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ATTENTION 
ISSUE No. 17 | JANUARY 2O22

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ISSUE No. 17 | January 2022

WELCOME

If you’re new to CULTIVARE we welcome you!  CULTIVARE is a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND.  Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:

What are you cultivating in your life?

What fruit do you want your life to bear?

Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:

Cultivate:  Examines a specific “Field” or facet of life and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”

 

Irrigate:  Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. We offer six means of irrigation:  Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.

 

Germinate: Encourages practical ways to engage in becoming more fruitful and free in our lives.  

Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” We hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living.  We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!

 
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FIELD

For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.

(I Corinthians 3:9)

Our theme this month is ATTENTION.  What do you want to pay increased attention to as you start a new year?  What might God be inviting you to give greater attention to in 2022?  

 

Paying attention isn’t easy.  For some of us, just hearing the phrase, “Pay attention!” transports us back to our schooldays and the admonishment of a teacher.  But school isn’t the only place where attention can be challenging.  Attention takes effort and focus, and most of us find there are a lot of things vying for our attention.  Our devices, for one, beckon and blare for our attention – and we confess it is all too easy to comply.  The Bible is full of stories about individuals who resisted or refused to give their attention to the important things in life and the consequences that resulted. The Bible also includes stories, like the Good Samaritan, that illuminate the power and redemptive nature of giving one’s full attention. 

 

Webster’s Dictionary offers these definitions for ATTENTION:

  1.  The act or state of applying the mind to something

  2.  A condition of readiness, especially a selective narrowing or focusing of consciousness and receptivity

  3.  Consideration with a view to action

  4.  An act of civility or courtesy

  5.  Sympathetic consideration of the needs and wants of others

 

We affirm these five definitions of attention.  They ring true, don’t they? We think our featured poet of the month, Mary Oliver, captures them well when she states: Attention is the beginning of devotion

 

As you contemplate the new year ahead and reflect on your relationship with friends, family, neighbors, and God, what do you want to devote yourself to in increased ways in 2022? Consider things you would like to learn or areas in your life that that you would like to experience change and growth; to what do you want to give greater attention to this year? May the resources in this issue and the photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt provide you with encouragement to start the new year with faithful devotion and focused attention.  (DG)

 

Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.

(Psalm 130:2 NLT)

 

My children, listen when your father corrects you. Pay attention and learn good judgment,

 for I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my instructions.  

(Proverbs 4:1 NLT)

 

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, 

lest we drift away from it.

(Hebrews 2:1 ESV)

 
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SEEDS

A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life

 

 

What you do with your attention is in the end what you do with your life.  (John Green)

 

The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.  (Henry Miller)

 

...a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention...  (Herbert A. Simon) 

 

The gait most congenial to agrarian thought and sensibility is walking. It is the gait best suited to paying attention, most conservative of land and equipment, and most permissive of stopping to look or think. Machines, companies, and politicians "run.”  Farmers studying their fields travel at a walk.  (Wendell Berry)

 

The greatest gift you can give anyone is your undivided attention... (Will Schwalbe)

 

From the simplest lyric to the most complex novel, literature is asking us to pay attention. Pay attention to the frog. Pay attention to the west wind. Pay attention to the boy on the raft, the lady on the tower, the old man on the train. In sum, pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells therein.  (Frederick Buechner) 

 

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.  (Albert Einstein)

 

We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another.... There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the road once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might indeed become neighbors. (Henri Nouwen)
 

My experience is what I agree to attend to. (William James)

 
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ART

Artist of the Month

Alfred Eisenstaedt

1898-1995

Perhaps best known for his spectacularly triumphant, flamboyantly romantic black and white photo V-J Day in Times Square, Alfred Eisenstaedt’s enduring mark on photojournalism was recognized in 1989 with the National Medal of the Arts along with a lifetime of distinction and accolades. One of the original photographers of Life magazine, Eisenstaedt shot through his iconic 35mm Leica lens for over forty years to provide a social lens, one that invited his audience to enter into the lives (or at least one moment of a distinctly human life) of exotic, mundane, unique, or everyday people. 

