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課程來源:TED
     

 

Joshua Prager 談尋找弄斷我脖子的人

Joshua Prager: In search of the man who broke my neck

 

Photo of three lions hunting on the Serengeti.

講者:Joshua Prager

2013年3月演講,2013年4月在TED 2013上線

 

翻譯:洪曉慧

編輯:朱學恆

簡繁轉換:洪曉慧

後製:洪曉慧

字幕影片後制:謝旻均

 

影片請按此下載

MAC及手持裝置版本請按此下載

閱讀中文字幕純文字版本

 

關於這場演講

Joshua Prager 19歲時,一場毀滅性的公車事故令他半身不遂。二十年後,他重返以色列,尋找使他的人生徹底改觀的司機。在這個關於兩人相見的迷人故事中,Prager深入探索關於天性、教養、自我欺騙和命運的問題。

 

關於Joshua Prager

Joshua Prager的報導揭開歷史-及他本身的秘密。

 

為什麼要聽他演講

Joshua Prager名義上是記者,事實上是一名說書人。他任職於《華爾街日報》十多年,最初擔任新聞助理,一路晉升為資深作家。Prager擅長撰寫扣人心弦的故事,他的作品有一個共通點:和秘密有關。

 

任職報社期間,Prager揭露世上唯一的匿名普立茲獎得主、童書《月亮晚安》作者的神祕繼承人,及1951年紐約巨人棒球隊如何以不光彩手段獲勝的內幕,這個故事寫在他的著作《The Echoing Green》中。

 

今天,Prager將重點放在一個私人故事:一場發生於1990年的公車意外導致當時19歲的他半身不遂。他在關於這場事故的新書《Half-Life》中,探索認知及其對瞬間改變的人生來說意味著什麼。

 

「Joshua Prager是傑出的說書人,帶來遠勝於個人不幸經歷的精彩故事。」

-Kenneth Mathews, TED.com

 

Joshua Prager的英語網上資料

Home: JoshuaPrager.com

Book: Half-Life

 

[TED科技‧娛樂‧設計]

已有中譯字幕的TED影片目錄(繁體)(簡體)。請注意繁簡目錄是不一樣的。

 

Joshua Prager 談尋找弄斷我脖子的人

 

一年前,我在耶路撒冷租了一輛車,尋找一位素未謀面,卻改變我一生的人。我沒有對方的電話號碼,告知他我即將造訪;我沒有確切地址;但我知道他的名字:Abed。我知道他住在一個擁有15,000居民的小鎮Kfar Kara;我知道21年前,就在這座聖城外,他弄斷了我的脖子。因此,在一月某個陰霾的早晨,我前往北方,乘著一輛銀色雪佛蘭轎車,尋找一名男子,和些許平靜。

 

道路向前延伸,我離開了耶路撒冷。接著,車子繞過當時那個彎道-他的藍色卡車滿載四噸重的地磚,以極高的速度撞向我搭的小型公車左後方。當時我19歲;在八個月當中,我長高了5英吋,大約做了兩萬個伏地挺身。車禍前一晚,我對自己剛練出的體格十分滿意。五月份時,我曾經徹夜和朋友打籃球,直到淩晨。我用巨大的右掌將球一把抓住,當那隻手碰到籃框時,我感到所向無敵。我搭公車出城,是為了取我從球場上贏得的披薩。

 

我沒看見Abed衝來;當時我從座位上仰視一座山丘上的石城,在正午的陽光下閃閃發光。此時,身後傳來猛烈的撞擊,彷彿炸彈爆炸般的巨響和衝力。我的脖子折向紅色座椅後方,我的鼓膜破裂,我的鞋子飛出,我也同樣飛出,腦袋在折斷的頸椎上晃動。當我著地時,已成了半身不遂的人。接下來幾個月中,我學著靠自己呼吸,然後學著自行坐起、站立、行走。但我已無法直起身體;我成了半身不遂的人。我回到紐約的家鄉,整整四年,我都在輪椅上度過-整個大學時光。

 

大學畢業後,我返回耶路撒冷,待了一年。我在那裡逐漸脫離輪椅,藉由手杖行走。我回顧過往,試著尋找公車上所有乘客和車禍相關照片。當我看見這張照片時,眼中所見並非血淋淋而無法動彈的身體,而是那塊健康的左三角肌,痛心它已不復存在;痛心所有我尚未做過的事,但現在已不可能做到。

