ISSUE No. 9 | May 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 GRATITUDE. Author William Arthur Ward once wrote: Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. Our aim in this issue is to unwrap gratitude and understand it in deeper ways, ways beyond Thanksgiving Day sentiments and Mother’s Day flowers. How does one cultivate a mindset and lifestyle characterized by gratitude that grows and flourishes each day of the year?
We start by introducing you to the “father” of the scientific study of gratitude, Robert Emmons, in our Profile section. Emmons argues that gratitude has two key components: 1) An affirmation of goodness – there are good things in this world, including gifts and benefits we have received. And 2) The sources of this goodness usually reside outside ourselves – acknowledging that people and God give us gifts, big and small, to help us achieve and experience goodness in our lives.
We highlight testimonies to this goodness and gratitude in our Art section by spotlighting an artist moved by the beauty and strength of hospital workers caring for their patients with extraordinary compassion and commitment amidst the Covid pandemic. We feature a short film that conducts an experiment in gratitude, prompting people to not only name specific individuals who have impacted their lives, but then to write and share their expressions of gratitude directly to them. Benedictine monk David Steindle-Rast articulates how to be grateful in every moment but not for everything. We offer ten questions to help you begin the work of identifying areas of your life in which gratitude springs and nourishes. And we provide links to articles that reveal how gratitude dramatically improves physical and mental health.
G.K. Chesterton wrote: When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. We hope this issue will redirect you away from a mindset that takes things from granted and firmly puts you on a life path that recognizes and responds to the goodness we experience with a heart, mind, and soul imbued with gratitude. (DG)
Rejoice always, pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks
to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1-3 ESV)
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28 ESV)
Enter with the password: "Thank you!" Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him. (Psalm 100:4 MSG)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. (A.A. Milne)
Gratitude takes nothing for granted. (Thomas Merton)
Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.
Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. (Karl Barth)
Love of God is pure when joy and suffering inspire an equal degree of gratitude.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order,
confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home,
a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.
What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude. (Brené Brown)
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
Artist of the month:
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the United States, society has drastically changed. From nationwide lockdowns and quarantining to social distancing measures and the ubiquity of face masks, the country has faced a massive transformation of “normal” life. To confront the crisis of the global pandemic, hospitals became overwhelmed with cases of the mysterious illness, and doctors and nurses became the faces of the pandemic. In Healing: Portraits of the Pandemic, artist Steve Derrick depicts these brave healthcare workers fully outfitted in their personal protective equipment (PPE), or bearing the marks from N95 masks and goggles after long shifts caring for patients.
Derrick is a video game developer based in Clifton Park, NY. He works at Vicarious Visions, where he started 21 years ago as a texture artist and is currently director of organizational development. He received his degrees from the University of Utah in Painting and Drawing and from the Art Institute of Phoenix in Computer Animation. Since the beginning of the quarantine, Derrick has been using his time to return to traditional forms of art practice and to keep up his skills by painting portraits. This current body of work is the artist’s way of giving thanks to the healthcare workers who have put their lives at risk to continue saving lives during this pandemic. (From the Albany Center Gallery website where Derrick’s art was exhibited the summer of 2020).
For more info on Steve Derrick and his artistic expression of gratitude, explore the following:
CBS Sunday Morning video (3 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpFRVKK-Q28
Washington Post article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/08/12/healthcare-workers-are-opening-their-mailboxes-finding-their-own-portraits/
When I can no longer say thank you
for this new day and the waking into it,
for the cold scrape of the kitchen chair
and the ticking of the space heater glowing
orange as it warms the floor near my feet,
I know it is because I’ve been fooled again
by the selfish, unruly man who lives in me
and believes he deserves only safety
and comfort. But if I pause as I do now,
and watch the streetlights outside winking
off one by one like old men closing their
cloudy eyes, if I listen to my tired neighbors
slamming car doors hard against the morning
and see the steaming coffee in their mugs
kissing their chapped lips as they sip and
exhale each of their worries white into
the icy air around their faces—then I can
remember this one life is a gift each of us
was handed and told to open: Untie the bow
and tear off the paper, look inside
and be grateful for whatever you find
even if it is only the scent of a tangerine
that lingers on the fingers long after
you’ve finished eating it.
Father of the Scientific Study of Gratitude
By Mark Berner
If you are like me, you have probably found the practice of gratitude naive, if not downright annoying. When, in the teeth of yet one more crushing disappointment, a well-meaning friend suggests a gratitude journal, I fear my hair will spontaneously combust. Sure, we all have moments of gratitude, in response to a gracious compliment, recovery from a threatening illness, or delight when a child jumps into our lap and gives us a hug. Such experiences are fleeting and unbidden, emotional responses to things over which we have no control. But gratitude as a way of life, a cultivated disposition rather than a reflexive emotion, is surely unrealistic and probably irresponsible. Cancer strikes, marriages dissolve, parents die, pandemics spread, gun violence spikes, racism flourishes, white nationalism metastasizes. “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”. The wise person, we tell ourselves, should be alert, guarded, and poised for action for the inevitable crises and heartaches that life brings. Gratitude, and the optimism it seems to imply, are traits most of us can’t afford.