 

His artistry enabled viewers to cross oceans to witness great performances or dramatic post-war reunions, admire priceless works of art or a father’s love for his newborn, observe a sculptor’s hands or a painter’s strokes, peer into the tireless labor of a factory hand or the relaxed poses of nursing students spiraling up a banistered staircase. Every picture told the story of a thousand words. 

 

Eisenstaedt’s camera lens followed the attention he gave his subjects, his frames always non-judgmental yet penetratingly perceptive and poignant.  He made visible the invisible by giving it the spotlight of his aperture, using natural light and the unposed subject to illuminate the natural ebb and flow of life. He captured not one millisecond, but a story, a backstory, a history, some storied occasion. So, in turn, we attune, we give our attention to an individual, a dialogue, a gathering, a people -- and in that moment of attention, time slows, and the narrative expands in our imaginations. We are delighted to bring attention to Eisenstaedt’s artistry and artwork throughout this issue of Cultivare.  (EK)

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Max Schmeling, World Heavy-weight Champion, Scharmutzelsee, Germany, 1931

 
 
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POETRY

YES!  NO!

Mary Oliver

         

How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout
lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I
think serenity is not something you just find in the world,
like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.

                      

The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like
small dark lanterns.

 

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

 

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out

 

Yes! No! The

 

swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.

 
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PROFILE

Simone Weil

(1909-1943)

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

(Simone Weil)

Simone Weil was a French philosopher, social activist, and mystic who lived during the early part of the 20th century.  She was a committed pursuer of truth and justice, which led her to not only elite schools and universities but also to factory floors, political praxis, and spiritual solitude.  

 

The daughter of Jewish parents, Weil was an extraordinarily intelligent child, learning ancient Greek and Sanskrit in her early teenage years.  She also possessed a sensitive and kind soul, marked by compassion and empathy. At the tender age of five she chose to boycott sugar when she learned that sugar was unavailable to soldiers serving in the First World War.  Weil’s parents provided her with a secular, bourgeois French childhood that was comfortable and cultured.  Her older brother Andre was a math prodigy who became a distinguished mathematician at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study.  

Simone Weil’s active mind and attentive soul led her to explore and engage in many facets of life and service.  For much of her life she taught philosophy, while privately jotting down her intellectual ideas that only gained attention following her death. In contrast to the preponderance of intellectuals and philosophers of her time, Weil felt led deeper into the Christian faith and mysticism.  Throughout her life she was propelled by an attentiveness to truth and the good. 

You will find several of her thoughts on attention listed below. For further exploration of Weil’s thinking we encourage you to read her many thoughtful books, particularly Waiting for God and Gravity and Grace.  (DG) You may learn more about Simone Weil at the following website:   https://www.famousphilosophers.org/simone-weil/

 

Simone Weil’s Reflections on Attention

 

The Our Father contains all possible petitions; 

we cannot conceive of any prayer already contained in it.  

It is to prayer what Christ is to humanity.  

It is impossible to say it once through,

 giving the fullest possible attention to each word, 

without a change, infinitesimal perhaps but real, 

taking place in the soul.

Love of our neighbor,

being made of creative attention,

is analogous of genius.

Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result,

one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.

Creative attention means really giving our attention to what does not exist.  

Humanity does not exist in the anonymous flesh inert by the roadside.  

The Samaritan who stops and looks gives his attention all the same to this absent humanity, and the actions which follow prove that it is a question of real attention.

Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.  

There is something in our soul that loathes true attention

much more violently than flesh loathes fatigue.

That something is much closer to evil than flesh is. 

That is why, every time we truly give our attention, 

we destroy some evil in ourselves. 

If one pays attention with this intention, 

fifteen minutes of attention is worth a lot of good works.

