Human Nature to Repair

Daniel Gruber

Professor Harris

English 110


All throughout Spelmans book, Repair, it is shown that it is human nature to want to repair things. Whether it is repairing other humans or just objects it is human nature to want to repair things. What I found interesting in Repair is how although it is in the nature of all humans to mend and repair things, we all do it in our own personal way. And whether it is repairing a personal relationship with someone or repairing a car or object we all do it in different ways. And this is shown throughout Repair often, specifically in chapter 2 when Spelman writes about Willie, Fred, and Louise/Elizabeth/Irene and how they all repair in their own way. Spelman writes

We know all this about Willie and Fred and Louise/Elizabeth/Irene which is why we don’t take damaged works of art to Willie’s shop, or go to Fred if our primary concern is to get the pickup back on the road in time to help a friend move to new lodgings

And this shows that although they all repair things for a living they all do it in their own respective and personal way. Repairing is a thing that all humans as a whole do, and although there might be some similarities in the way each of us do it, overall we all repair in our own way.

This can relate to real life as well because since we all repair in our own different ways some may or may not be more affective than another.  And if our way of repairing is less effective than another we may consider changing our way to make it more effective. But in my opinion this isn’t good because there is no sense in changing your way because everyone has there is own way and it can be effective if you work to make it effective. And if you change your way to the way of someone else it is no longer your own individual way of repairing.

With repairing being in the nature of humans it turns out that with a lot of things we do we are in fact, repairing when we might not even know we are. We know that when we apologize we are attempting to repair a relationship that may have been harmed in some way or another. And we know that when we fix something physically such as repairing a car or machine we are attempting to repair it back to its original form. But what we don’t know is that when we do a lot of things we are actually repairing in a way. An example of this is when we sleep we are actually repairing or fixing our tired bodies to get back to full stamina or when we play a game of basketball or doing something physically demanding we are repairing or relieving our bodies of the calories and fat of the food we ate earlier that day, so in a way with a lot of things we do throughout a day we are actually repairing when we don’t even know it or intend on it. Further proving the fact that it really is in human nature to repair as shown throughout Elizabeth Spelman’s book, Repair.

Apologies Affecting our Lives (Revised, r3)

Erica Haas

Professor Harris

English 110-040

September 26, 2016

     Spelman states in chapter five of Repair “an apology is a kind of offering, a kind of gift” (85). In my opinion, a truly sincere apology is rare enough that it can be considered a gift. One of the things that I have noticed about myself recently is the amount of times I say the word sorry. I give out unnecessary apologies multiple times a day. Sometimes it is to fill an awkward silence but most of the time the words “I’m sorry” escape my mouth before I even realize what I’m saying. On certain occasions, others have obviously questioned these uncalled for apologies. Just the other day, I walked up to a water fountain at the same time as another person and uttered “Sorry!” without thinking. The person responded with a quick laugh and a “For what?” and I found myself wondering why I felt the need to apologize for my presence, since the water fountain is a space where it would be quite common for two people to be at once. This is just a current example of my bad habit of apologizing. As I reflect, I realize the need to actually cut down on my apologies in day to day life. Throwing around these fluttering “sorries” makes them lose almost all real meaning. They become space fillers, much like saying “um” or “like” in my sentences.

     It has come to my realization that we should save our apologies for when they are truly called for, which is what the author seems to believe as well. Spelman states:

“To apologize to someone is to say that there is a harm worth attending to, a relationship worth mending, a rule worth honoring, a community worth preserving” (83).

The author believes that to be a meaningful apology, the offender must consider not only how they hurt another person, but how their action affected the community around them. She talks a lot about tears in the social fabric, and how individuals breaking rules or trust can rip it open. These individuals in turn must apologize to repair the damage they have done all around them. An apology needs to be sincere for it to have any weight or meaning. The apologizer must have genuine emotion, regret, or guilt. The most important parts of a true apology are the offender realizing they have done wrong, knowing they hurt the other person, and taking full responsibility for their mistakes without excuses.

     Even though an apology is sincere, that does not always mean it will mend a broken relationship. For example, one of the most common times an remedy is needed is when one member of a relationship is disloyal. If the person who cheated on their significant other really does regret that it happened, they must own up to their mistake. They realize that what they did was completely wrong, and that it hurt their partner beyond what they could believe. This type of mistake also hurts the people around them, not just their boyfriend or girlfriend. The third person involved can be hurt if they do not know of the relationship they are getting between. Friends of the person cheated on can feel sorry for them, and those who trusted the cheater may have their trust broken. No matter how eloquent the offenders apology may be, it often cannot make up for their actions, at least not immediately. The hurt that they cause needs time to heal and trust must be regained. The apology can be accepted or not, but sometimes it comes down to the fact that sincerity does not always lead to acceptance. Some things are just not that easily repaired, especially when emotions are involved.

