ISSUE No. 6 | FEBRUARY 2021
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!
For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.
(I Corinthians 3:9)
Our theme this month is FRIENDSHIP. While February is often associated with Valentine’s Day and romantic love, we are focusing on one of the other “loves” that C.S. Lewis’ wrote about in his book The Four Loves. Lewis observed: “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.” We were curious, what insights did the Ancients (and not-so-Ancients) have on the subject? And what encouraging expressions of friendship could we find today?
Think back over your life. How has your life been shaped by those you call friend? How would you describe one of your closest friends? What has led you to maintain a friendship over the years? Across great physical distance from one another? What is needed to start a friendship? What is necessary to sustain a friendship?
Author David Whyte in his book Consolations observes: “Friendship is the great hidden transmuter of all relationships: It can transform a troubled marriage, make honorable a professional rivalry, make sense of heartbreak and unrequited love and become the newly discovered ground for a mature parent-child relationship.” In this month’s issue you will encounter a film based on the true story of a quadriplegic transmuted by an unlikely caregiver, a group of ten friends who for 30 years have been marking the month of February in a fun and touching way; you’ll experience poems by Edgar Guest and Langston Hughes on friendship, as well as an essay on political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s discovery of the “Oasis of Friendship.” And, you’ll be serenaded by a group of gifted college students who give voice to the power of a friend to bring a positive “Change in my Life.”
Whyte further discerns that: “The ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other or the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief of span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.” We hope this issue encourages and strengthens you as you see, walk, believe, accompany and journey as a friend. (DG)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NRS)
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
(Proverbs 27:17 NIV)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
(Colossians 3:12-14 MSG)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
The greatest gift my friendship can give to you is the gift of your belovedness. I can give that gift only insofar as I have claimed it for myself. Isn’t that what friendship is all about: giving to each other the gift of our belovedness? (Henry Nouwen)
Friends pick us up when we fall down and if they can’t pick us up, they lie down and listen for a while. (Calvin and Hobbes)
The capacity for friendship is God's way of apologizing for our families. (Jay McInerney)
Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing. (Elie Wiesel)
No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.
One of the tasks of true friendship is to listen compassionately and creatively to the hidden silences. Often secrets are not revealed in words, they lie concealed in the silence between the words or in the depth of what is unsayable between two people. (John O’Donohue)
When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. (Henri Nouwen)
In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.
Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes. (Henry David Thoreau)
This month we highlight the musical arts by featuring a music video on friendship.
The Opportunes are an a cappella music group from Harvard University who come together to share their love of music with each other and with their audiences. They seek to harness the talents of their members, diversity of genres, styles, and artists, and the vibrancy of their history and traditions in a way that is innovative and exciting for listeners, young and old. Our featured music video is the song Change in My Life and was produced in 2020 amidst the pandemic. The song speaks to the power of a friend to bring positive change to one’s life. The song starts with these honest lyrics:
Standing cold and scared on top of blue hill,
There came a moment when I lost my will,
I prayed for mercy, please Lord take me away,
Give me sunshine where I only see gray,
The past had a hold on me, It can't be denied,
Change doesn't come easily.
I've been lonely, been cheated, been misunderstood,
Been washed up, been put-down and told I'm no good,
But with you I belong 'cause you help me be strong,
There's a change in my life since you came along.
Music Video: The Opportunes – Change in my Life
We celebrate friends who have brought a loving presence and
positive change to our lives!
We give thanks to God,
who is described in scripture and by various hymn writers as our “friend.”
In his hymn O Worship the King All Glorious Above
author Robert Grant penned these words as a testimony to God:
Your mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.
This month we feature two poems on friendship.
The first poem is by British-born American poet Edgar Guest (1881-1959).
The second poem is by American poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967).
Edgar A. Guest
I hold no dream of fortune vast,
Nor seek undying fame.
I do not ask when life is past
That many know my name.
I may not own the skill to rise
To glory’s topmost height,
Nor win a place among the wise,
But I can keep the right.
And I can live my life on earth
Contented to the end,
If but a few shall know my worth
And proudly call me friend.
I Loved My Friend
I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There’s nothing more to say.
The poem ends.
Soft as it began-
I loved my friend.
THE TAG BROTHERS
In our culture, friendships are often limited to an emotionally detached viewing of other people’s social media posts. So, it’s encouraging to hear stories of friendships built on real life encounters (especially given our present COVID-based reality) – friendships that have endured and thrived through life’s constant changes. The Tag Brothers are a group of ten high school friends who began a regular game of tag that stopped once they left home for college. Several years later they re-united and entered into a contractual obligation to bring the game back each year for the entire month of February. The man who is “It” at 11:59 PM on the last day of February is “It” until game play resumes the following February 1. And once the game starts there is no place that is off limits: Tag Brothers have been tagged at work, at kids’ recitals, and one man was even tagged at his father’s funeral.
Their story reminds us that friendships do not have to succumb to the omnipresent busyness of life and work, that while friendship can involve deep conversations and sharing burdens in life, it is also about enjoying the presence of people around whom we are free to stop taking ourselves so seriously. It also brings up questions about how carefully we curate our schedules. Obviously, there is nothing inherently wrong with comparing calendars and coordinating a lunch together. But friends showing up in our lives in unexpected ways can breathe much needed life into a relationship. Sometimes what we need to do most is what the phone commercial from the 1980’s urged us to do: “Reach out and touch someone.”
You can learn more about the Tag Brothers’ 30-year friendship and fun by checking out the following links:
8-minute video story:
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
Live Action Short
In this short video from Nature: Animal Odd Couples showcases the friendship between Kasi, a cheetah, and Mtani, a dog. Both were “orphaned” when they were young and the keepers at Busch Gardens developed a pilot project to observe the relationship between them. The keepers believe the two have formed a truly unique bond, including their own means of communication.