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FILM

Each month we recommend films focused on our theme

Feature Film

The Lives of Others

2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film

 

The Lives of Others is at once a political thriller and a human drama. Set in East Berlin in 1984, the Cold War is still raging, and the communist bloc does not trust its own citizens.  A secret police agent is tasked with conducting surveillance on a well-known playwright and his lover. Over time, rather than being coldly distant, the agent finds himself being absorbed by their private lives.

NY Times film critic A.O. Scott writes, "The Lives of Others is haunted by a piece of music called 'Sonata for a Good Man,' composed for the film by Gabriel Yared and, at the same time, magically familiar to some of its characters. Like the story that surrounds it — a suspenseful, ethically exacting drama, beautifully realized by the writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — Mr. Yared’s piece is melancholy, elegant and complicated.

Goodness, as a subject for art, risks falling prey to piety and wishful thinking, but The Lives of Others never sacrifices clarity for easy feeling. Posing a stark, difficult question, 'How does a good man act in circumstances that seem to rule out the very possibility of decent behavior?', it illuminates not only a shadowy period in recent German history but also the moral no-man’s-land where base impulses and high principles converge." 

The Lives of Others illuminates a story of how focused attention on others’ lives can have a transforming impact on one’s own.  Rated R for some sexual and violent content.  German language with English subtitles. Available on various streaming services. 

Ted Talks

Irony is a gift that keeps on giving, and there is no small amount of irony within our invitation to engage two online Ted Talks that explain why online platforms are problematic to our attentiveness.  The first talk by Chris Bailey explores how our “overstimulation” minimizes our capacity to be attentive to, well, to anything really, and kills productivity in the process. The second talk, by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, explores how the human desire to gain attention breeds competitiveness and damages our capacity to be attentive to the moment and to one another.  Each of these talks gives a nuanced perspective on the attention we give and the attention we receive.  

 

How to Get Your Brain to Focus 

Chris Bailey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu4Yvq-g7_Y

How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VTsIju1dLI

 
 
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ESSAY

Mr. Rogers and the Art of Paying Attention

By Adelia Moore

When you ask, “who embodies giving undivided attention to others in the past 100 years?”, Fred McFeely Rogers, “Mr. Rogers” to his television audience, surely makes the short list. This article by Adelia Moore in The Atlantic reflects on a time that Mr. Rogers came to her neighborhood. Moore is struck both by the time and attention Mr. Rogers gave to the detail in her quilting, as well as the way that he engaged his at-home audience of children, somehow making them feel known, seen, and worth his attention through the lens of a camera. Moore furthers the lore of Mr. Rogers while calling us to consider living intentionally at a pace that makes others feel valued - worth our undivided attention. 

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/12/mister-rogers-attention/603106/

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BOOKS

Each month we recommend a book focused on our theme

 

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

Ruth Haley Barton

One the joys for us here at TEND is the coaching and spiritual direction we get to journey on with a variety of clients. One of the key themes we continue to navigate in those conversations, especially with leaders, is our human propensity towards busyness and over-production. Written from Ruth Haley Barton’s personal experience of helping others grow spiritually while losing her own sense of self, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership (2018) invites us -- in the midst of our busyness -- to make personal space and pay attention again to God our Father. God who reigns above the crush of culture, reigns through the crucible of leadership, reigns in spite of our inner critic. We think this book is a timely answer to the demands of modern life, the protests of not having enough time, and the battle between the soul and our vocational callings.  Click on the link below for a more in-depth overview of this book. 

 

https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/books/leadership-books/28947-the-power-of-attentiveness.html

  • Amazon
 
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DIG DEEPER

Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme

 

1.   PRAYER OF ATTENTION                                                                                                      

We offer a prayer below that we hope encourages you to cultivate greater attention this year.