 

就在那時,我讀了Abed於車禍發生後那天上午提供的證詞;當時他沿著通往耶路撒冷的右側車道前進。讀完他的證詞後,我滿腔怒火,這是我第一次對這名男子感到憤怒。這來自所謂的「神奇式思考」。在這個版本中,車禍尚未發生,Abed可以順利左轉,因此我能看見他從窗外呼嘯而過,我得以毫髮無傷。「注意,Abed,小心點;放慢速度。」但Abed並未減速。在那個版本中,我的脖子再次折斷;再次地,我的怒火逐漸平息。

 

我決定尋找Abed。當我終於找到他時,他從容不迫地回應我以希伯來語打的招呼,似乎一直在等我的電話。或許確實如此。我並未向Abed提起他之前的駕駛記錄-25歲時已有27次違規,最後一次正是五月那場車禍;他的卡車並未減速。我並未提起我之前的遭遇-四肢癱瘓、插著導尿管、種種不安和失落。當Abed滔滔不絕地訴說他在車禍中傷得多重時,我並未提起我從警方的報告得知他並未受到重傷。我說我想和他見面,Abed說我不妨幾週後再打電話給他。當我這麼做時,語音訊息告訴我這個號碼無法接通。我放下Abed和這場車禍。

 

多年來,我帶著手杖、護踝和背包遨遊六大洲;我開始在中央公園每週一次的壘球比賽中嘗試上肩投球;在紐約的家鄉,我成為記者和作家,用一根手指打出成千上萬個字。某位朋友指出,我所有的作品都反映出我本身的經歷,每個故事都著重於瞬間改變人生的事件。因此,除了車禍,還有傳承、揮棒、按快門、逮捕。每個人都有過去和未來,畢竟我已經歷我的命運。

 

儘管我逐漸淡忘Abed,直到去年。為了撰寫關於這場車禍的經歷,我重返以色列。當這本著作《Half-Life》即將完成時,我意識到我仍然想和Abed見面,我終於明白其中原因:我想聽這個人說兩個字:「抱歉」。人們會為更微不足道的事道歉。因此我向一名警察確認,Abed仍住在原本那個小鎮某處。這次我開車前往,後座放了一盆黃玫瑰。此時我突然覺得鮮花似乎是一份荒謬至極的禮物,但你還能帶什麼給弄斷你該死的脖子的人?(笑聲)我駛進Abu Ghosh鎮,買了一塊土耳其軟糖;帶著玫瑰花香的開心果口味。好多了。

 

我駛回1號高速公路,想像等待我的會是什麼。Abed或許會擁抱我;Abed或許會朝我吐口水;Abed或許會說「抱歉」。接著我開始想像,如同曾經浮現過無數次的想法:如果這個人不曾使我受傷,我的人生將有何不同?如果我曾經擁有不同經歷,我會是什麼樣的人?我會是車禍之前那個我嗎?在那條道路彷彿攤開書本的書脊般,將我的人生一分為二之前?我是否是過往經歷的產物?是否世上每個人都是過往經歷的產物,例如父母的離異或配偶的不忠?或繼承的財產?是否塑造我們的並非身體和與生俱來的天賦及缺陷?彷彿我們僅是遺傳和經驗的產物。但如何分辨其中差異?如葉慈(愛爾蘭詩人)曾經提出的普世問題:「喔,隨著音樂搖曳的身體;喔,閃亮的眼神。我們如何區分舞者與舞蹈?」我開了一小時的車,當我望向後照鏡時,看見自己閃亮的眼神,眼中的光芒從出生就已存在。天性和衝動驅使我如同蹣跚學步的孩子,試圖從船上撲進芝加哥某個湖中;驅使我彷彿青少年般,在颶風後跳入波濤洶湧的鱈魚角。但我也從鏡中倒影看見,如果Abed不曾使我受傷,現在我很可能成為一位醫生、一位丈夫和一位父親;我不會那麼在意時間和死亡。喔,我也不會殘廢,不會遭受無數坎坷的命運。不時蜷起的五指;齒縫間的碎片-來自大部分我咬過的東西;一隻無法張開的手。舞者和舞蹈永遠無法合而為一。

