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SIMPLICITY 
ISSUE No. 12 | AUGUST 2O21

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ISSUE No. 12 | August 2021

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 SIMPLICITY.  In the complex and consumer driven world that we live in today, the topic of simplicity is anything but simple.  Some of us may identify with E.E. Cummings when he acknowledged:  "I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart."  Or perhaps we recognize the insight of Will Rogers:  "Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." 

 

Pithy phrases about simplicity abound, from the succinct “Less is more,” to the oft quoted and more pejorative acronym KISS – “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  But the wisdom of lived simplicity cannot be reduced to an epigrammatic statement.  No, simplicity calls us to take a serious look at our lives – to pay close attention to how we live, where we live, what we buy and spend our time on, and the why that guides our choices. 

 

The philosopher Ludwig Wittengenstein observed, "The aspects of things that are most important to us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity."  Perhaps the pursuit of simplicity doesn’t require the level of diligence and striving that we often ascribe to the task; perhaps it’s right there hidden in front of us, waiting to be uncovered by the questions we are presently too afraid to engage with or staring at us from the mirror that is our lives.  
 

If you check a thesaurus, you’ll find a myriad of applied meanings for simplicity: ease, straightforwardness, clarity, comprehensibility, plainness, spareness, unpretentiousness, naturalness.  Whichever synonym resonates most with you, we hope you’ll find helpful resources in this month’s issue that rise above the din of inconsequential noise and speak to you in clear tones that prompt natural reflection and plain action.  We’ve made a choice for this issue that is new to us – featuring the artwork of one, and only one, artist, namely Andrew Wyeth.  We hope Wyeth’s spare and straightforward images begin to awaken a dormant instinct toward simplicity.  

 

Our Profile section spotlights one of our favorite authors and social commentators, Wendell Berry.  We feature two very different music videos that each speak to the fruit of simplicity. We celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of Richard J. Foster’s classic spiritual book Freedom of Simplicity along with the perceptive poem Instructions for A Long Life by Carol Barrett.  Our Essay this month offers the perspective of a faithful parent who seeks to bring a deep and holistic understanding of simplicity to his family.  Finally, we gain inspiration from Scottish author and pastor George MacDonald, who wrote over a century ago:  To have what we want is riches, but to be able to do without is power. Timeless insight and timely words.  Power to all of us! (DG)

This is all that I have learned: God made us plain and simple,

 but we have made ourselves very complicated. (Ecclesiastes 7:29 GNT)

 

 

The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside still waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 
 (Psalm 23:1-3 NIV)

 

 

But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously -
take God seriously. 
 (Micah 6:8 MSG)

 
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SEEDS

Live simply that others may simply live. (Elizabeth Ann Seton)

 

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. (Hans Hofmann)  

 

The opposite of simplicity, as I understand it, is not complexity but clutter.

(Scott Russell Sanders)

 

Focus and simplicity… once you get there you can move mountains. (Steve Jobs)

 

Pure, holy simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the flesh.  

(St. Francis of Assisi)

 

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. (Frederic Chopin)

 

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.   
(E.F. Schumacher) 

 

The word affluence suggests that whatever flows in never comes out. Our affluent society stays affluent by making the containers bigger when they are just about to overflow, like a fountain with its lovely veils of water spilling over. The economics of affluence demand that things that were special for us last year must now be taken for granted; so the container gets bigger, and the joy of overflowing, gratefulness, is taken away from us. But if we make the vessel smaller and smaller by reducing our needs, then the overflowing comes sooner and with it the joy of gratefulness. It's the overflow that sparkles in the sun.  
(David Steindl Rast)

 

Simple living is about freedom. It's about a freedom to choose open and generous living rather than a secure and sheltered way. (Jose Hobday)

 

We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?  (Wendell Berry)

 
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ART

This month we highlight the musical arts 

by featuring two music videos that give voice to the fruit of simplicity

I Shall Not Want

Sung by Audrey Assad

Lyrics by Audrey Assad and Bryan Brown

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

No, I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

I Shall Not Want Music Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5xEYgGr6ms

Old Church Basement

Sung by Elevation Worship & Maverick City Music

Featuring Dante Bowe

Written by Steven Furtick, Brandon Lake, Dante Bowe, Chandler Moore

Church basements tend to be spaces characterized by functional simplicity.

