I just heard a Fresh Air interview, downloaded from Audible.com, of Mark Zupan, one of the best Quadriplegic Rugby players in the world, about the new movie Murderball.
I have not seen this movie but I will. Mark Zupan is very articulate and was a great interview subject. I learned a couple of things today:
a) Anyone who has a broken neck from C1-C7 is considered a quadriplegic; anyone with a broken neck from T1 and lower is considered a paraplegic.
b) When I think of quadriplegia, I think of Christopher Reeve. The truth is that a quadriplegic has impairment in all four limbs but not necessarily loss of all function in the limbs. Zupan has quite strong arms but has serious impairment in his hands.
c) Quadriplegics generally maintain the ability to get an erection. Paraplegics often have difficulties in this area. Given the choice between full use of one's hands and full use of one's penis, most quads consider themselves "luckier." There might be a certain level of rivalry between quadriplegics and paraplegics. I wonder if people who are totally blind feel superior to people who are legally blind but have some remaining vision. "Ah, but you're not completely blind. I win that paper-scissors-rock game of Who Has The Greatest Disability!"
But this little blog entry isn't about the movie, which I've already mentioned having never seen. Nor is it about quadriplegia (which looks spelled wrong; I had to check as I started writing this). Nor is it about the amazing capacity for humans to overcome bad fortune and enormous odds to become both successful in the workforce (Zupan is a civil engineer) and in the sporting world.
This is about apologies.
Mark Zupan and his teammates from his college soccer team went out drinking one night after a game. Zupan drank way too much and climbed into the back of his friend's pickup truck to sleep it off. His friend, Chris, having had way too much to drink himself, drove off in the truck not knowing Zupan slept in the bed. On his way home Chris lost control of the truck and the truck spun, nearly causing him to have an accident. A police officer saw the truck spin and arrested Chris for drunk driving. What neither Chris nor the police officer knew was that Zupan had been ejected from the bed of the truck, flew over a wall, and landed in a canal where he lay for fourteen hours with a broken neck.
Mark Zupan became a quadriplegic. Chris became the one who put Mark in the wheelchair forever.
Here's the rub: who has the harder life? My understanding is that the movie addresses this issue but it got me thinking.
Chris did something stupid (drive drunk) and it got his friend seriously hurt. Chris had no idea he was putting his friend at risk but the fact remains: no drunk driving = no drunk driving misadventure.
Mark said in the interview that he never expected an apology from Chris. Mark seems more of a "shit happens" kind of guy. Chris didn't know about Mark being in the truck, so Mark expects no apology from him.
The problem is that Chris probably needs Mark to forgive him. I'm sure Mark saying the words wasn't enough and perhaps nothing would be enough. Chris probably needs to forgive himself; but if he does then what does that say about his character? I put my friend in a wheelchair and I've forgiven myself. Good for me, but Mark is still in a wheelchair.
And I take the thought out of the story of Mark and Chris. Have you ever hurt someone? Of course. Have you ever asked for forgiveness? Hopefully. Were you forgiven? Does it matter?
Does it matter?
By asking for forgiveness, one gives the reins of one's guilt to the person who was wronged. The wronged person can withhold forgiveness and create more guilt. The wronged person can grant the forgiveness but keep a measure of superiority about it. The wronged person can grant full forgiveness and both parties can move on. Or can they?
Huge problem or minor faux pas, the wrong was still committed. Neither will likely forget it. In my experience one only forgives themselves after the passage of time. The size of the wrong will determine how much time it takes.
If I put my friend in a wheelchair could I ever completely forgive myself? Probably not. I might dedicate my life to helping that person but it wouldn't be enough. I might do what I could for a little while then completely disappear so I wouldn't be constantly reminded of it, but it would still be part of me.
I screwed this up. I caused this hurt.
There's nothing I can do to take it back; that's not how life works. The only thing I can do is keep trying to not screw up in the future.
That's all any of us can do.
I'll make you a deal: You keep trying to do the right thing and so will I. When you stumble I will lend you a hand. If I trip you, accidentally or on purpose, I will lend a hand. If I do not see that you have fallen, raise your hand and ask me to lend mine.
That way we can all get through this life thing.