 

當我駛出通往Afula的交流道時,將近11點。經過一座大採石場後,很快就抵達Kfar Kara。我感到一陣緊張,但收音機裡正播放蕭邦的樂曲;七首美妙的馬祖卡舞曲。我駛入某個加油站旁的停車場,仔細聆聽,試著恢復平靜。

 

我聽說在阿拉伯小鎮裡,只要提起當地人的名字,必定有人認識。我說明Abed和我的關係,強調我來此並無惡意-對這座小鎮的居民。正午時分,我在郵局外遇見Mohamed,他聽我訴說來意。

 

你們知道,大多數情況下,當我向人們訴說,我想知道我之前的人生終止於何處,我的殘疾從何而來,許多人會告訴我一些他們不會告訴任何人的事;許多人潸然淚下。某天,我在街上遇到的一名女子,表現出同樣反應後,我問她為何流淚。她告訴我,她認為她是為了我的樂觀和堅強流淚-還有我的脆弱。聽了她的話之後,我認為確實如此。我依然是我,但已成了現在的我;儘管身有殘疾,我想這正是使我成為現在的我的原因。

 

總之,Mohamed告訴我或許他不會告訴其他陌生人的事。他將帶我到一座奶油色的房子前,然後驅車離開。當我坐在車上,思考該說什麼時,一位穿著黑色披肩和黑色罩袍的女子走向我。我走下車,開口說,「Shalom(平安,猶太招呼語)。」然後自我介紹。她說她丈夫Abed將在4小時後下班回家。她的希伯來語不太好;之後,她坦承她以為我是來裝網路的。(笑聲)

 

我驅車離開,於四點半返回。感謝路旁的尖塔,幫助我找到返回的路。當我走向前門時,Abed看見了我-我的牛仔褲、法蘭絨上衣和手杖-我也看見了Abed。一名相貌普通、中等身材的男子。他穿著黑白色系服裝:拖鞋內穿著襪子、起毛球的運動褲、黑白相間的毛衣、蓋住前額的條紋滑雪帽。他知道我要來;Mohamed已打電話通知他。因此我們立刻握手、微笑致意。我將禮物遞給他,他說我是他的貴賓;我們並肩坐在布質沙發上。

 

Abed立刻開始繼續講述他16年前於電話中未曾說完的悲慘故事。他說他的眼睛剛動過手術,他的身側和大腿也有毛病。喔,他在那場車禍中失去了牙齒。我是否想看他拿下假牙?然後Abed站起身來,打開電視,希望他離開房間時我不會感到孤單。返回時,他拿著那場車禍的拍立得相片和他的舊駕照。

 

「我以前很帥,」他說。

 

我們低頭看著那張佈滿摺痕的舊相片。Abed從來就稱不上帥:濃密的黑髮、飽滿的圓臉和粗壯的脖子。就是這個年輕人,在1990年5月16日,弄斷了兩個人的脖子;包括我在內。使一個人腦部受傷,奪去一條生命。21年後的今天,他比妻子還瘦,皮膚鬆垮地垂在臉上。看看眼前的Abed,再看看年輕時的他,我想起車禍後看見自己年輕時照片的感覺,明白了他的渴望。

 

「那場車禍改變了我們兩人的生命,」我說。

 

然後Abed讓我看他撞爛的卡車照片,說那場車禍是左車道那位公車司機的錯,因為他不肯讓路。我不想和Abed重提那場車禍,我期待的是某些更簡單的事:用土耳其軟糖換兩個字,然後走人。因此我並未指出,車禍後那天上午,他所說的證詞中,甚至不曾提及那名公車司機。是的,我默不作聲。我默不作聲,因為我並非為了尋求真相而來;我是為了他的悔意而來,因此我繼續尋找那份悔意,讓真相埋葬在那輛公車下。

 

「我瞭解,」我說。「那場車禍不是你的錯。但你是否為其他人的遭遇感到難過?」

 

Abed很快地說出這幾個字:「是的,我很難過。」

 