In this song, faithful songwriters reflect on their youth spent in an old church basement.

 

We got together every Wednesday night
About thirty teenagers
My friend Josh bought a cheap guitar and barely knew how to play it
He wasn't putting on a show, wasn't well known, wasn't trying to be famous
But we sure touched heaven in that old church basement

 

Old Church Basement Music Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FB3S6Htjek

 
 
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POETRY

Instructions for A Long Life

Carol Barrett

         

     Read more faces, more

     tombstones, more poems.

     Among the sheep

     and the shamrock search out

     the old women.

     Touch the squares of their quilts,

     the blue stitches on their white

     nights. Feed their cats

     fish. Spare nothing.

     In the morning incant the wind

     to clear leaves from the gutters.

     Lift the oars of their mid-day boats

     and watch the evening

     lie down on the lake.

     Say good-bye to each day

     as if it were the first.

 

 

Carol Barrett teaches Poetry and Healing courses. She has published two volumes of poetry including the prize-winning Calling in the Bones and a work of creative nonfiction, Pansies, one of the first books in English about the Apostolic Lutheran community.  “Instructions for a Long Life” was first published in Touchstone in 1988.

 
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PROFILE

Wendell Berry

By Billy Brummel

In exploring the theme of Simplicity this month, we look to the life of Wendell Berry. Born in Henry County, Kentucky in 1934, Berry’s family had farmed in the area for five generations prior. He attended the University of Kentucky and earned his B.A. and M.A. in English. In 1958, he attended Stanford’s creative writing program where he joined the likes of Ken Kesey, Ernest Gaines, Tillie Olsen, and Larry McMurtry. After spending some time in Europe and New York, he eventually took a teaching post at the University of Kentucky in 1964. In 1965, he moved his family into their 117-acre farm called Lane’s Landing in his native Henry County, where he has lived and farmed ever since. Berry has produced over 50 books of poems, essays and fiction. He was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 by the National Book Critics Circle and President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal in 2010.

 

For Berry, simplicity comes down to a matter of preserving the very integrity of his soul. If you doubt his commitment to the pursuit of simplicity, take as proof the title of an essay he wrote for Harper’s magazine in 1987: Why I Am Not Going To Buy A Computer. In it he sets forth the standards by which he evaluates possible technological upgrades (in this case, trading his Number 2 pencil for a computer):

  1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces

  2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces

  3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces

  4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces

  5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body

  6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools

  7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible

  8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair

  9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships 

While such stringent standards could be written off as pie-in-the-sky thinking to which no first world dwelling human can adhere, Berry lives in such a way that proves this kind of simplicity is possible. 

 

The kind of simplicity that Wendell Berry embraces stems from his belief that a life with limits--geographical, emotional, technological, and economical—is a life that produces virtue and goodness; the flipside is nothing short of a disease: “To recover from our disease of limitlessness, we will have to give up the idea that we have a right to be godlike animals, that we are potentially omniscient and omnipotent, ready to discover “the secret of the universe.” We will have to start over, with a different and much older premise: the naturalness and, for creatures of limited intelligence, the necessity, of limits. We must learn again to ask how we can make the most of what we are, what we have, what we have been given. If we always have a theoretically better substitute available from somebody or someplace else, we will never make the most of anything. It is hard to make the most of one life. If we each had two lives, we would not make much of either. Or as one of my best teachers said of people in general: ‘They’ll never be worth a damn as long as they’ve got two choices.’” To hear Berry say that limits are not only natural, but necessary flies in the face of what most of us are taught to be true about ourselves and our capabilities. It reminds me of the great basketball coach John Wooden who, each summer when practice commenced, would sit his team down and demonstrate the correct way to put on their socks and tie their shoes. While it had a practical application, it became a touchstone through which Wooden’s players from across several generations could connect with each other. The simple became imbued with a cultural significance. Berry describes it this way: “…our human and earthly limits, properly understood are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning.”

