ISSUE No. 7 | March 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 LONELINESS AND TEARS. We are facing some sobering statistics today when it comes to loneliness in our world:
1. If you feel lonely and think to yourself “if only I were young again” consider that 73% of Generation Z (age 18-23) and 71% of Millenials (age 24-37) sometimes or often feel alone. (i)
2. If you feel lonely and think to yourself “if only I were married” consider that 43% of people feel that their relationships are not meaningful. (ii)
3. If you feel lonely and think to yourself “if only I were more moral, more religious” consider that 55% of pastors feel lonely too. (iii)
If you feel lonely, know that you are in good company. Researchers and observers are contending that we are living in an unprecedented “Loneliness Epidemic.” In 2018 the UK government established the first ever Minister of Loneliness and initiated a “Campaign to End Loneliness.” Health professionals around the globe warn that a lack of social connections can lead to numerous physical and mental health vulnerabilities. Prolonged loneliness can spark inflammation and changes in our immune systems. Researchers warn that loneliness is more dangerous than obesity, and it’s about as deadly as smoking.
The Creation story recorded in the book of Genesis proclaims: It is not good that man should be alone. We continue to learn how true those words are.
Mother Teresa, known for caring for the lonely and abandoned, asserted that when Christ said: I was hungry and you fed me, he didn’t mean only the hunger for bread and for food; he also meant the hunger to be loved. Jesus himself experienced this loneliness. He came amongst his own and his own received him not, and it hurt him then and it has kept hurting him. The same hunger, the same loneliness, the same having no one to be accepted by and to be loved and wanted by. Every human being in that case resembles Christ in his loneliness; and that is the hardest part, that’s real hunger.
We offer resources this month that we hope begin to feed that hunger and which acknowledge that with loneliness comes tears. In The Science of Tears you’ll learn that our Creator equipped us with three kinds of tears, including “Emotional Tears” that uniquely serve to relieve stress and pain. You’ll meet six historic Saints who found that loneliness was the door through which God enters and transforms their lives. You’ll meet a modern-day Saint who experienced prolonged loneliness while engaging in a lifelong struggle to help bring about “the kind of society where it is easier to be good.”
You’ll also find a film on the healing power of tears and an article on the Loneliness of Lent. Finally, we hope you are encouraged by a music video from a Tony Award Musical that has resonated deeply with youth (and adults) today. Amidst the Covid pandemic and the loneliness epidemic, may we each have the courage to reach out,
share our pain and our fears and let God’s redeeming love and light penetrate and transform. (DG & JM)
Jesus wept. (John 11:35 NIV)
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
(Luke 15:34 NIV)
He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds. (Psalm 147:3 GNT)
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. (Psalm 25:16 NIV)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
All great and precious things are lonely. (John Steinbeck)
Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are but, more often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next. (Frederick Buechner)
There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them. . . . Before you speak, it is necessary to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart. Speak tenderly to them. Let there be a kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well. (Mother Teresa)
There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. (G.K. Chesterton)
Deep down, the young are lonelier than the old. (Anne Frank)
What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured. (Kurt Vonnegut)
To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play. (Henri Nouwen)
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before--more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle. (Charles Dickens)
How wonderful to be hidden, how terrible not to be found.
(D. W. Winnicott)
In the 2017 Tony Award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen, the story spotlights the experiences of a high school boy who struggles with social anxiety. Loosely based on a true story, the musical not only struck a resonant chord with theater critics and adult audiences but particularly with young people who could empathize with the title character’s struggle with loneliness and social isolation. The music was written by the talented duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The closing song for Act 1 is entitled You Will Be Found, which begins as a solo but ultimately is sung by the entire cast. The song starts with these captivating words:
Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?
Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there's a reason to believe you'll be okay
'Cause when you don't feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand
The song concludes with these hopeful and encouraging words:
Even when the dark comes crashin' through
When you need someone to carry you
When you're broken on the ground
You will be found!
So let the sun come streaming in
'Cause you'll reach up and you'll rise again
If you only look around
You will be found
We encourage you to take a good long moment of reflection and listen to this diverse virtual choir give voice to an anthem we may all need to hear right now. Whatever you may be feeling in this season, don’t remain hidden. Reach out your hand and your voice. You will be found!
You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen
John Vance Cheney
Not in the time of pleasure
Hope doth set her bow;
But in the sky of sorrow,
Over the vale of woe.