然後Abed告訴我為何他感到難過。車禍前,他一直過著放蕩的生活,因此上帝降下這場車禍。但現在,他說,他有了信仰,上帝感到喜悅。

 

就在這時,上帝的身影浮現。電視播出一則新聞:一場幾小時前發生的車禍,使三名前往北方的人喪命。我們看著畫面上的汽車殘骸。

 

「真巧,」我說。

 

「真巧,」Abed附和。

 

我腦海裡浮現一個想法:在804公路上,有肇事者與受害者,因一場車禍而產生聯繫。有些人,如Abed,或許忘了另一方;有些人,如我,依然記得。新聞播報完畢後,Abed開口。

 

「很遺憾,」他說。「我國警方對差勁的駕駛不夠嚴厲。」

 

我困惑不已;Abed說了出人意料的話。難道是為了強調這場車禍錯不在他嗎?難道是內疚的表現,認為他應該多關幾年?他在監獄裡待了六個月,卡車駕照被吊銷十年。我忘了原本的謹慎。

 

「呃,Abed,」我說。「我想車禍前你已經有一些駕駛上的問題。」

 

「喔,」他說。「我曾經在速限40的情況下開到60。」因此,27次違規-闖紅燈、超速行駛、開上逆向車道、最後踩著剎車衝下山,濃縮成輕描淡寫的一句話。

 

此時,我領悟到,無論事實多麼明顯,人們總會將它美化成合理的故事。壞人成了英雄,犯罪者成了受害者。此時,我領悟到,Abed永遠不會道歉。

 

Abed和我坐著喝咖啡,我們一起度過90分鐘;現在我已瞭解他的為人。他並非壞透頂的惡棍,亦非急公好義的大善人;他只是一個見識淺薄的人,認為應該對我釋出善意。他以猶太禮節向我點頭致意,祝我活到120歲。但對我來說,很難與某個如此徹底和自己造成的悲劇撇清關係的人套交情。這個渾渾噩噩過生活的人;他說他以為有兩個人死於這場車禍。

 

我有很多話想對Abed說。我想問他是否能體會我的殘疾。那沒什麼,人們總是對像我這樣面帶笑容的殘障人士做出錯誤解讀;人們不知道他們曾經歷過更悲慘的遭遇,內心的衝擊比一輛失控的卡車嚴重得多。心理問題甚至更加嚴重、更加傷人,勝於一百個斷了的脖子。我想告訴他,塑造我們大多數人的主要因素並非我們的思想、我們的身體,亦非我們的遭遇,而是如何面對我們的遭遇。精神病專家Viktor Frankl曾說:「這是人類最後的自主權:在任何特定情況下選擇自己的態度。」我想告訴他,不僅是癱瘓者和致人癱瘓者必須向前邁進、接受事實,每個人都必須如此-年老者、憂慮者、離婚者、禿頭者、破產者,乃至每個人。我想告訴他,我們不該說壞事是好事。車禍是上帝賜予的,因此車禍是好事;脖子斷了是好事。你可以說壞事令人痛恨,但世上還有很多美好的事。最後,我想告訴他,我們的使命十分明確:我們必須從厄運中站起,我們必須處於好的狀態,並樂在其中。學習和工作、冒險和友誼-喔,友誼;夥伴和愛。

 

但最重要的是,我想告訴他Herman Melville(美國作家)所說的:「欲真正體會身體的溫暖,你的某部分必須是寒冷的;因為世上沒有所謂的標準,一切都只是相對問題。」是的,相對。如果你意識到不曾擁有的事物,或許能真正體會已擁有的事物;如果上帝是仁慈的,你或許能真正享受所擁有的一切。這是一份你能獲得的禮物,當你遭受任何形式的苦難時。意識到死亡的存在,才能在每天早上醒來時感受生命的脈動;你的某部分感到寒冷,其他部分才能真正感受何謂溫暖,或何謂寒冷。車禍發生數年後的一個早晨,我踏上一塊石頭,左腳底感到一股寒意;我的神經終於恢復知覺。這令人精神一振,彷彿突如其來的一場風雪。

 

但我並未告訴Abed這些。我只告訴他,他害死了一個人,不是兩個。我告訴他那個人的名字,然後說:「再見。」

 

謝謝。(掌聲)

 

十分感謝。(掌聲)

 

以下為系統擷取之英文原文

About the Talk

When Joshua Prager was 19, a devastating bus accident left him a hemiplegic. He returned to Israel twenty years later to find the driver who turned his world upside down. In this mesmerizing tale of their meeting, Prager probes deep questions of nature, nurture, self-deception and destiny.
 