     Spelman points out the large difference between apologies and reparations in chapter five as well. Reparations are giving back money or physical things to make up for wrongdoing. The issue with this act is that there can be little emotion behind them. There is more of a feeling of necessity to reparations, rather than genuine regret and understanding like with an apology. In the 1980s, president Ronald Reagan compensated more than 100,000 Japanese Americans for themselves or their family members being put in internment camps during World War II. Each person received a formal apology and $20,000 of reparations. This was a circumstance where a monetary repayment was required, along with an expression of regret. A simple apology from the American government could not make up for the terrible damages the government did to the Japanese citizens during the time of war. Although these people were given a formal apology, they did not have to accept it. This is how the relationship between apologizer and the person to whom the apology is offered works.

     The mentioned relationship is a unique one. Both parties are emotionally vulnerable in the situation of apologizing. The person offering the apology may have a fear of rejection or silence from the person they hurt, and the person who is given the apology must decide whether it is a good enough action to make up for the way they were treated. Sometimes, an apology is all that is needed. If a couple gets into a small argument, the words “I’m sorry” and a realization that at least one of the parties involved was wrong can solve the fight. Often, both members of a relationship can admit they were not completely in the right, and things are resolved from there. When one person is more stubborn than the other, their apology might not be as quick to appear, but once it does it may mean even more. In other cases, such as the one of the Japanese internment camps, an easy “I’m sorry” does not cut it. These escalated wrongs call for  a much more serious response from the offenders. What can be learned from Spelman’s writing in this chapter is that different circumstances call for different responses. All people involved in a situation that needs repairing must think of it universally and consider what they need to do to make up for the wrongs that were committed. Apologies and reparations are just more forms of human repair to relationships that Spelman brings to light as her book continues on.

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…”?


What Is Justice?

R2 Continued:

On April 15, 2013, I was sitting at mile ten of the Boston Marathon in Natick, watching the runners go by admiring their strength and endurance just as I have done every year. When the runners started to decrease, so did the crowd, and most of my friends went our separate ways home and watched as the cleanup team started clearing the roads of its empty water cups and orange peels. When I walked into my house around 3:00 p.m I entered an environment of fear, my mom, dad, and sister were all swarming the TV. The channel was set on the news and all that was pictured was huge clouds of smoke and terror, I shrieked, “what is going on?”

We live in a world that screams “justice” every time a crime occurs, but what really is justice? Justice is viewed differently to every person involved in the situation at hand, whether they be the perpetrator, the victim, the surrounding community or the person watching the issue on his/her TV screen. In the book Repair, Spelman compares and contrasts the differences between two types of Justice, restorative, and retributive. Nowadays, the justice system focuses on retributive justice and doesn’t take into account the aftermath of the situation, even after “justice is served”, and Spelman makes that very clear in her work.

So, then, the restorative justice movement sees itself as responding to the brute fact that the criminal justice system and the “trail ‘em, nail ‘em, and jail ‘em” process by which it identifies crimes and brings perpetrators to ‘justice’ in a state of shambles. This is not a judgment with which restorative justice enthusiasts will find much disagreement…(Spelman 58).

Here Spelman puts the word justice in quotes, which insists that she is using the term very lightly. It follows the overall theme of the chapter which is restorative justice vs. retributive justice. I believe that criminal systems need to take a more careful consideration of using the restorative justice system because it focuses more on who was harmed,  how they have been harmed and how the victim, community, and perpetrator can be fixed. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing that occurred in 2013, I believe more should have been done in mending the hearts of the victim’s friends and families and the community that surrounded Boston. Yes, they did catch the perpetrator of the terrorist attack, but does that really mean that the victims felt better? The people of Boston spent many weeks after that marathon grieving the loss of community members and questioning why this happened. Some people attended memorials, grieving ceremonies or even drowned themselves in work in order to try to forget about what had just happened. But the was topic inevitable, it had stained the past and present marathon runners, the families of victims, the people of Boston and the country. Living 20 minutes outside of Boston myself, I was left with these questions as well and I think something productive could have been done about the confusion that was left on hearts of  the surrounding communities.
Nearly two years later the perpetrator mutters his apology, “I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, and the damage that I’ve done”, I know when I heard these words I felt no remorse. Therefore, some people might say the only way the perpetrator would get what he deserved was through the death penalty, but how would this help repair the community? It would elevate any worries of him enacting any terrorist attack again but it wouldn’t heal the wounds of the Boston people. In may of 2015, Tsarnaev was sentenced to death and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh expressed his condolences by saying, “hope [that] this verdict provides a small amount of closure to everyone affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing”, and that’s exactly what it did, bring a small amount of closure. Justice was served, but restorative justice was not. Spelman also brings up the death penalty in a form of restorative justice.

   …in a recent study carried out by lawyers and criminologists from Columbia University, the system of capital punishment in the United States was pronounced “broken”, so reeking of incompetence and unfairness that ‘the time is ripe for fixing the death penalty. Or, if it can’t be fixed, to end it.’ But the concern of restorative justice proponents is not that often associated with the political right- that stricter law enforcement is necessary (Spelman 58).