Through gloom and shadow look we
On beyond the years:
The soul would have no rainbow
Had the eyes no tears.
A Blessing for Loneliness
When the light lessens,
Causing colors to lose their courage,
And your eyes fix on the empty distance
That can open up on either side
Of the surest line
To make all that is
Familiar and near
Seem suddenly foreign,
When the music of talk
Breaks apart into noise
And you hear your heart louden
While the voices around you
Slow down to leaden echoes
Turning the silence
Into something stony and cold,
When the old ghosts come back
To feed on everywhere you felt sure,
Do not strengthen their hunger
By choosing to fear;
Rather, decide to call on your heart
That it may grow clear and free
To welcome home your emptiness
That it may cleanse you
Like the clearest air
You could ever breathe.
Allow your loneliness time
To dissolve the shell of dross
That had closed around you;
Choose in this severe silence
To hear the one true voice
Your rushed life fears;
Cradle yourself like a child
Learning to trust what emerges,
So that gradually
You may come to know
That deep in that black hole
You will find the blue flower
That holds the mystical light
Which will illuminate in you
The glimmer of springtime.
Loneliness in the Lives of Six Saints
This month we look at the stories of six Saints who were profoundly affected by a compelled encounter with loneliness. In all of the stories, loneliness is the door through which God enters and transforms these individuals. Even though the lives to which they are drawn after isolation are all remarkably different -- some turned outward to create communities while some kept isolation as a defining feature of their lives -- the impetus for all the virtuous behavior that flowed forth from these individuals was an exceedingly deep intimacy with God. St. John of the Cross describes it this way:
It was the perfect realm
of holiness and peace.
In deepest solitude
I found the narrow way:
a secret giving such release
that I was stunned and stammering,
rising beyond all science.
We hear the stories of St. Pachomius the Great, a would-be hermit who laid the foundation for Christian monasticism; St Patrick, a slave who brought the Catholic faith to pagan Ireland; St Alice of Schaerbeek, a leper in isolation who shows us how to suffer well; Blessed John of Vallombrosa, a prisoner who fell in love with solitude and made it his life once he was released from prison; Blessed Julia Rodzinka, who was placed by Nazis in a closet for a year and then was transferred to a concentration camp where she served sick Jewish prisoners; and Venerable Francis-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, a Catholic priest who spent 13 years in Chinese re-education camps after the start of the Vietnam War.
To learn more about these saints, read the below article Six Saints Who Found Holiness in Forced Isolation by Meg Hunter-Kilmer.
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
Why Cry? The Healing Power Of Tears
God created us and graced us with the gift of tears. This short film provides a revealing and encouraging look at the healing power of tears.
Disconnected: Voices Of The Loneliness Epidemic
Following the announcement in the UK of establishing a Minister of Loneliness in 2018, a hotline was set up for young people interested in contacting the new Minister of Loneliness. Within 24 hours the mailbox was full. “Nothing could prepare us for how emotive the voicemails were,” Alice Aedy, a British filmmaker shared. “On the first night we received them, we stayed up until 3 am listening, sometimes in tears.” Many callers ended their message by thanking the listener for the opportunity to share their feelings, which they said provided a sense of catharsis. A selection of these voicemails is heard in the short film Disconnected. “The testimonies are intimate and disarmingly honest. “It would have been difficult to get such revealing interviews in person or on camera,” Aedy said. It’s comforting to call an anonymous hotline, where “no one is there to respond or judge – as if you were stepping into a confession box.”
The Loneliness Epidemic
A desire to belong is deeply rooted in people. Our ancestors depended on group cohesion to survive. The negative feeling of loneliness can be understood as an important warning signal: Social pain drives us to cultivate contacts with other people. But that can be a difficult undertaking in a world in which digitalization and individualism are increasing and family ties are gradually dissolving. Various initiatives are opposing this trend. They aim to understand what loneliness does to us and to help those who are unable to overcome a lack of relationships on their own. In this documentary movie, filmmakers visit lonely people in Hamburg, Berlin, Switzerland and the British town of Frome and talk to psychologist Maike Luhmann and friendship researcher Janosch Schobin about the latest scientific findings on the causes of loneliness.
This month we feature two articles: one on Loneliness and one on Tears.
How Loneliness Begets Loneliness
Olga Khazan from The Atlantic
In this informative and enlightening article by journalist Olga Khazan, she interviews John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, who wrote the book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. Cacioppo has researched the phenomenon extensively and shares his observations and perspective.