About the Speaker
Joshua Prager’s journalism unravels historical secrets -- and his own.
 
About the Transcript
One year ago, I rented a car in Jerusalem to go find a man I'd never met but who had changed my life. I didn't have a phone number to call to say I was coming. I didn't have an exact address, but I knew his name, Abed, I knew that he lived in a town of 15,000, Kfar Kara, and I knew that, 21 years before, just outside this holy city, he broke my neck. And so, on an overcast morning in January, I headed north off in a silver Chevy to find a man and some peace.
 
The road dropped and I exited Jerusalem. I then rounded the very bend where his blue truck, heavy with four tons of floor tiles, had borne down with great speed onto the back left corner of the minibus where I sat. I was then 19 years old. I'd grown five inches and done some 20,000 pushups in eight months, and the night before the crash, I delighted in my new body, playing basketball with friends into the wee hours of a May morning. I palmed the ball in my large right hand, and when that hand reached the rim, I felt invincible. I was off in the bus to get the pizza I'd won on the court.
 
I didn't see Abed coming. From my seat, I was looking up at a stone town on a hilltop, bright in the noontime sun, when from behind there was a great bang, as loud and violent as a bomb. My head snapped back over my red seat. My eardrum blew. My shoes flew off. I flew too, my head bobbing on broken bones, and when I landed, I was a quadriplegic. Over the coming months, I learned to breathe on my own, then to sit and to stand and to walk, but my body was now divided vertically. I was a hemiplegic, and back home in New York, I used a wheelchair for four years, all through college.
 
College ended and I returned to Jerusalem for a year. There I rose from my chair for good, I leaned on my cane, and I looked back, finding all from my fellow passengers in the bus to photographs of the crash, and when I saw this photograph, I didn't see a bloody and unmoving body. I saw the healthy bulk of a left deltoid, and I mourned that it was lost, mourned all I had not yet done, but was now impossible.
 
It was then I read the testimony that Abed gave the morning after the crash, of driving down the right lane of a highway toward Jerusalem. Reading his words, I welled with anger. It was the first time I'd felt anger toward this man, and it came from magical thinking. On this xeroxed piece of paper, the crash had not yet happened. Abed could still turn his wheel left so that I would see him whoosh by out my window and I would remain whole. "Be careful, Abed, look out. Slow down." But Abed did not slow, and on that xeroxed piece of paper, my neck again broke, and again, I was left without anger.
 
I decided to find Abed, and when I finally did, he responded to my Hebrew hello which such nonchalance, it seemed he'd been awaiting my phone call. And maybe he had. I didn't mention to Abed his prior driving record -- 27 violations by the age of 25, the last, his not shifting his truck into a low gear on that May day — and I didn't mention my prior record -- the quadriplegia and the catheters, the insecurity and the loss — and when Abed went on about how hurt he was in the crash, I didn't say that I knew from the police report that he'd escaped serious injury. I said I wanted to meet. Abed said that I should call back in a few weeks, and when I did, and a recording told me that his number was disconnected, I let Abed and the crash go.
 
Many years passed. I walked with my cane and my ankle brace and a backpack on trips in six continents. I pitched overhand in a weekly softball game that I started in Central Park, and home in New York, I became a journalist and an author, typing hundreds of thousands of words with one finger. A friend pointed out to me that all of my big stories mirrored my own, each centering on a life that had changed in an instant, owing, if not to a crash, then to an inheritance, a swing of the bat, a click of the shutter, an arrest. Each of us had a before and an after. I'd been working through my lot after all.
 
Still, Abed was far from my mind, when last year, I returned to Israel to write of the crash, and the book I then wrote, "Half-Life," was nearly complete when I recognized that I still wanted to meet Abed, and finally I understood why: to hear this man say two words: "I'm sorry." People apologize for less. And so I got a cop to confirm that Abed still lived somewhere in his same town, and I was now driving to it with a potted yellow rose in the back seat, when suddenly flowers seemed a ridiculous offering. But what to get the man who broke your fucking neck? (Laughter) I pulled into the town of Abu Ghosh, and bought a brick of Turkish delight: pistachios glued in rosewater. Better.
 