Society has been so caught up with “political correctness” I believe we have forgotten about the feelings and emotions that can be fixed with restorative justice. I don’t believe retributive justice should be erased altogether, but it can be meshed with restorative to repair all. Boston was in ruins and no apology or retribution could fix this city. On the other hand, maybe this city was scared to be fixed. Superman says, “Repair is hedged round with anxiety that the very process by which something is repaired will destroy.” If Boston repaired itself from the terror attacks, that could release a sense of vulnerability, like once Boston is feeling strong again it will fall victim again. I think as a city, Boston needs to face this sense of vulnerability head on. Repair and destruction are like an infinite circle, you can’t be fixed with without knowing what it feels like to break.

So maybe overall, death penalties in cases like the Boston Bombing are thought to bring justice, but just in a retributive way and completely abandon the repair that emotions of the community and victims really need. I believe that the word justice needs to be redefined in the American society in order to heal all aspects of the humans who have unfortunately been caught up in these terrifying acts.

Mind and Memory in Ruins

Mike McCloskey

Professor Joe

English 110

26 September 2016

As seen throughout all of Spelman’s book, Repair, it is human nature for people to want to and try to repair objects in daily life. People try to mend everything that is tangible in life. What happens when we people try to fix something intangible in life though? ‘Intangible’ is not referring to relationships between humans as you can “touch” or “physically resonate” with another human being or create a connection or bond with another human being without actually touching them. What is meant by ‘intangible’ goes deeper. Something ‘intangible’ to a singular person is their mind and ability to think and remember. The mind is something different from all other things in the world. The mind has the ability to do things extraordinarily and the creativity of the mind is what causes people to want to and try to repair objects and relationships in the world. Sometimes people can have a difficult time repairing things in the world. Why is that? Well, what happens when a person’s own mind needs to be repaired? Can the mind repair itself? Spelman gives great insight into the mind and how it looks at repair and how it looks at ruin. From this, I can deduce my own insight on how the mind repairs when the mind itself is in ruins. What I see is that it is not beneficial to block change in the mind but to adapt to and harness the change in the mind.

All people seek to reform and to repair things in life, and they also seek to repair themselves when there is something that inhibits their path to a happy life. In life, people all throughout the world have to deal with their past and their memories. Memories can have a lasting effect on a person and this can have a positive outcome or a negative outcome on a person. The memories that people must repair are the ones that have a negative effect on people.

There is no pleasure or even the thin gruel of instruction in these ruins of memory, which continue to be the source of anguish over the inability to recover what one has lost, of humiliation over the sense of confusion and incompetence the memories reignite (Spelman 116).

Spelman uses the ruins of a pertinent site as the basis of memory. Ruins are extremely analogous to memories in the mind. When a tragedy occurs and there are ruins, people who are inflicted by the outcome are held in dismay. When a person’s city is in ruins, they want to preserve it so that they can move on without destroying their heritage. In a similar way, a person must hold onto the memories while still being able to move on. This does not always happen. For example, a soldier fighting in a war must be able to recover after they return. What happens to many is that they develop PTSD which makes them not be able to move on from the war. What must happen is for the soldiers to remember, but soldiers must not dwell on the past to the point where they can no longer function in society. Something that is always in the back of my mind is when my grandfather passed away. My grandfather lived with my family and was a mentor to me, like a second father to me. When I would come home from school everyday I would see him, but it was weird to have him not be there when I got back. This made a mental roadblock for me. The memory of him made me sad and made me unable to the proper work that I needed to. Eventually, I just had to learn to live with it. I never forget him, but I can’t be stuck in the past when it comes to things that remind me of him. Much like this, when my mom’s sister died, she had a hard time living with the fact that her role model passed away. She too worked through it and will never forget her, but will never let it hold her down again.

‘Humiliated memory thus forces us into an unnatural relation with the past, because the ‘knowledge’ it imparts crushes the spirit and frustrates the incentive to renewal’; memory becomes ‘a monument to ruin rather than reconstruction’ (Spelman 121).

Spelman’s statement supports my thought, that in order for people to live happy, they must move on from the past without forgetting it.
This is not only seen in memories, but also in the mind in general. There are many things which people can not control and the mind is wired to think and feel. A long time friend of mine has anxiety problems. This anxiety keeps her from being able to go through daily tasks without being overwhelmed or stressed. This mentality must be overcome. When she is at her happiest and when she is the most at ease, she uses her anxiety to her favor and prioritizes her life so that all areas which could cause anxiety, are completed. This way, she does not feel so stressed. A different way that this can be viewed is by the stereotypes that are perpetuated onto my friends who like people of the same-sex. Many people in society tells them that they are “weird” or that they are “sinners.” Though this has negative effects on my friends, they use it to their advantage. My friends analyze those who perpetuate the hate and are able to steer clear of those people. In doing this, my friends put themselves in a more comfortable and a hate free atmosphere. As with memories, the mind may have things which could hold it back, but the main goal is to overcome the adversity and to move on from it. Never forget those occurrences which have hurt a person, but that person must use it to their advantage to continue a healthy and happy life. Those who have intangible problems, should always work to harness their negative experiences and turn them into something positive.