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FILM

Each month we recommend films focused on our theme

Documentary Film

Biggest Little Farm

(2018)

 

Traditional food chef Molly Chester and her filmmaker husband John Chester traded their life in urban Santa Monica for 200 acres of infertile land nestled in the foothills of Ventura County — an arid and desolate plot called Apricot Lane Farms.

Hence began a journey to build a new life from scratch. The vision? An organic, biodiverse farm based upon regenerative principles, thriving in harmony with nature. It began with repairing the draught-laden, nutrient depleted soil, followed by planting 10,000 orchard trees.  Rooting over 200 crops. Introducing a myriad of animals. Managing the chaos that ensued. And patiently stewarding the farm from inert to irascible and ultimately into what it is today — an awe-inspiring symphonic ecosystem in vibrant, sustainable co-existence with nature’s rhythms.

Along the way, John chronicled every daunting, obstacle-fraught step, plying his storytelling skills and masterful wildlife cinematography to produce The Biggest Little Farm — an extraordinary documentary that evidences the planet’s innate power to heal itself in synchronous partnership with humans devoted to restoring its precious biodiversity. Uplifting and wildly entertaining, it dispenses with the dystopia common among ecological fare, instead leaving audiences uplifted — and in love with the hard-earned possibility of positive change. The film is available on various streaming services. 

Ted Talk

Designing for Simplicity:

John Maeda

(15 minutes)

John Maeda, the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, is dedicated to linking design and technology. Through the software tools, web pages and books he creates, he spreads his philosophy of elegant simplicity.

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/john_maeda_designing_for_simplicity

 
 
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ESSAY

The Burden of Parenting:

In Praise of Christian Simplicity

By Myles Werntz

 

In this article from Mere Orthodoxy, author Myles Werntz looks at simplicity through the dual lenses he lives with – as a follower of Christ and as a parent.  Acknowledging that many historic adherents of simplicity in the church have been single monks, he seeks to illuminate the pains and promises of simplicity from the perspective of a faithful parent. Werntz writes: “Simplicity, at one level, is certainly about one’s consumption, about paring down and decluttering.  But simplicity – if it is meant to reflect who God is – goes beyond this, involving the affections, prayer, and growth in virtue.  As created beings, however, we learn the things of God through the things of earth, and the two are not easily disentangled. The difficulty of simplicity is that it, like frugality and minimalism, involves a real paring down of our material goods, but for different reasons, and beyond what seems culturally gauche. It is one thing to do spring cleaning; it is quite another to give away the very things which would make our lives comfortable for the sake of prayer and service.”  Werntz encourages us, as singles and married couples and parents together, to undertake the journey of simplicity as one body, bearing our burdens together, and extending God’s grace to each other in the process.

Read the full article here:

https://mereorthodoxy.com/burden-parenting-praise-christian-simplicity/

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BOOKS

Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme

 

Spiritual Classic

Freedom of Simplicity: 

Finding Harmony in a Complex World

Richard J. Foster

 

A pivotal paradox for us to understand is that simplicity is both a grace and a discipline.

(Richard J. Foster)

 

Richard J. Foster is profound. His theology is based on extensive research and a life well examined. This book has two parts. The first examines the biblical roots for a life of simplicity. The second part offers six contexts in which to practice it. Together they establish the means and the validation for a life of "unhurried peace and power."  Like all of Richard Foster's writing, this book offers a serious and deeply spiritual approach to living a life of simplicity as a Christian. 

 

Celebrating 40 years since it was first published, Freedom of Simplicity challenges readers to seriously examine their own life and lifestyle. The book details the many levels of simplicity-- far beyond mere decreased consumerism, but also family life, ways of thinking, and ways of walking on the earth. Whether or not a person has a religious orientation, this book calls the question of our cultural obsession with excess and offers some real and practical suggestions about how to move away from and beyond that mind-set.

