Repair zone

Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. By Elizabeth V. Speldman. Beacon, 165 pp., $24.00.

Every morning when I look into the mirror I see a face that is not what it used to be. Fifty years' worth of gravity, sunshine, smiles and grimaces have produced what I hope is the beginning of a noble ruin, but only if I resist a cosmetic culture's blandishments to repair the damage. According to Elizabeth Spelman, who teaches philosophy at Smith College, the urge to repair is such a deeply human instinct that Homo reparans might be the best name for our species. Confronted with "the brute facts of the impermanence, imperfection, and fragility of the objects with which we cohabit the world," she writes, we have come up with a wide range of responses to ruination.


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