Loving God, I thank you that you are not a God who ignores me nor looks the other way when I have a need. I ask that you would teach me what it is to follow you with reverence. Give me deeper understanding that you are not an angry God. You are kind and good and loving. I need to receive your love today, so open up my understanding and teach me to worship you and to live a life that is reverently attentive to you. Thank you that you delight in me. I will ponder this truth gratefully all day, praising you as I do. Attend to my prayers and to my needs, God, as I present them to you with a heart full of gratitude.  Amen

2.   ATTENTION AS A CULTURAL PROBLEM – First Things

What is education in an age of distraction? How can we better develop the powers of attention necessary for deep formation when so many challenges exist? Distraction is a rampant cultural problem, perhaps even more than it is an individual temptation. Join us for a lecture and conversation with Dr. Matthew Crawford on rethinking the challenges to education and the economics of attention. 

https://www.firstthings.com/media/attention-as-a-cultural-problem-and-the-possibility-of-education

 

3.   THE BRAIN SCIENCE OF ATTENTION AND OVERWHELM

Volatility. Uncertainty. Complexity. Ambiguity. In neuroscientist Amishi Jha’s lab at the University of Miami, these four words (shorthanded to “VUCA”) describe the type of high-stress, high-demand scenarios that can rapidly degrade one of our most powerful and influential brain systems: OUR ATTENTION!  Jha’s research team studies people who regularly experience VUCA conditions as part of their jobs—soldiers, firefighters, organizational leaders, and more. They investigate the powers and vulnerabilities of the attention system, pinpoint the forces that degrade and weaken attention, and look for ways to protect and strengthen it.

https://www.mindful.org/youre-overwhelmed-and-its-not-your-fault/

 

 

4.   SELECTIVE ATTENTION TEST

Professors of Psychology Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons study the problem with inattentional blindness.  They met at Harvard University in 1997, where they began to collaborate on research. In 2004 they shared the Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology, awarded for "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” They continue to work together on new research projects and writing, including this updated Selective Attention Test.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY

 

 

5.   THE SCIENCE OF ATTENTION – ADELE DIAMOND – On Being

What Adele Diamond is learning about the brain challenges basic assumptions in modern education. Her work is scientifically illustrating the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization, and reflection. What nourishes the human spirit, the whole person, it turns out, also hones our attention and minds.

https://onbeing.org/programs/adele-diamond-the-science-of-attention/

 

 

6.  ATTENTION AND THE POWER OF SQUIRRELS

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this short clip speaks volumes about attention!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrAIGLkSMls

 
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ROOTED

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.

(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)

POLLINATE

CULTIVARE is a ministry of TEND and is offered free to our subscribers.  We are grateful to our donors who help underwrite our costs.  If you would like to support the ongoing work of CULTIVARE, please consider us in your giving. All financial contributions to TEND

(a 501c3 ministry) for CULTIVARE are tax-deductible.  

Subscribe to CULTIVARE for free! 

FIELD NOTES

Images used in order of appearance:

All photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt

 

1.   FIELD:  Expression of Children at Paris Puppet Theatre, Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1963

2.  SEEDS:  Fathers with newborn babies about to be baptized, Neukölln Hospital, Neukölln, Berlin, 1931

3.  ART:   Portrait Sketching at Howard University, Washington DC, 1946

4.  POETRY:   Spaghetti factory, 1932.

 

5.   PROFILE:  Toy Train Society, Berlin, Germany, 1931.

 

6.   FILM:   Waiters Watching Sonia Henie Skate, Grand Hotel, St. Moritz, 1932.

 

7.   ESSAYS:   Singer Jane Foreman at NBC 4H Studios, New York, 1937.

 

8.   BOOKS:   Actor Charles Laughton, Giving one of his public readings, New York, 1952.

 

9.   DIG DEEPER:   Nurses students at Roosevelt Hospital, New York, 1938.  

 

10.   ROOTED:  A fresco in the Dominican monastery of San Marco called Providence.   Giovanni Antonio Sogliani created it in 1536. Italy, Florence, 1935.

TEAM CULTIVARE:  Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Beth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)

 
 
 
 
 

WE'RE LISTENING:

We welcome hearing your thoughts on this issue

and suggestions for future issues.

Email us at:   info@tendwell.org

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