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.