Fecundity of the Normal
Sometimes I know I am using a word that college students would not know. Fecundity is one such word. Rather than choosing not to use it because they don’t know what it means, I choose to use it and teach them what it means. I figure I am educating them! I am helping them build their vocabulary, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will be more attractive job candidates when they are out there in the “real world.”
Fecundity means fruitfulness. It is often used when speaking of plants. It always makes me think of harvest time. When it is applied to people, it could indicate a very productive or successful time. It could suggest the outcome of hard work. It might implicate a very talented individual who applied the talent to pull off significant outcomes. There have been times in my life, which were fecund. But it is not all the time. Growing up on a farm taught me that it is not always harvest season. Often there is a great deal of hard work and, even, waiting before you see the fecundity.
This leads me to think about my own life---especially my own spiritual life. A recent experience enabled me to see things in a new light. Recently I had the opportunity to host a very special guest. It was a wonderful time. It felt like life shifted into another, faster gear. There were so many ideas flying around in the air. The ideas were engaging and challenging. The pace of interaction was brisk. It was a vibrant time. Everything was good and I delighted in the entire experience.
And then, almost suddenly, normality took over my life. Of course, it was not really sudden. A better way to understand the process is to realize that my normal life chugs along and then, periodically, something special---maybe even extraordinary---interrupts my normalcy. Realistically that better describes what happened. And it gave me cause to reflect.
I loved the extraordinary time. But I realized that it was not a period of fecundity. I was not really productive. It was not a time of unusual success. I learned things that might make a difference. I enjoyed things and that is a cherished memory. But it was not a fecund period. Pondering this enables me to feel ok about that. I learned something important.
Most of the fecundity in my life has come in the midst of normality---in the middle of my routine. Of course, this is where most of us spend most of our time. And that is the place in our lives where we are doing the real work. Real work includes our actual job, if we are still working. But it implies other kinds of work. Real work could be the work of spiritual and/or emotional growth.
In spiritual growth and in emotional growth, there may be special times---extraordinary times. There may be times of ecstasy or mystical experience if we are given the grace or are just lucky. Those times are wonderful and I would sign up for one in a heartbeat. But again, spiritually and emotionally most of our time is spent in normalcy and in routine. And that is the space fecundity will happen. Why is this true?
It is true because fecundity is a result of effort, work and sheer “staying at it.” Ecstasy and mystical experiences are the result of grace---they are gifts. They are wonderful, but they are not fecund. They are wonderful, but they are not fruitful.
As I reflect more into it, I am convinced that fecundity is typically the fruit---the product or end result---of disciplined effort. I believe discipline is the key. Discipline explains how we “stay at” something. Discipline is the life of prayer. Discipline explains the daily meditation that can slowly change lives and result in fecundity---fruitful spiritual living. Fecundity is never solely the result of luck. Farmers know that they have to plant the crops, till them and wait. With effort and some good conditions, fecundity may result.
The same is true with the spiritual life. It takes commitment, regular discipline and some real patience. Fecundity may well happen. The spiritual life may well blossom and bloom into the radiant spiritual life that can be very inspiring and very satisfying. Discipline is the key. Commitment without discipline is intentionality without action. Patience is helpful, because fecundity is almost never instantaneous. There is almost always a growing period.
The growing period happens in our routine---in our normalcy. Normalcy is where commitment is made. It is the arena of discipline and it is a time of patience. Of course, God may add a pinch of grace. And perhaps there will come a modicum of mercy. Within the context of our normal lives something rather amazing can come to be: fecundity. We can experience more fruitfulness and more fulfillments than we had a right to expect.
I am always happy with special events and the potential for the extraordinary. But I admit that I am always happy to return to normal. The normal is where my own life of discipline is worked out and the seeds of fecundity are being planted and cultivated. Normalcy is the field of my spiritual work.