The Incas and Disposable Everything

In continuing the conversation on LL’s post about Terracing, I have a couple observations:

1) The quote from the book claims that the Incas’ excellent workmanship is caused by their intention to build permanent architecture. Although slightly off the point she is trying to make, I have to question – is that really true? Did they work with excellence only because they aimed at permanence? Could it not be the other way around? Because they worked with excellence, their workmanship endured? I question this because if we take this idea to its end, then we allow ourselves to believe that if we don’t care if our work lasts or not then it is not necessary to work with excellence. And yet that very thought saturates our society: just do the least amount necessary to get by. Now, I recognize that a Cadillac solution is not necessary for every problem, but I don’t think that is the same thing as working with excellence.

2) All that said, there are similarities in the mindset of building something permanent and building something with excellence. When you are focused on permanence, you work knowing that what you are creating must last, that you will have to live with it and that it is worth your time and effort. You think about similar things when you are working with excellence: if this endures time, will I be pleased with my work? if I have to live with it, can I or would I do something differently? if this is worth my time and effort, why would I not work with all my heart to do my best?

3) Lastly, LL’s post actually commented on our “throw away society” and the effect that has on our perspective on relationships, material things and even our church. I wonder if, in part, this is related to our fierce desire to maintain our independence and our anxiety around commitment. By having the option to throw something away as soon as it no longer is useful to us, we retain some illusion of control over our lives. We don’t like to think about the consequences of our reckless disposal system (on our Earth, on other people, on the reputation of Christ) because we favor our own convenience. No strings, no commitments, no guilt…but in reality, no true satisfaction, no authentic relationships and no real meaning and purpose. Given that choice, I prefer to settle in and stay awhile.

Photo: Vineyard just outside of Florence, Italy, 2002


  1. spaghettipie

    Thanks, Craver. I have really enjoyed pondering what I’ve been reading in everyone’s blog lately. It’s part of what I miss about college – constant intellectual stimulation. Spending all day with an 18 month old only seems to heighten that craving.

  2. L.L. Barkat

    I agree that working with excellence doesn’t always have to be accompanied by a goal to achieve permanence. This is what amazes me, for instance, about some of the sidewalk chalk artists.

    Like you say, however, when we know we’ll have to (or want to) live with something for awhile, it certainly beckons us to work with excellence.

    So, does our lack of wanting to live with permanence sometimes belie a laziness of heart and hand? Or a refusal to work beyond mediocrity?

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