Wednesday, November 09, 2011


I'm enjoying Realm of the Incas by Victor W. Von Hagen. Some of the pleasurable aspects of many books are little asides that catch my attention or small insights into the values and beliefs of the author or turns of phrase that have a special quality. As I'm reading the book I've highlighted portions that caught my attention. Some feed my biases, some cause me to stop and think, some surprise me, some amuse me.

I've italicized the portions that made me stop reading and do a little musing.

  • Human beings everywhere act like human beings. They knew that the gods were dead, but they persuaded themselves that they were living and fell, just as we ourselves do, into inextricable contradictions.

  • Unlike modern society, wrote Osborne, in which work is regarded as a necessary evil undertaken to secure a leisure which society is untrained to utilize, in Inca society work was regarded as an end in itself.

  • Pleasures and pains are universal; amidst the eternal illusion that envelops us one thing is certain -- suffering. It is the cornerstone of life.

  • There are almost everywhere two aspects to religion. In its first aspect, it is the simple expression of natural man who faces the unexplainable and stands in awe of the supernatural and makes his obeisance to it. In its second aspect, the organized religion took his simple faith, here as in all other religions, and embroidered these fears with elaborate borders of hocus-pocus.

  • Such, more or less, was the daily life of an Indian's life, a life which, if it were reduced to a moral platitude, could be summed up in one short sentence: Ama sua, ama ilulla, ama checklisa -- Do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy.

  • More than half of the foods that the world eats today were developed by these Andean farmers.

  • In a verdant valley, Nazca, south of Paracas, which breaks the naked misery of the desert, is another lost culture....

  • This is the sort of folklore that most peoples invent about themselves. If the mythos of Christianity were reduced to a five-line synopsis, it would have much of this naivete.

  • The Incas expanded; they expanded as all empires do -- by conquest.

  • At the age of twenty a man was expected to marry; if he did not, a woman was chosen for him. There seem not to have been, nor was there allowed to be, voluntary bachelors in the realm.

  • Death and taxes are not a modern preoccupation; they were just as inevitable if one lived under the rule of the Incas. Since they did not have money, that great human convenience, the Indians' taxes were in service, called mita. Each taxpayer was obligated to give a stated amount of work annually to the government. It might be as a laborer in the mines (an odious service which all resented, and the Inca recognized it by rotating the miners rapidly), on roads, or in bridge building....or any other of the multiple services that a fully organized state needed.

  • The American Indian did not have, it scarcely has to be repeated, draft animals of any form. Outside of woman, who was the first carrier, the closest that indigenous man got to a domesticated animal was the llama.

  • Such were the advantages of a womb-to-tomb society; its disadvantages will appear later.

I selected this book because I thought I would enjoy it. I underestimated how much enjoyment it holds.


Blogger Regenia said...

Sounds like a book I would enjoy. I also really enjoy finding a "turn of phrase" that is impactful.

I don't know if I agree with the author regarding religion. But I will definitely say that we have a number of the Christian faith for whom embroidering existing fears is not enough. They are busy attempting to add to the actual list of fears, which I believe equates to hate and extreme self-righteousness. And those characteristics seem to be so readily consumed without a thought to questioning the validity of the underlying premises. And that lack of questioning and the unconscious surrendering of self-direction I find distasteful, not to mention dangerous.

And I think imperialism was an underlying reason our military was sent to Iraq.

Good book.

12/04/2011 04:33:00 AM  

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