ISSUE No. 11 | July 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 PLAY. Author G.K. Chesterton once asserted: The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. Our hope is that this issue prompts you to start taking breaks from whatever task garden you may find yourself in and to experience the heavenly joy of play.
When was the last time you really played? If you have a hard time recalling, you’re overdue. What forms of play do you enjoy most? If nothing comes to mind, you’re overdue. If you view playing as an activity solely for children, you’re long overdue. Face it, for many of us, confronting the pandemic, our social ills, along with the demands of work and home, have seriously curtailed our playtime. For many others, “playtime” never really had a spot in their weekly schedules.
In this issue we introduce you to psychiatrist and researcher Stuart Brown who has noted that “nothing lights up the brain like play.” Through his research Brown asserts that the opposite of play is not work but depression. Brown has identified that no play or severely limited play leads to rigidity, lack of adaptability, and depression. Important observations for our current cultural times.
We also introduce you to artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam who creates incredible works of art that children actually play in. You’ll meet architect Takaharu Tezuka who designed a Kindergarten where play is the center of everything. We feature a poem by Jared Carter entitled Improvisation – an important characteristic of play. We invite you to engage in a reflection exercise, identifying your personal Play History. Our feature film spotlights the true story of the first foreign Little League Team to play in the Little League World Series, taking place back in 1957! Finally, we feature an essay that invites us all to have A Playful Romp with God.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we find Jesus having a revealing interaction with his disciples. Matthew records: [T]he disciples came to Jesus asking, "Who gets the highest rank in God's kingdom?" For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. (Matthew 18:1-4 MSG). May Jesus’ words remind us of the simple and elemental joy of play. May we each return to square one and start over like children. May we take tangible steps to experience on earth the abundant life that is in heaven. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (DG)
And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing –
a good city to grow up in. (Zechariah 8:5 MSG)
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings,
with loud shouts. (Psalm 33:3 NRSV)
The drive to play freely is a basic, biological drive. Lack of free play may not kill the physical body, as would lack of air, food, or water, but it kills the spirit and stunts mental growth.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. (John Muir)
Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.
(Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.)
We all need empty hours in our lives or we will have no time to create or dream.
It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives. (Fred Rogers)
Recreation’s purpose is not to kill time, but to make life. Not to keep a person occupied, but to keep them refreshed. Not to offer an escape from life, but to provide a discovery of life. (Anon)
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father. (Roger von Oech)
If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play. (John Cleese)
Put a picture of yourself as a child in view somewhere, to remind yourself to be playful. (Alexandra Stoddard)
Play is the answer to how anything new comes about. (Jean Piaget)
Artist of the month:
Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam
By Eugene Kim
As children growing up, we were often warned to be careful around artwork -- treasures displayed in halls of impressionism and collections belonging to Ming and Qing dynasties, art that was fragile and needed preserving and protecting. This issue’s curated collection of artworks by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam meets us at the intersection of architectural space, knitted handicraft, and soft sculpture. It strikingly confounds the boundaries between the canvas of fine art and the canvas of play. Her interactive artwork has been exhibited at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, and Paris’ Palais de Congres. Equally, the same art installations have been played on by hundreds of children from around the world.
Originally inspired by the architecture of Antoni Gaudi, MacAdam dyes, crochets, and knits entirely by hand, behemoth three-dimensional tapestries out of nylon rope that mimic the soft organic curves of natural biological matter. The artwork stretches like a tactile membrane that moves, slopes, tenses, releases, sways, bounces, morphs, pulls, and conforms to the small human bodies that are free to explore its diverse spaces. Children are drawn in by the beautiful spectrum of bright colors, the curious patterns formed by the interlocking of fabric and thread, and the undulating incessant movement, reacting to those that swing from it, bounce on it, leap, sit, tumble, lie, wrestle, climb on it. As children play with it, the art does not flinch or keep its distance. It does not call out for museum attendants to keep it safe -– it invites play, as when Christ lovingly bid the children to come (Luke 18:16). In MacAdam’s mind, her artwork fulfills its core vocation when it is engaged in play. Artwork that plays with children.
Photo of artist MacAdam at work
To learn more about the artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam,
explore this interview by Vanessa Quirk in Architecture Daily:
To improvise, first let your fingers stray
across the keys like travelers in snow:
each time you start, expect to lose your way.
You’ll find no staff to lean on, none to play
among the drifts the wind has left in rows.
To improvise, first let your fingers stray
beyond the path. Give up the need to say
which way is right, or what the dark stones show;
each time you start, expect to lose your way.
And what the stillness keeps, do not betray;
the one who listens is the one who knows.