The Intouchables (2011)
Based on the true story of Philippe, a French millionaire who was paralyzed from the neck down in a para-gliding accident, and Driss, an African immigrant out on parole for robbery, who applies for the job of Philippe’s caregiver. Philippe finds Driss’ cocky irreverence refreshing and astounds his household staff by hiring Driss for the job. The movie tells the story of the growing relationship between these two likable men, driven by Driss' belief that Philippe will improve if he escapes his haughty lifestyle and tries the greater freedoms of an immigrant from Africa. The film highlights the fact that the role of a good caregiver is more than lifting, bathing, dressing, pushing, and providing medicines. The patient is faced with a reality he struggles to accept: he has been deprived of all he once took for granted, such as the simple ability to walk across a room. A caregiver can't provide that, but a caregiver can provide something more valuable and encouraging--friendship.
(Comedy & Biography. 112 minutes. French language with English Subtitles. Rated R)
HANNAH ARENDT ON THE OASIS OF FRIENDSHIP
John Douglas Macready
Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. Born into a German-Jewish family, she was forced to leave Germany in 1933 and lived in Paris for the next eight years, working for a number of Jewish refugee organizations. In 1941 she immigrated to the United States and soon became part of a lively intellectual circle in New York. She held a number of academic positions at various American universities until her death in 1975.
In the Spring of 1955, in the midst of her own desert of loneliness, Hannah Arendt discovered that friendship could be a life-giving oasis. Friendship, she learned, was a temporary refuge from a barren world where “one heart reaches out directly to the other” — an assemblage of persons marked by intimacy, equality, and freedom.
Below is a link to the essay. As you reflect on your life and friendships in this season, we encourage you to ask yourself the questions:
Are there relational aspects of my life in which I feel I am living in a desert?
With whom do I experience the oasis of friendship?
Each month we recommend a book focused on our theme.
Book of the Month
THE UNDOING PROJECT:
A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
by Michael Lewis
Forty years ago, Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote on a series of breathtakingly original studies undoing our assumptions about the decision-making process. Their papers showed the ways in which the human mind erred systematically when forced to make judgments about uncertain situations. Their work created the field of behavioral economics, revolutionized Big Data studies, advanced evidence-based medicine, led to a new approach to government regulation, and made much of Michael Lewis' own work possible. Kahneman and Tversky are more responsible than anybody for the powerful trend to mistrust human intuition and defer to algorithms.
The Undoing Project is about the fascinating collaboration between two men who have the stature of great literary figures. They became heroes in the university and on the battlefield -- both had important careers in the Israeli military -- and their research was deeply linked to their extraordinary life experiences. In the process, they may well have changed for good mankind's view of its own mind.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. Are You a Good Friend?
In order to have good friends we need to BE a good friend. Spend some time reflecting on the following six (6) questions:
a) Are you there for others? In good times or bad, early or late, and at inconvenient times-- are you there to answer their call?
b) How well do you communicate with your friends? How do you keep in touch?
c) Are you trustworthy? Can your friends confide with you and know that anything shared in confidence will stay in confidence?
d) Are you a good listener? Do you offer a listening ear that is more focused on their needs as opposed to yours? Are you more interested in telling them your story and needs?
e) Do you thank your friends? How often? In what ways? When was the last time you got creative in expressing your gratitude?
f) Are you honest with your friends? Can you offer truly constructive feedback as opposed to concealed disappointment or disagreement?
2. Startling Adult Friendships by David Brooks
New York Times columnist David Brooks writes in a pre-Covid article: “People these days are flocking to conferences, ideas festivals and cruises that are really about building friendships, even if they don’t admit it explicitly.” He shares his creative thoughts on ways to cultivate more meaningful friendships.
3. How to be a Better Friend
In this short New York Times series authors highlight the benefits of friendship including: How to make a friendship last; How to talk and listen to your friends; and How to resolve conflict with your friends.
4. The Friendship Files
Launched two years ago (February 2019) The Atlantic started an ongoing series that takes an extensive and multifaceted look at friendship.
5. Befriending Radical Disagreement
In this episode of On Being with Krista Tippett, she interviews David Black, former white nationalist who walked away from racism after attending a weekly Shabbat dinner with his college friend Matthew Stevenson. (50 minutes)
6. A Prayer for Friendships
May you be blessed with good friends,
And learn to be a good friend to yourself,
Journeying to that place in your soul where
There is love, warmth, and feeling.
May this change you.
May it transfigure what is negative, distant,
Or cold within your heart.
May you be brought into real passion, kindness,
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them, be there for them
And receive all the challenges, truth, and light you need.
May you never be isolated but know the embrace
Of your anam cara.
(From To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue (2008), p. 43.
“Anam cara” in Gaelic means “soul friend”)
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)
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Images used in order of appearance:
1. FIELD: Winslow Homer, Snap the Whip, 1872
2. SEEDS: Marcin Mikolajczak, Taste of Friendship, 2019
3. ART: Richard McBee, Naomi, Ruth, Orpah, 2002 https://richardmcbee.com/
4. POETRY: Rembrandt, David's Parting from Jonathan, 1642
5. PROFILE: Father Sean Raftis, Photo of the Tag Brothers, 2018
6. FILM: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-81
7. ESSAY: Claude Monet, La Grenouillere, 1869
8. BOOKS: Laurel and Hardy, Sons of the Desert, 1933
9. DIG DEEPER: Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbs, 1990
10. ROOTED: Ernie Barnes, Friendly Friendship Baptist Church, 1994 | The Hardy Nickerson Family Collection, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust, Photo by Victoria L. Valentine.
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)