Scripture too can be read to justify a kind of Stoic realism. When calamity threatens, doesn’t Jesus advise us to be wise as serpents, and Paul tell us to strap on our armor and be alert, and Peter counsel us to be clear minded and self-controlled?
Dr. Pangloss is one of classic literature’s most memorable characters: the pedantic, unfailingly optimistic tutor of Candide, the hero of Voltaire’s satiric novel of the same name. Pangloss lives his life based on the premise that this is “the best of all possible worlds”, a point of view that Voltaire savagely parodies by having Pangloss maintain his naïve optimism and sunny gratitude in the face of an unending series of catastrophes, including earthquakes, floods, syphilis, imprisonment, and torture. Despite all this Pangloss, resolutely refuses to accept any evidence that contradicts his beliefs, creating increasingly credulous justifications for his unsupportable convictions.
Robert Emmons – the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude – is no Stoic and no Pangloss. Emmons, a psychologist at the University of California at Davis, is widely regarded as the “father” of the scientific study of gratitude. His findings have convinced me that everything I knew or thought I knew about gratitude was wrong. Gratitude does not require naïve assumptions about the nature of reality; it does not ask me to conjure positive feelings and deny life’s tragedies; it is not a gnostic practice or mindfulness meme; it is not impractical and unrealistic; it is not payable in a currency available only to the rich, the powerful, and the privileged. Emmons, a devout Christian, taught me that gratefulness is essential to living well physically, mentally, and spiritually, not because it is some kind of spiritual parlor trick but because gratitude helps me conform to the reality that God has created and is in the process of redeeming. Living a grateful life is living in reality.
Here are a few of the counter-intuitive insights developed by Emmons and his colleagues that upended my understanding of gratitude. More such insights, and their connection to the spiritual life, along with practical suggestions for cultivating gratitude, can be found in the links below.
1. Gratitude is not about feelings; it is about behavior. We don’t have to feel grateful before acting grateful; behavior does not depend on feelings, it evokes feeling. This runs counter to the modern emphasis on emotional authenticity, which assumes that behavior is a response to feelings, not the other way around. In fact, social psychology has demonstrated that attitude change follows behavioral change--an insight also found in the Hebrew Scriptures, which command us to love our parents and return thanks to God with no apparent regard for our feelings of affection or gratitude.
2. Gratitude is a social emotion; not just a private feeling. Emmons defines gratitude as “an affirmation of the goodness in one’s life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self.” Gratitude shifts the focus from viewing ourselves as autonomous individuals to seeing ourselves as part of a larger, reciprocal, and intricate web of sustaining relationships. Gratitude inspires “pro-social” behavior toward others: compassion, generosity, and charitable giving (including toward those outside our social, racial, cultural, economic, and religious affinity groups).
3. Gratitude dramatically improves physical and mental health. Recent research, corroborated by multiple studies using state-of-the-art biomarker measures for health and aging, has yielded some striking results. The practice of gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, boost immune function, and facilitate sleep. It can reduce the life-time risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide, as well as heart disease and renal failure. Grateful people exercise more, have healthier diets, are less likely to smoke or abuse alcohol, and are more likely to adhere to a drug and medical regimen. They are also far more resilient than control groups when faced with significant physical, emotional, financial, or other adversity. By any measure, gratitude also makes us happier and more content. It does not make bad things go away, but it enhances our ability to cope by widening the temporal and emotional aperture of our imagination beyond a focus on our current afflictions.
4. Gratitude begins as a choice and ends as a lifestyle. Gratitude begins in humility, with the recognition that there is very little in life that we can control and that all that is truly important, including life itself, is a gift. It shifts attention away from ourselves and our own merit, and from the grief and anger over what we have lost or been denied. Gratitude also begins with self-forgetfulness. Emmons notes that trying to be grateful is a burden that reduces gratitude to a to-do list or self-improvement project; it is doomed to failure like so many New Year’s resolutions. Gratitude focuses our attention outward, not on our feelings but on the gift and the giver. When asked about his gratitude practice, Emmons says, “I don’t have a practice. It is just a lifestyle for me. Asking about my practice is like asking if I have a breathing or walking practice. Every moment is an opportunity for gratitude, every moment a gift.” Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.
Emmons would be the first to acknowledge that developing a grateful lifestyle is far from easy, for gratitude resembles other aspects of mature character and deep faith: it is hard, and requires intention, discipline, and time before it becomes second nature. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, gratitude has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried. The good news is that Emmons has shown us how to throw off the ingratitude that so easily entangles us and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. And when we do, we will discover, with Chesterton, that “thanks is the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
For those interested in learning more about Robert Emmons’ work, here is a good place to start: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/profile/robert_emmons - articles Links to other online articles and videos are found in the Dig Deeper section below. [Full Disclosure: Emmons is a friend and colleague of the author.]