 

 

 

Children’s Book

Loved

Sally Lloyd Jones

 

Even the youngest kids can experience God's Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love in this book that presents the Lord's Prayer in words any child can understand. With vibrant new illustrations, you and your child can explore Jesus' timeless teaching together in a new and fresh way.

  • Amazon
  • Amazon
 
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DIG DEEPER

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 kind of life do you want to live?

b.  What is keeping you from living that life?

 

c.  What sparks joy in you?


d.  How is simplicity reflected in your speech?  Ask yourself “Is what I am about to say truthful?  Sincere? Necessary? Helpful? Kind?"

 

e.  Review your calendar.  Ask yourself, “Does my calendar reflect my values and priorities?

What actions can you take to align your calendar with your values and priorities?

 

f.  How pure is your heart?  How pure is your life?  What is getting in the way? What doesn’t belong?  What is missing?

 

g.  Consider Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:25-34.  How might the images of “the birds of the air” and the “lilies of the field” inspire you to live more simply?  What would your life look like if you were to make Matthew 6:33 (“Strive first for the Kingdom of God…”) your guiding principle?

 

h.  Go through your clothes closet, your bookshelves, your storage spaces, your attic or basement, and identify the things you need.  Give away the rest.

 

i.  Practice gratitude.  Look for beauty in ordinary things, in nature and in people – every day!

 

2.   THE FRANCISCAN WAY OF SIMPLICITY

Franciscan simplicity of life is what some might term as minimalistic – although it’s not a trend or current fad or fashion of living.  It’s more than that.  It is a complete way of life that looks at the belongings we own and the ego we are.  As they say:  Remove the meaningless to return the meaningful.  

http://franciscanseculars.com/the-assisi-spirit-of-franciscan-simplicity/

 

 

3.   TIDYING UP WITH MARIE KONDO

Launched in 2019 this Netflix TV series follows Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant and bestselling author as she visits families to help them organize and tidy their homes.  Marie Iida serves as Marie Kondo’s interpreter throughout the show.  The show has had a notable cultural impact in the US and the UK, where it has been reported to have increased donations to charity shops.  

 

 

4.   THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: SIMPLICITY

The truth is, attaining the simple life resists simple solutions.  It is, however, every bit the master key it seems.  In this article by Brett and Kate McKay, they look at why the most common ways of seeking simplicity don’t ultimately penetrate to its core, and what constitutes the true heart of the simple life.  

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/spiritual-disciplines-simplicity/

 

 

5.   THE POWER OF SIMPLICITY AND CONSTRAINT IN ART

There is power and potency in working with simplicity and constraint in creating art. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright observed:  Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art.  In this blog entry from The Artist’s Journey, artist and Stanford psychiatrist Nancy Hillis explores the power and promise of simplicity in the creation of art.  

 

https://www.artistsjourney.com/blog/constraint-in-art

 
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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

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

Subscribe to CULTIVARE for free! 

FIELD NOTES

This month we feature the artwork of American artist Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), who was born into a gifted artistic family. Wyeth was a visual artist, primarily a realist painter, working predominately in a regionalist style. In his art, Wyeth’s favorite subjects were the land and people around him, both in his hometown of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and at his summer home in Cushing, Maine. Wyeth often said, “I paint my life.”  You may learn more about Andrew Wyeth and his family at his official website:  

https://andrewwyeth.com/

Images used in order of appearance:

1.   FIELD:   Wind from the Sea, 1947, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

                        Used in 2017 US Postage Stamp

 

2.   SEEDS:   Frostbitten, 1962, Private Collection. Used in 2017 US Postage Stamp

 

3.   ART:   Alvaro and Christina, 1968, Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME

                        Used in 2017 US Postage Stamp

 

4.   POETRY:   Sandspit, 1953, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

 

5.   PROFILE:  Turkey Pond, 1944, Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME

 

6.   FILM:  Blackberry Picker, 1943, Private Collection

 

7.   ESSAY:  Christina Olson, 1947, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

 

8.   BOOKS:  Groundhog Day, 1959, Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA

                         

9.   DIG DEEPER:  Monologue, 1965, Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA

 

10.  ROOTED:  Love in the Afternoon, 1992, Private Collection. 

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'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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