γένοι’ οἷος ἐσσὶ μαθών
become such as you are, having learned what that is

– Pindar (518 BC – 438 BC)

Time for another virtue essay.  This is my last one, on the unfortunately named “Fertility”.

I don’t use that adjective solely due to fertility’s association with breeding, which is what ADF’s seems to occasionally apologize for.  Rather, it is because the state of fertility is a passive one.   When a field is fertile is means that it is ready; it has the right acidity, the right nutrients, the right drainage.  It is an acceptable and willing vessel for seeds, but let’s face facts; it is the seed that takes root and grows, not the field.  So, while  I think that I understand what ADF means when they call this virtue ‘Fertility’, I don’t think it has to do with being a passive but welcoming repository for something else.

So what does ADF mean to convey through this virtue?  The definition itself is a hodge podge of loosely related concepts  (“Bounty of mind, body and spirit involving creativity and industry, an appreciation of the physical and sensual, nurturing these qualities in others“).  I thought for a while that what ADF means to convey with this virtue is simply creativity.  However, if that was the case why wouldn’t they have simply called it that?  So I have to conclude that ADF does not mean for this virtue to be taken to refer simply to the drive toward artistic output.

Rather, what I think I understand this virtue to be is what Nietzsche meant when he echoed Pindar in talking about “self-actualization”; the understanding, accepting, and becoming what you are, and the creative self-expression that springs from such a state of existence.   It is about making your own life an artistic output.   This doesn’t refer to some sort of superficial fashion choice, like taking up being a hipster.  It means understanding who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and following your passions.  From such a state  would naturally spring what creative drive it is in one to have, for one needs to be filled with passion for life to want to create.

That is how I understand what this virtue is meant to represent.  However, I could be entirely wrong.

2 thoughts on “Fertilizer

  1. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m currently in a sexual ethics course, and more than one person lately has told me that I’m over thinking everything and relating it back to that. So I don’t know if I’d have had the same reaction before the class, though I think I would. But at any rate, while I think your insights here are good ones and have helped me to think about a virtue I didn’t really understand very well before, the part about the seed being what actually grows bugs me a little.

    In human reproduction, the field would be the womb, preparing itself and ready to accept the seed. The seed, obviously, comes from a man. But it isn’t the seed alone that grows, and in human sexuality that’s very apparent. The egg and the sperm work together, and the resulting child is a mixture of parts from both parents. While we may not understand a field in the same way and they don’t actually create eggs and go into the plant so literally, I think a similar thing happens. The environment where it grows will affect how the plant grows, how it looks and how it can be used. The actual plant comes from the seed, but the seed will be nothing if it doesn’t find fertile ground. Fertility isn’t passive, it’s something that requires care and nurturing. It’s receptive, but it is possible to receive something without actually helping it grow. Fertility takes what’s given and helps it to reach its full potential.

    That still fits with your understanding here, I’m not trying to dispute the overall idea. Just got stuck on that one point. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

    • Great comment, Sanil… thanks. It actually reminds me of how much I have always held it against the ancient Greeks that they thought that women were just passive vessels for a man’s seed, so clearly I am guilty of the same thing!

      I’ll definitely re-shape this essay based on your feedback. I do agree that the overall theme is still good but the lead-up certainly needs more thought than I have given it. Thanks again!

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