Back on Highway 1, I envisioned what awaited. Abed would hug me. Abed would spit at me. Abed would say, "I'm sorry." I then began to wonder, as I had many times before, how my life would have been different had this man not injured me, had my genes been fed a different helping of experience. Who was I? Was I who I had been before the crash, before this road divided my life like the spine of an open book? Was I what had been done to me? Were all of us the results of things done to us, done for us, the infidelity of a parent or spouse, money inherited? Were we instead our bodies, their inborn endowments and deficits? It seemed that we could be nothing more than genes and experience, but how to tease out the one from the other? As Yeats put that same universal question, "O body swayed to music, o brightening glance, how can we know the dancer from the dance?" I'd been driving for an hour when I looked in my rearview mirror and saw my own brightening glance. The light my eyes had carried for as long as they had been blue. The predispositions and impulses that had propelled me as a toddler to try and slip over a boat into a Chicago lake, that had propelled me as a teen to jump into wild Cape Cod Bay after a hurricane. But I also saw in my reflection that, had Abed not injured me, I would now, in all likelihood, be a doctor and a husband and a father. I would be less mindful of time and of death, and, oh, I would not be disabled, would not suffer the thousand slings and arrows of my fortune. The frequent furl of five fingers, the chips in my teeth come from biting at all the many things a solitary hand cannot open. The dancer and the dance were hopelessly entwined.
 
It was approaching 11 when I exited right toward Afula, and passed a large quarry and was soon in Kfar Kara. I felt a pang of nerves. But Chopin was on the radio, seven beautiful mazurkas, and I pulled into a lot by a gas station to listen and to calm.
 
I'd been told that in an Arab town, one need only mention the name of a local and it will be recognized. And I was mentioning Abed and myself, noting deliberately that I was here in peace, to the people in this town, when I met Mohamed outside a post office at noon. He listened to me.
 
You know, it was most often when speaking to people that I wondered where I ended and my disability began, for many people told me what they told no one else. Many cried. And one day, after a woman I met on the street did the same and I later asked her why, she told me that, best she could tell, her tears had had something to do with my being happy and strong, but vulnerable too. I listened to her words. I suppose they were true. I was me, but I was now me despite a limp, and that, I suppose, was what now made me, me.
 
Anyway, Mohamed told me what perhaps he would not have told another stranger. He led me to a house of cream stucco, then drove off. And as I sat contemplating what to say, a woman approached in a black shawl and black robe. I stepped from my car and said "Shalom," and identified myself, and she told me that her husband Abed would be home from work in four hours. Her Hebrew was not good, and she later confessed that she thought that I had come to install the Internet. (Laughter)
 
I drove off and returned at 4:30, thankful to the minaret up the road that helped me find my way back. And as I approached the front door, Abed saw me, my jeans and flannel and cane, and I saw Abed, an average-looking man of average size. He wore black and white: slippers over socks, pilling sweatpants, a piebald sweater, a striped ski cap pulled down to his forehead. He'd been expecting me. Mohamed had phoned. And so at once, we shook hands, and smiled, and I gave him my gift, and he told me I was a guest in his home, and we sat beside one another on a fabric couch.
 
It was then that Abed resumed at once the tale of woe he had begun over the phone 16 years before. He'd just had surgery on his eyes, he said. He had problems with his side and his legs too, and, oh, he'd lost his teeth in the crash. Did I wish to see him remove them? Abed then rose and turned on the TV so that I wouldn't be alone when he left the room, and returned with polaroids of the crash and his old driver's license.
 
"I was handsome," he said.
 
We looked down at his laminated mug. Abed had been less handsome than substantial, with thick black hair and a full face and a wide neck. It was this youth who on May 16, 1990, had broken two necks including mine, and bruised one brain and taken one life. Twenty-one years later, he was now thinner than his wife, his skin slack on his face, and looking at Abed looking at his young self, I remembered looking at that photograph of my young self after the crash, and recognized his longing.
 