Mark Berner is a lawyer and entrepreneur active in fintech and higher education.
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
Harry & Snowman
A story of gratitude between a man and a horse and the bond of their survivals.
Dutch immigrant, Harry deLeyer, journeyed to the United States after World War II and developed a transformative relationship with a broken-down Amish plow horse he rescued off a slaughter truck bound for the glue factory. Harry paid eighty dollars for the horse and named him Snowman. In less than two years, Harry & Snowman went on to win the triple crown of show jumping, beating the nations blue bloods. They were famous for their day and traveled around the world together. Their chance meeting at a Pennsylvania horse auction saved them both and crafted a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Eighty-six year old Harry tells their Cinderella love story firsthand, as he continues to train on today's show jumping circuit. The film Harry & Snowman (2015) was directed and produced by Ron Davis. The film is available on various streaming services.
An Experiment in Gratitude
What makes you happy? Have you ever wondered why?
Watch this short video as the filmmakers take an experimental approach
to examining what makes people happier.
Gratitude is Hard To Do
By Joseph Rhea in TGC
“As if we couldn’t be ungrateful enough on our own, ingratitude may be the yeast that makes American culture rise. Advertising persuades us that this thing will satisfy that need we didn’t know we had 30 seconds ago.” Drawn from TGC’s November Thanksgiving Issue, we think Rhea’s insights speak clearly to the challenges of embodying gratitude
any month, week, or day of the year.
How to Be Grateful in Every Moment (But Not for Everything)
By Brother David Steindl-Rast, On-Being Audio Recording
A Benedictine monk for over 60 years, Steindl-Rast was formed by 20th-century catastrophes. He calls joy “the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” And his gratefulness is not an easy gratitude or thanksgiving — but a full-blooded, reality-based practice and choice. Brother David Steindl-Rast is founder and senior advisor of A Network for Grateful Living. Krista Tippett interviews him in this 52-minute interview for On-Being.
Each month we recommend a book focused on our theme.
Book of the Month
ONE THOUSAND GIFTS
by Ann Voskamp
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp invites you to discover a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of living that is fully alive, and a way of becoming present to God that brings you deep and lasting joy. It's only in the expression of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we've always wanted . . . a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved - by God.
Let Ann's beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:
a. What have others done in your life that you’re grateful for?
b. Who is someone that really listens when you talk, and how does that affect you?
c. What’s a stressor you’re grateful to have put behind you this year?
d. What’s something enjoyable you get to experience every day that you take for granted?
e. What’s a hard lesson that you were grateful to learn?
f. What’s an aspect of your personality that you’re grateful for?
g. How have you used your talents recently, and what have you enjoyed about doing that?
h. What aspects of your city or neighborhood are you grateful for?
i. What’s the best thing about your home, and have you taken the time to enjoy it recently?
j. What made you laugh or smile today?
2. GREATER GOOD SCIENCE CENTER AT UC BERKELEY
What is gratitude? Why practice it? How do I cultivate it? Explore science-based resources on gratitude provided by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
3. HONORING MOMS: WHAT WILL YOU SAY?
In a month that celebrates mothers, perhaps the best gift you can give your mom this year is tell her how you feel. This 3-minute video captures several individuals doing just that.
4. TEND HEALTH: PSYCHOLOGIST CHRISTINE RUNYAN
The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is tenuously appearing — yet many of us feel as exhausted as at any time in the past year. Memory problems; short fuses; fractured productivity; sudden drops into despair. We’re at once excited and unnerved by the prospect of life opening up again. Clinical psychologist Christine Runyan explains the physiological effects of a year of pandemic and social isolation — what’s happened at the level of stress response and nervous system, the literal mind-body connection. And she offers simple strategies to regain our fullest capacities for the world ahead. Runyan is interviewed by Krista Tippett for On-Being.
5. EMPLOYEE APPRECIATION ISN’T JUST FOR MILLENNIALS
When was the last time you felt appreciated at work? When was the last time you gave appreciation to a coworker or a direct report? Being recognized and feeling gratitude from your team or coworkers has a huge impact on how workers feel about the company they work for.
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)
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!
Images used in order of appearance:
1. FIELD: Pablo Picasso, The Soup, 1902, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
2. SEEDS: Van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
3. ART: Steve Derrick, Healing: Portraits of the Pandemic, 2020,
Exhibited at the Albany (NY) Center Gallery.
4. POETRY: Jack Welch, Dinner for Two, 1953
5. PROFILE: Aaron Douglas, The Creation, 1935, Howard University Gallery of Art,
6. FILM: Marc Chagall, Noah and The Rainbow, 1966, Philadelphia Museum of Art
7. ESSAY: William Lidh, Gratitude, 1962
8. BOOKS: Norman Rockwell, Saying Grace, 1951
9. DIG DEEPER: Antoine Vollon, Mound of Butter, 1875-1885, The National Gallery of Art,
10. ROOTED: Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, A Goodnight Hug, 1880
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Beth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)
We welcome hearing your thoughts on this issue
and suggestions for future issues.
Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org