While the homo-reparans has an innate impulse for repair, Spelman introduces the reader to that which is admired for being destroyed: ruins. In chapter six of Repair, Spelman discusses ruins and their importance to the homo-reparans. One of the major influences of ruins is that they provide instruction for future generations. Spelman states: “Over the centuries, ruins have been seen as providing instruction on many matters, including, for example, our relation to nature, to the gods, and other human beings”(Spelman 105). This is indeed very visible in our society; wherever we go, our surroundings in the present can serve as a reminder of the past. Many large buildings scattered throughout cities and in college campuses have large pillars and dome shaped ceilings similar to what you would find at ruins in ancient Greece or Rome. Ruins also serve as a reminder that nature often prevails over the most powerful of civilizations.
In their palpable state of collapse, decay, and disintegration, once-grand structures wear irrefutable evidence of the overwhelming power of nature to erode, to break down, to inexorably wear away even the sturdiest of humankind’s monuments…. Nature might also add insult to injury by taking up habitation in the ruins where flora fauna–trees, undergrowth, rodents, bat– freely exercise their squatting rights…. there is no gainsaying the present state of ruination.(Spelman 105)
Some of the most powerful civilizations in the world are now strangled in vines or drowned beneath layers of sand. While Fred’s methods of restoration would be severely frowned upon as “the state of terminal disrepair characteristic of ruins has been treated as the source of rapturous enthrallment, or at the very least poignant instruction”, there are large campaigns costing millions of dollars devoted to freeing ruins from the entanglement of nature(Spelman 103). These excavations are led by archaeologists who aim to discover these ruins which have been buried alive by nature. Spelman provides the reader with another very interesting interpretation of the natures domination over ruins:
Recognition of nature’s undeniable powers becomes the occasion for some observers to reflect on the impermanence and transiency of everything, including human life; and that in turn may lead some to despair (all human endeavor is in the end futile) while providing others with a sense of pleasurable melancholy (the beauty of things and people is enhanced by the necessity of their disintegration and death). Oh ruins, what dost thou tell us–that you, and thus also we ourselves, are vanquished by nature? or do you, and we, simply become more clearly part of it? Is the natural world our “inevitable tomb” or our “eternal home”? (Spelman 106)
While we may admire these ruins, they truly do serve as a reminder of our own mortality. As Spelman pointed out, many people will interpret this reminder differently; some will see the grim reality of death, while others will find allure in the temporal nature of things. Regardless of our interpretations, we can be sure that our generation will be the ancients of the future, our homes being its ruins. One of the major differences between today and the past is modern technology. There is potential that modern technology will be able to prolong life and counter nature. We have already built cities at the scale of nobody before us, with buildings reaching the clouds. However, this technology of life also comes with the technology of destruction. Almost every major country has nuclear weapons, and the end of the world is just a button push away. While previous civilizations such as the Mayans have suddenly vanished without any explainable cause, we can still see reminders of their lives through their ruins. A modern nuclear war could bring so much devastation that their would not even be ruins to serve as instruction for survivors. Spelman distinguishes the difference between ruins and rubble.
Such predictable smoothness aside, it is true that mere rubble does not a ruins make. We do not have ruins in the absence of a certain way of framing decay and disintegration.(Spelman 107)
Ruins are not just any state of disrepair…. There is a difference between a state of disrepair to which one eagerly rushes and a state of disrepair from which one desperately flees. (Spelman 113)
With the weapons of mass destruction we have today, we might be the first to leave behind no ruins. Just rubble.