Go Ahead, Have a Good Cry. It’s Good for You
Kristen Rogers from CNN Health
Although it's often seen as a sign of weakness, crying can be just what the doctor ordered for sorting through muddied emotions and wading out anew. Psychiatrists offer insights, research, and perspective on the health benefits of tears.
Each month we recommend a book focused on our theme.
Book of the Month
THE LONG LONELINESS:
by Dorothy Day
We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned
that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.
This inspiring and fascinating memoir, The Long Loneliness, is the late Dorothy Day’s compelling autobiographical testament to her life of social activism and her spiritual pilgrimage. A founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and longtime associate of Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day was eulogized in the New York Times as, “a nonviolent social radical of luminous personality.” The Long Loneliness recounts her remarkable journey from the Greenwich Village political and literary scene of the 1920s through her conversion to Catholicism and her lifelong struggle to help bring about “the kind of society where it is easier to be good.” If there is an overarching theme to Day’s autobiography it is the importance of feeling connected to a community, and that connection can only be felt when we are made to feel loved.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. REFLECTING HONESTLY: Researchers from UCSF believe that loneliness can be assessed with three questions, with answers ranked “hardly ever,” “some of the time” or “often.” How would you honestly answer the following three questions:
1. Do you feel left out?
2. Do you feel isolated?
3. Do you lack companionship?
The reality is we need each other. We were not created to be alone. We yearn for a purpose larger than ourselves. Research has shown something as simple as volunteering a couple hours every week can add meaning to life. We all need to feel valued and have a sense of purpose, which leads to a sense of belonging. Take some time this week to ask yourself to what degree do you feel lonely? Reach out to a trusted friend or family member and share your thoughts and feelings about loneliness.
2. SUPPORT & RESOURCES: In this article from Psychology Today you will find 18 practical suggestions for overcoming loneliness.
If you're struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or suicidal thoughts, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357) anytime for free, confidential help, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
3. THE SCIENCE OF TEARS: What is it, exactly, that makes us need to cry and are all tears created equal? That’s what the TED-Ed team explores in this wonderful animated primer on why we cry and the three types of tears. (4 minutes)
4. THE LONELINESS OF LENT: Of all the pains that Jesus suffered in his passion, which pained him the most? In this thoughtful article by Robert McTeigue, SJ, he believes it was the pain in Jesus’ heart and soul. Psychic pain (that is, pain of heart and soul) can be unrelieved and immeasurable. McTeigue’s concern is to alert us to the painful fact that we so very easily neglect the nearest neighbor wherein we might find Jesus, and that is our very selves. The loneliness that is inevitable in this fallen world afflicts Jesus in his heart and soul as he dwells within us.
5. I AM LONELY: The Christian faith sanctions neither resentment nor indifference nor capitulation, calling instead for presence, for an abiding invitation to communion—“faith does not draw us away,” Pope Francis says, but near, alongside. Faith opens horizons, it does not close them off.
6. THE FOUR LIES OF LONELINESS: Despite our extreme dislike of loneliness, God’s grace allows it for a season to drive us deeper into his Word and prayer in search of a hope-filled and life-giving oneness with him. Loneliness is not hopelessness and does not defeat us but instead empowers us to know Christ more and make him known to those around us.
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: Edward Hopper, Automat, 1927, Des Moines Art Center,
Des Moines, Iowa
2. SEEDS: Edvard Munch, Two Human Beings: The Lonely Ones, 1899
3. ART: Lily Furedi, Subway, 1934, Smithsonian American Art Museum,
4. POETRY: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Pieta, 1876, Dallas Museum of Art,
5. PROFILE: Albert György, Melancolie, Undated, Geneva, Switzerland.
6. FILM: Rogier van der Weyden, The Descent from the Cross, 1435,
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Italy. Detail of woman’s tears.
7. ESSAY: Edgar Degas; L’Absinthe, 1875-1876, Museum d’Orsay, Paris, France
8. BOOKS: Dorothy Day as depicted in a stained-glass window at Our Lady
of Lourdes Church in the Staten Island borough of New York. Undated.
9. DIG DEEPER: Paul Delvaux, Loneliness, 1956, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Mons,
10. ROOTED: Giovanni Bellini, Agony in the Garden, 1859-1865,
The National Gallery, London, UK
FOOTNOTES FOR FIELD:
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Beth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)