying are opposites; creating has a positive connotation while destroying does not. Repairers don’t receive as much publicity because they cannot repair without destroying and people think of this negatively; creators are contributing to life and bringing something new to the table.

You learn about inventors but not repairers so I’m here to tell you about some. Does the name Lee Iacocca ring a bell? Doubtful, I know. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to head the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation. With the Statue’s centennial in 1986, this was created to raise funds for renovation and preservation. Without the team of French and Americans who mended holes, removed layers of paint, and replaced rusting iron bars, the Statue wouldn’t look as timeless as it does today. (https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/places_restoring.htm). The Statue of Liberty is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy that mean so much to so many people. Thanks to the work of the countless architects, engineers, and conservators, it can continue to give hope to others.

Walking down D.C.’s streets on a cool April day, I look up to see scaffolding surrounding the United State Capitol Dome. With this being my first time in the nation’s capital, I was surprised to see a less than perfect building. It didn’t look like the google images that come up when you hit enter or the almost-too-beautiful images you see in movies. Spelman says,

There are people or beings or processes by which or through which things are created, come into existence. Those things are bound to decay or break or disintegrate (127).

Over time, it is impossible for anything to stay in the same state as that when it was first created. The Dome is no exception. Have you ever heard of Stephen T. Ayers? He is the Architect of the Capitol who was approved for a multi-year repair project to restore the Dome to its original glory. Due to the hard work of the many employees assigned to this job, this symbol of American democracy and one of the world’s most famous architectural icons can be rid of the damages due to time and weather. (https://www.aoc.gov/dome/project-overview)

Inventors are important but so are repairers. As humans, it is hard to talk about and ultimately accept that we are imperfect beings. We must shed light on those who keep what’s important to us in tip-top shape, whether that is physically or emotionally and tangible or not. Repair cannot be done with destroying and that can be scary to think about.

Reparations vs. Apologies

In Chapter 5 of Spelman’s Repair, she goes into detail about the difference between an apology and reparations. An apology is something that you offer with the simple words ‘I’m sorry’.  Unfortunately to this day those words are thrown around way too much. People now a days say they are sorry for even the smallest things like asking a question or their physical appearance. Because people say they are sorry so often with little meaning behind it, it is very rare to find someone who is genuinely sorry for something they did. I never realized how many times I’ve apologized for something without meaning it until the day I actually had to apologize with true feelings of remorse. The day I really learned what it was like to genuinely apologize was when I was in the 6th grade and I got in a fight with my best friend. I was upset with her and called her a name behind her back; she later found out and once we made up I was so upset with myself for saying something offensive that I didn’t even mean. I spent weeks trying to make her realize how sorry I was and how much I didn’t mean it. On the other hand, you can get even with reparations. The difference between the two are the emotions behind it. With reparations, both parties don’t have to have strong emotions behind it, but with an apology the feelings must be there. A very popular debate right now is about whether or not descendants on slaves and their families should receive reparations. It is clear that slavery was wrong so many people feel that these reparations could help out the families. Before you act, in any situation, you must decide whether you sincerely apologize or whether or not you just want to make up and be even.

My best friend Alex is and has always been my best friend. When we were in the 6th grade we got in a big fight, like 6th graders, over stupid girl drama. Of course at that age everyone talks to each other and one of my peers were trying to make me say something bad about her. I fell into her trap and called her a name that I immediately regretted. Of course within minutes that girl ran over to tell her all about what I had to say and I felt terrible. I knew I didn’t mean any of it and when I saw Alex crying I knew I was so wrong. She asked me why I would say that because we were best friends and I immediately replied “I am so sorry I didn’t mean it.” I knew that it would take a lot for me to prove how sorry I was and eventually she realized that I really meant it. In chapter 5 Spelman writes

“However vicious her actions, however morally reprehensible she has been in the past, her sincere apology entitles her to credit at the bank of moral rectitude. She’s done wrong, but she knows it, accepts full responsibility for it, and regrets it” (Spelman 97).

Spelman perfectly described how I felt because I knew I was wrong and I knew I had to take responsibility for it. Luckily Alex and I were such good friends that she eventually accepted my apology and we are still best friends to this day. I am so glad I learned that very tough lesson at a young age.

No matter who you are or what you believe, you can not deny the fact that millions of African Americans were unfairly kept as slaves. I believe it is wrong and most people would agree, but there is a large debate over whether descendants of these slaves should receive reparations for what their ancestors went through. We have seen reparations be made to victims of World War II and many people want to see it again. As Spelman explains in the book,

“They are not bound to feel gratitude for the institutions that make reparations possible, nor to those who pay them. Their being entitled to and receiving reparations has no bearing on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of whatever emotions they have had and continue to have about what they had to endure” (Spelman 82).

These reparations can help out the descendants of slavery, but just because they are accepting the reparation does not mean their emotions have changed.

If you have done something wrong and want to make it right you need to decide whether you truly want to move forward and apologize or offer reparations to be even. Saying you’re sorry when you are not is not an apology. There is no apology where there is no genuine emotion behind it. As I learned when I was younger that you can’t apologize for every little thing if you don’t mean it because when the day comes that you truly mean it people might not believe you. Offering reparations is a clear way of trying to make it up to someone without both parties having to agree to move on. Spelman clearly illustrates the difference between the two and after reading I realized how relevant it is in everyday life.