Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mr. Apology

"Forgiveness is not to condone or minimize the awfulness of an atrocity or wrong. It is to recognize its ghastliness, but to choose to acknowledge the essential humanity of the perpetrator and to give that perpetrator the possibility of making a new beginning."
(Desmond Tutu - Nobel Laureate, South African Archbishop)

I gave my second Lenten forgiveness today (I will remain silent about the details).

But it caused me to wonder about the very nature of forgiveness.

Many years ago in NYC there was a man who went by the name "Mr Apology". He was a conceptual artist and an amazing human being. He started a free public service. Anyone could call in to Mr Apology's answering machine and apologize for anything. Every week "Mr A" as he was known to regular listeners, would have a program on that answering machine made up of listener reactions to the past weeks recorded confessions, new confessions and a chance at the end to record one's own confession or commentary. Mr Apology wanted to bring victims and perpetrators into contact, with the object of dialogue and forgiveness. A good article about him appears here which is an interview with his widow

It was a riveting "listen" - a full program each week, edited and assembled by Mr A which included his commentary, his asking of pertinent questions in addition to the input of apologizers and listeners.

What made it interesting to me, and I was a regular listener, was the compassion of Mr A. He just wanted to understand why people had "done wrong", and wanted dialogue between the thieves and the robbed, the abusers and the abused, the unfaithful and the betrayed. It was his belief that this would promote healing, one dialogue at a time. He commented once about "bringing things out of the darkness".

Confessions ran from the expected to the bizarre to the poignant (I recall one young boy calling very nervously to apologize for snapping a girl's bra strap in class.)

Mr Apology ran this phone line for well over a decade. He always had plenty of calls. He didn't advertise, except to put up some stickers on phone booths. Then of course, there were the inevitable newspaper articles that would appear from time to time.

What deep human need fueled this line! I believe that as creatures we WANT to apologize and to forgive, but fear losing something in the process. For some it was just a relief to "finally tell someone". That it was anonymous was what made it at all possible. People were at least willing to be held anonymously accountable.

I bless the fact that Mr Apology walked the earth, but I am so sad that all the institutions and systems that we have do not provide a place where the folks who called in to this line felt they could go.

So tonight I give thanks to God for the life of Allan Bridge, known as Mr. Apology, and for all those who help make the miracle of earthly forgiveness possible.


Anonymous Pat Z. said...

Mata, This person was performing a public service much like confession in the Catholic church, my mother used to say that the priest was the poor man's psychiatrist.

Wanted to comment on your forgiveness of the boys, know what it feels like as my low life in-laws one claim to fame was that they were Penna. Dutch, knowing I was part French, they called me a hunky to my face, I had to forgive them as the man I married, unlike them was a good person. They are all gone now, but it was never easy being in their company.

You asked what spiritual reading I am doing, it's called The word among us. You read the bible along with the meditations in the booklet. I see where you have a link to sacred space, I have been going there every morning for the past year or so.

I like what you write, look forward every day to see what you have written.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Thank you, Pat...I understand about the inlaw connection. My inlaws were's just call them "limited in scope".

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a big fan of Mr. Apology--such a great idea and a way for many people to get a little peace of mind. Also an interesting social study and commentary.

There are a few sites online that are doing the "Internet version" of Mr. Apology that are interesting. One in particular is

You can post anonymously and read others.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mata, I am taking my masters in art at Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil, and was doing a research in telephone art when I fond an article on Mr Apology that led me to your web site.
His work was really interesting, Where can I find more information (the link at the blog is not working). Do you know his real name ? what is he workingo on now ?Thank you. Valeria

8:54 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Valeria -- His name was Allan Bridge and he was killed in a boating accident several years ago. If you have other questions, please post an email that I can reply to. Thanks, Mata

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mata,
Thank you for your answer.
How sad he died !
My e-mail is

3:34 PM  
Blogger JoeLampoet said...

Wrote this poem about Mr. Apology
If you have a moment please
Take a look:

8:44 PM  

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