To improvise, first let your fingers stray;
out over emptiness is where things weigh
the least. Go there, believe a current flows
each time you start: expect to lose your way
Risk is the pilgrimage that cannot stay;
the keys grow silent in their smooth repose.
To improvise, first let your fingers stray.
Each time you start, expect to lose your way.
By Billy Brummel
Stuart Brown, M.D. is the founder of the National Institute for Play. He is a medical doctor, psychiatrist and clinical researcher who has explored the critical role that play has in the lives of humans and animals. In 1966, Charles Whitman killed 17 people with a hunting rifle from atop a tower at the University of Texas-- the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States at the time. Then Texas governor John Connally created a commission to determine what would drive a person to enact such violence, and Brown was invited to contribute. After an exhaustive work up on Whitman’s physical and psychological history, the biggest contributing factor to Whitman’s homicidal state was determined to be a total absence of play in his childhood.
Brown explored his play hypothesis further by taking “play inventories” from over 8,000 people. The results pointed him in the same direction: play was an integral part of human wellbeing. All of the homicidal men he interviewed had childhoods that were severely deprived of play, yet play was a prominent feature for all of the successful people he interviewed. In order to further understand the origins of play, he shadowed animal researchers and observed play behavior in the wild where he saw how essential play was to animal behavior and survival.
Play is the way that humans and animals learn the “rules of the road” for interacting with each other and living in cooperative communities; it encourages empathy, compassion, altruism and sharing. In the words of Bob Fagan, pre-eminent Grizzly bear researcher, when asked why bears play, “[play] prepares them for a changing world.” Brown continues to emphasize the role that play serves in the development and maintenance of healthy people and organizations; he founded the National Institute for Play to transform personal health, relationships, education, and corporate innovation.
Brown delineates seven Properties of Play:
1. Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake)
3. Inherent attraction
4. Freedom from time
5. Diminished consciousness of self
6. Improvisation potential
7. Continuation desire
When we reflect on our own experiences of play, be it as children or as adults, these seven properties often connect. Through Brown’s research he has come to the understanding that: Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties. May we each be encouraged and emboldened to take steps to engage the tool of play and to experience the joy and healing of what play can create.
To learn more about Stuart Brown and his exploration of what play is and how it can benefit us, listen to his On Being interview:
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
The Perfect Game
From the director of Angels in the Outfield comes the incredible true story of the underdog foreign Little League team who inspired two nations. Clifton Collins Jr. (Star Trek) heads an all-star line-up of some of Hollywood’s brightest young stars as Cesar, who returns to his native Monterey, Mexico after his major league career is cut short. Impoverished baseball-loving kids recruit him to coach their rag-tag team. Together, they beat the odds and overcome hardships and bigotry to compete in the 1957 Little League World Series. Boxoffice magazine cheered as "inspiring, richly entertaining, heartfelt…a perfect family movie." Available on various streaming services.
Mile…Mile and a half
In an epic snow year, five friends leave their daily lives behind to hike California's historic John Muir Trail, a 211-mile stretch from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous U.S.). Their goal: complete the journey in 25 days while capturing the amazing sights and sounds they encounter along the way. Inspired by their bond, humor, artistry and dedication, the group continues to grow, including other artists, musicians and adventure seekers. Before they all reach the summit, hikers and viewers alike affirm the old adage, “It's about the journey, not the destination”. Mile... Mile and A Half is the feature-length documentary of that journey. Produced by The Muir Project. Available on various streaming services.
To view the trailer, click the link below:
The Best Kindergarten You’ve Ever Seen –
Play at the Center of Everything
At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet the world's most engaging kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.
Fun Short Film
Best of BBC Talking Animals
The creatives at BBC One bring you the best of their humorous talking animals.
A Playful Romp with God
By Debie Thomas
In this article from The Christian Century, author Debie Thomas reflects on the topic of God and play, starting with her childhood. “Growing up, I never heard a word about God laughing, joking, or doing anything for fun. No one invited me to imagine the Jesus of the Gospels smiling, much less goofing around with his disciples, playing hide-and-seek with the children who flocked to him, or basking in the sunshine on a gorgeous summer day. The list of characteristics I associated with God—omniscience, holiness, transcendence, righteousness—did not include playfulness.”
Thomas continues by asking a provocative question: What does spiritual playfulness look like? We think her observations and insights can serve as helpful prompts for each of us to think more deeply about our lives, and perhaps, to experience our own playful romps with God.
Each month we recommend a book focused on our theme.
Book of the Month
PLAY: How it Shapes the Brain,
Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
by Stuart Brown with Christopher Vaughan
Play is a catalyst. The beneficial effects of getting just a little true play can spread through our lives, actually making us more productive and happier in everything we do.
