Beekeeping3 - Copy

“Passing their lives under exalted laws,
Alone they recognize a fatherland
And the sanctity of a home, and provident
For coming winter set to work in summer
And store their produce for the common good.”
Virgil, The Georgics IV

Bees simply stand out from other animals at the homestead. It’s as though they’re trying to teach us something. In several ways.

In no other domestic animal are daily activities so directly and obviously about the whole, about the ‘fatherland,’ as it were. The flourishing of the hive is a complex order, something far beyond the reach of any individual, or small number of bees. Each must do its part—no more and no less. The work of each is somehow woven together into a fabric, the beauty and reality of which both embodies and transcends what each alone has accomplished.

Provident foresight is likewise modeled. Calm and consistent, today’s work is given direction and importance by future needs—the needs of others, who will come later. Others’ flourishing is the object. Today.

I love to stop and watch the foragers coming and going from their home, their fatherland. (Foragers, of course, are older bees. Young bees start out with simpler jobs inside the hive.) The steady pattern at the hive entrance–closing in, hovering, landing, and taking off—is so steady that what is in fact hundreds or even thousands of foragers looks like it’s the same twenty bees doing it again and again. Thunderstorm? No problem. The sun will be back, soon enough. Nighttime? Well-deserved rest for the weary foragers. There is a time and a place for everything.

So the daily routine of the bees evidences and constitutes the sanctity of their home. And a person is honored to have ever so small a part in their foresight, and work, and its glorious fruits.

Virgil (70-19 B.C.) is the great Roman poet, author of The Aeneid and The Georgics. In the Divine Comedy Virgil appears as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns.

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John Cuddeback
John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is