"The crash changed both of our lives," I said.
 
Abed then showed me a picture of his mashed truck, and said that the crash was the fault of a bus driver in the left lane who did not let him pass. I did not want to recap the crash with Abed. I'd hoped for something simpler: to exchange a Turkish dessert for two words and be on my way. And so I didn't point out that in his own testimony the morning after the crash, Abed did not even mention the bus driver. No, I was quiet. I was quiet because I had not come for truth. I had come for remorse. And so I now went looking for remorse and threw truth under the bus.
 
"I understand," I said, "that the crash was not your fault, but does it make you sad that others suffered?"
 
Abed spoke three quick words. "Yes, I suffered."
 
Abed then told me why he'd suffered. He'd lived an unholy life before the crash, and so God had ordained the crash, but now, he said, he was religious, and God was pleased.
 
It was then that God intervened: news on the TV of a car wreck that hours before had killed three people up north. We looked up at the wreckage.
 
"Strange," I said.
 
"Strange," he agreed.
 
I had the thought that there, on Route 804, there were perpetrators and victims, dyads bound by a crash. Some, as had Abed, would forget the date. Some, as had I, would remember. The report finished and Abed spoke.
 
"It is a pity," he said, "that the police in this country are not tough enough on bad drivers."
 
I was baffled. Abed had said something remarkable. Did it point up the degree to which he'd absolved himself of the crash? Was it evidence of guilt, an assertion that he should have been put away longer? He'd served six months in prison, lost his truck license for a decade. I forgot my discretion.
 
"Um, Abed," I said, "I thought you had a few driving issues before the crash."
 
"Well," he said, "I once went 60 in a 40." And so 27 violations -- driving through a red light, driving at excessive speed, driving on the wrong side of a barrier, and finally, riding his brakes down that hill -- reduced to one.
 
And it was then I understood that no matter how stark the reality, the human being fits it into a narrative that is palatable. The goat becomes the hero. The perpetrator becomes the victim. It was then I understood that Abed would never apologize.
 
Abed and I sat with our coffee. We'd spent 90 minutes together, and he was now known to me. He was not a particularly bad man or a particularly good man. He was a limited man who'd found it within himself to be kind to me. With a nod to Jewish custom, he told me that I should live to be 120 years old. But it was hard for me to relate to one who had so completely washed his hands of his own calamitous doing, to one whose life was so unexamined that he said he thought two people had died in the crash.
 
There was much I wished to say to Abed. I wished to tell him that, were he to acknowledge my disability, it would be okay, for people are wrong to marvel at those like me who smile as we limp. People don't know that they have lived through worse, that problems of the heart hit with a force greater than a runaway truck, that problems of the mind are greater still, more injurious, than a hundred broken necks. I wished to tell him that what makes most of us who we are most of all is not our minds and not our bodies and not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us. "This," wrote the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, "is the last of the human freedoms: to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances." I wished to tell him that not only paralyzers and paralyzees must evolve, reconcile to reality, but we all must -- the aging and the anxious and the divorced and the balding and the bankrupt and everyone. I wished to tell him that one does not have to say that a bad thing is good, that a crash is from God and so a crash is good, a broken neck is good. One can say that a bad thing sucks, but that this natural world still has many glories. I wished to tell him that, in the end, our mandate is clear: We have to rise above bad fortune. We have to be in the good and enjoy the good, study and work and adventure and friendship -- oh, friendship -- and community and love.
 
But most of all, I wished to tell him what Herman Melville wrote, that "truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast." Yes, contrast. If you are mindful of what you do not have, you may be truly mindful of what you do have, and if the gods are kind, you may truly enjoy what you have. That is the one singular gift you may receive if you suffer in any existential way. You know death, and so may wake each morning pulsing with ready life. Some part of you is cold, and so another part may truly enjoy what it is to be warm, or even to be cold. When one morning, years after the crash, I stepped onto stone and the underside of my left foot felt the flash of cold, nerves at last awake, it was exhilarating, a gust of snow.
 
But I didn't say these things to Abed. I told him only that he had killed one man, not two. I told him the name of that man. And then I said, "Goodbye."
 
Thank you.
 
(Applause) Thanks a lot. (Applause)

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