We've all seen the happiness on the face of a child while playing in the school yard. Or the blissful abandon of a golden retriever racing across a lawn. This is the joy of play. By definition, play is purposeless, all-consuming, and fun. But as Dr. Stuart Brown illustrates, play is anything but trivial. It is a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. We are designed by nature to flourish through play.
As illuminated in our Profile section, Dr. Brown has spent his career studying animal behavior and conducting more than six thousand “play histories” of humans from all walks of life - from serial murderers to Nobel Prize winners. Backed by the latest research, the book Play explains why play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve and more. Particularly in tough times, we need to play more than ever, as it's the very means by which we prepare for the unexpected, search out new solutions, and remain optimistic. A fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play, this book proves why play just might be the most important work we can ever do.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. REFLECT ON YOUR PLAY HISTORY (adapted from Stuart Brown’s book PLAY)
The primary purpose of a play history is to get us back in touch with the joy that we have all experienced at some point in our lives. Start by spending some time thinking about what you did as a child that really got you excited, that really gave you joy. Were the things that really fueled you mental or physical? Try to remember the feeling that you had, and recapture it. As part of this remembrance, if visual images spring to your mind’s eye, amplify them, let your associations to them flow. To what or to whom do you attach your unfettered feelings?
Understand what your unique play temperament is, and how it has manifested itself as you matured. Then start to identify what you could do in your current life that might let you recreate that playful feeling. Inventory the whole of your life, with an eye toward play, and look for ways to accentuate joy. To assist you in reflecting, consider these questions:
a. When have you felt free to do and be what you choose?
b. Is that a part of your life now? If not, why not?
c. What do you feel stands in the your way of achieving some times of personal freedom?
d. Are you now able to feel that what engages you most fully is almost effortless?
If not, can you recall when you were able to experience such times? Describe.
e. Search your memory for those times in your life when you have been at your very best.
(These are usually authentic play times, and give us clues as to where to go for current
f. What have been the impediments to play in your life?
g. How and why did some kinds of play disappear from your repertoire?
h. Have you discovered ways of reinitiating lost play that work for you now in your life?
i. How free are you now as you play with your family or friends? Or do you treat them
as an extension of a dutiful responsibility?
2. EXPLORE THE STRONG: THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF PLAY
The Strong is a highly interactive, collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. The Strong houses the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play. The Strong's multifaceted array of research, exhibits, and other interpretive and educational activities serve a diverse audience of adults, families, children, students, teachers, scholars, collectors, and others around the globe. Home of the National Toy Hall of Fame and the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
3. PLAYFUL WITH WORDS: 50 Greatest Yogi Berra Quotes
Famed MLB catcher and manager Yogi Berra had countless expressions and turns of phrase that were memorable because most of them didn’t make any sense. (At the same time, every one had some truth to it.) Yogi-isms (colloquial expressions that lack logic) are now countless, and many of them are just attributed to Berra, even if he never actually said them. As he so perfectly put it: “I never said most of the things I said.”
4. FOR THE LOVE OF LEGOS
Lego bricks are being put to use in some seriously cool ways. In fact, people have been so successful at creating LEGO sculptures it has become their profession. While some of the individual sculptures are amazing for their pure scale, some of these brick-builders have created entire collections which are admired for their true artistic merit. Watch this 14-minute video to explore the 20 most amazing LEGO sculptures and collections.
5. THE ART OF NOT TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY
Taking yourself too seriously has little to do with how silly you actually are. In this article from The Good Trade, author Emily Torres encourages us to “Lean into the small joys and absurdities, and officially designate silliness as self-care.”
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: Agoes Antara; Together We Are Happy; Photograph; Taken in Indonesia.
2. SEEDS: Photograph from FineArtAmerica.com
3. ART: Photographs from the article on the artist found in Architecture Daily:
4. POETRY: Photograph of Hazel Scott, piano virtuoso, Getty Images, from the website:
5. PROFILE: Photo from SurfAction.net – Why Surfing Will Make Your Life Better:
6. FILM: Mark Kauffman/Getty Images/Sports Illustrated
7. ESSAY: Bryan Beasley; Recreation of Nicolaes Pickanoy’s Portrait of a Young Woman (originally painted in 1631, courtesy of the Getty Museum); recreated during the pandemic.
8. BOOKS: Tony Luciani; The Strange Ones Series: ET Phone Home; 2014; Photograph.
9. DIG DEEPER: Duane Grobman, Checkers in Beijing, 2015, Photograph.
10. ROOTED: Eric Luse, Summer Camp, Photograph.
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Beth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)