October 3, 2016
As my eyes glanced down at the last few words of Spelman’s Repair, I was left with a strange feeling. After reading the whole book, it was one line in the final chapter that changed my perception of the entire composition. The concept of the book is that, as humans, we are constantly striving to fix all the broken aspects of our lives: tangible objects, relationships, people, society, anything and everything. However, the act of repair itself is destructive, as “repair destroys brokenness.” (134) As we go about our lives trying to fix these broken pieces along the way, we are actually just refusing to let go. The concept of something that was once good in our lives–a new car, a friend, a possession–not being what it used to be breaks us if we hold on too tightly. I am guilty. I am guilty of everything Spelman writes about concerning repair as preserving continuity with the past.
I seek sentimental value in many things in my life. Somehow, I manage to get emotionally attached to little things, whether they be objects or memories. A few months ago I was drinking tea out of a mug. It was not a fancy mug, but I had gotten it in Puerto Rico and it had an adorable orange crab on it. When I went to put the mug down, it was not fully on the counter surface and it fell. I watched it fall as if it were in slow motion, my heart beat a little out of my chest as I watched the mug shatter into many pieces. I was left with two options: throw away the pieces or save them and try to put them back together. I saved them. My first attempt to fix the mug was unsuccessful because I did not have the right type of glue; so to this day, the pieces of the mug sit in a little jar in my room for me to one day fix. The reality is, it is just a mug. In my kitchen I have tons of mugs: striped ones, greens ones, Hannah Montana ones, so there was no need for me to preserve this one. This was just a minor mishap in my life that happened until I read Repair. Spelman says, “Repair is about trying to preserve some kind of continuity with the past, with objects or relationships that already exist and have fallen prey to damage or decay.” (127) I reflected on this scenario and asked myself “Why?” Why did I save this mug and what was the sentimental attachment? I suppose it was because I got in on vacation or maybe the visual appeal with the crab. However, those are just excuses for me to try and put the pieces back together. In my mind I had made this object into something more than just a ceramic mold to drink out of. This mentality is one of the human faults as a Homo reparan.
Everyone has heard, “Live in the moment, don’t look back in the past,” but this is sometimes easier said than done. Spelman writes, “…for while repair in one sense honors the past by paying homage to an earlier moment, in another sense it erases the past by undoing much of what in the meantime has happened.” (125) Sometimes we are so caught up trying to repair the broken aspects in our lives that we miss enjoying the desirable present things. As we let go of an old chapter to begin a new one, we spend much of our time dwelling on past memories as a result of that being such a wonderful time. Repairing our lives to go back to the way they once were prevents us from fully enjoying life. A way that I pay homage to earlier events in my life is by recording my daily life in a journal. Journals are ways of replication because people write as a way to alleviate their thoughts. Although we can never live the same moments twice, journals remind us of those moments and take us back to the past. Using writing as a tool to repair us on an emotional level allows us to stay in tune with the past and process any broken feelings.
A form of repair that Spelman does not specifically address is closure. Although she mentions apologies which are similar, closure is more for personal benefit. Spelman teaches us that it is not just tangible items that need repair, but sometimes human relationships. Closure is a way of repairing broken emotions within oneself. By seeking closure, humans mend their hurt feelings in an attempt to move forward. If we do not repair by closure, we cannot repair the past. Often times, receiving closure gives us internal peace of mind and puts to rest that agonizing feeling of something not feeling right.
My junior year of high I needed closure to repair my broken self. Although I had not broken a bone or anything physical, my heart felt more shattered than my crab mug. Internally I was so hurt by the action of another person that I could not have moved forward without settling these emotions. When Spelman talks about apologies to repair, she explains how two people must be involved for it to occur. No apology was going to fix how I felt, the only thing that could repair my feelings was to deal with it myself. No words, no matter how meaningful they were, would change what had happened. Closure is an important part of repairing because it is something that an individual needs to do for oneself.
Another way we are tied to the past is through tragedies. Tragedies stir up all different emotions from anger, to sadness, to disappointment. The emotions stick with us and are hard to get rid of because of the capacity of the event. Throughout Repair Spelman mentions the Holocaust and 9/11. Despite the fact that the Holocaust happened many years ago, it is frequently a topic of discussion. Why do we still choose to talk about an event in the past that not only broke but destroyed thousands of people and families? We are connected with this past event because those negative emotions have to be passed down to pay homage to the victims. 9/11 was a tragedy that happened in my lifetime. I live fifteen minutes from New York City and have a 9/11 memorial spot in my town. A destroyed piece of one of the twin towers sits right outside of my highschool by the door. Everyday as students walk in, they are constantly reminded of this awful thing that happened or they can choose to ignore it. Either way, it does not change the fact that fifteen years ago, all those lives were taken. Reality is, we cannot just move on from the things in the past that hurt. They will always impact our lives even if it is in ways we do not realize.
Somethings just cannot be repaired. Even when repair is attempted, it is still never the same from the original. Repairing the broken aspects in our lives prevents us from moving on. Whether we preserve objects that we can simply replaces or are hanging on to overly nostalgic emotions, humans constantly are trying to reach a state of perfection. However, this perfection is unobtainable because every aspect of life eventually deteriorates.