In The Accursed Share, Georges Bataille relates a version of an ancient Aztec myth. Two deities, Nanauatzin and Tecuciztecatl, immolate themselves. In the process, they create our world.

A short while later, having fallen on their knees, the gods saw Nanauatzin, “who had become the sun,” rising in the East. “He looked very red, appearing to sway from side to side, and none of them could keep their eyes on him, because he blinded them with his light. He shone brightly with his rays that reached in all directions.” The moon in turn rose up over the horizon. Because he had hesitated, Tecuciztecatl shone less brightly.

Then the gods had to die; the wind, Quetzalcoatl, killed them all: The wind tore out their hearts and used them to animate the newborn stars.

This myth is paralleled by the belief that not only men but also wars were created “so that there would be people whose hearts and blood could be taken so that the sun might eat.” (Historia de los Mexicanos por sus Pinturas, Ch. 6)

Wars meant consumption, not conquest, and the Mexicans thought that if they ceased the sun would cease to give light.


Bataille distances the destructive, consumptive rituals of people around the world from similar rituals as practiced by contemporary people. Aztec sacrifices and Native American potlatch culture are portrayed as relics.

But these sacrifices are little different from the intentional destruction of our fireworks displays, our Christmas trees, the planned obsolescence of our devices. A churn of resources is the goal. A world war rescued our economy from the Great Depression; concerted effort to dig holes and then fill them in would have accomplished much the same.


The success of our economy is measured in its percentage growth. We have been seeking perpetual growth.

On this point, I agree with Bataille – for growth to stop, we must pursue intentional inefficiency, intentional waste. War, sacrifice, and death would do it; so would art and pleasure.

I’d prefer a world in which we sought the latter.