ISSUE No. 15 | November 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 LISTENING. Many individuals hold the view that listening is one of the easiest things to do, but, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that it is often one of the hardest. Effective listening takes time, attention, patience, and practice. Yes, practice! Listening is a skill rather than a gift; therefore, it can be developed through practice. Listening is not merely waiting till the other person has finished speaking.
Have you ever thought of listening as an act of hospitality? In this season when we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, we want to encourage you to take some time to reflect on how you go about listening – to individuals familiar and unfamiliar, to those you agree with and to those you disagree. How can you extend the hospitality of listening to others? Author and priest Henri Nouwen observed: Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.
In this issue we offer a variety of resources to help you think more deeply about listening. Our hope is that amidst these cultural times of division and disagreement we can learn to be better listeners and move from stranger to friend, from being unknown to being known. Our aim is that we can “practice, practice, practice” what it means to listen to others, to our souls, and to God.
Three diverse theologians affirm the importance of listening. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: The first service one owes to others is learning to listen to them. Paul Tillich observed: The first duty of love is to listen. Invaluable insights into listening! Theologian Howard Thurman offers a prayer that invites us each to step forward into a deeper understanding and experience of listening: Give me the listening ear. I seek this day the ear that will not shrink from […] the word that challenges me to deeper consecration and higher resolve – the word that lays bare needs that make my own days uneasy, that seizes upon every good decent impulse of my nature, channeling it into paths of healing in the lives of others. AMEN to that! (DG)
As Jesus said these things, he called out,
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Luke 8:8 NIV)
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:12 NIV)
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19 NIV)
Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener
when you are anything but,
letting the Word go in one ear and out the other.
Act on what you hear! (James 1:22 MSG)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable. (David Augsburger)
God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer. (Mother Teresa)
It is the province of knowledge to speak. And it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
(Oliver Wendell Holmes)
Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked, listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place. (Simon Sinek)
You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. (M. Scott Peck)
Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.
(Sue Patton Thoele)
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. (Winston Churchill)
Sainthood emerges when you can listen to someone's tale of woe and not respond with a description of your own. (Andrew V. Mason)
In a way, not to be heard is not to exist. This can be the plight of the very young and the very old, the very sick, the “confused,” and all too frequently the dying – literally no one in their lives has the time or patience to listen. Or perhaps we lack the courage to hear them. As time-obsessed people, we dismiss those not “worth” listening to. (Margaret Guenther)
I fine-tuned my ear to the sayings of the wise,
I solve life's riddle with the help of a harp.
(Psalm 49:4 MSG)
This month we feature an extraordinarily gifted artist who creates music that transports our listening ears and souls to awe-inspiring beauty. The New York Times has said harpist Bridget Kibbey "makes it seem as though her instrument had been waiting all its life to explode with the gorgeous colors and energetic figures she was getting from it." Lucid Culture observes: “While the classical concert harp probably isn’t the first instrument that you would think of as being badass, Kibbey makes it that way. Praised for her DIY esthetic, she lends her unorthodox virtuosity and powerful attack to a nonstop series of new commissions… "
Bridget's debut album, Love Is Come Again, was named one of the Top Ten Releases by Time Out New York. She was featured with tenor Placido Domingo on an album entitled Encanto del Mar, released on SONY Records in 2014. She may also be heard on Deutsche Grammaphon with soprano Dawn Upshaw, in Luciano Berio's Folk Songs and Osvaldo Golijov's Ayre. Kibbey's solo performances have been broadcast on NPR's Performance Today, on New York's WQXR and Q2 Radio, WNYC's Soundcheck, WETA's Front Row Washington, WRTI’s Crossover, and A&E's Breakfast with the Arts.
Attentive listening was key to Kibbey’s introduction to the harp. As she shared in an interview with the Philadelphia Music Chamber Society: I first encountered the harp in a country church in northwest Ohio at the age of nine. Having played piano for six years, my dad had the wise idea that transitioning to harp wouldn't be too much of a leap. Once I got past Twinkle-Twinkle and Suzuki Book 1 (resenting the fact that I had already played these pieces on piano six years earlier as a toddler), I was HOOKED. I am still completely mesmerized by my instrument. Aside from the power of its resonance that reaches out and hugs an audience, it exists in many traditions around the world. Not just the Baroque lute or the French Belle Époque (Debussy, Ravel, etc.), but in folk traditions, from the kora to the Celtic clarsach to the Colombian, Paraguayan, and Venezuelan uses for the instrument. My hope is audiences would understand just how much expression comes from the harp, regardless of time or place.
We encourage you to listen and let your soul encounter and embrace rarified beauty.
Bridget Kibbey Plays Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 by J.S. Bach
For more information on Bridget Kibbey visit her website: https://bridgetkibbey.com/
When Someone Deeply Listens to You
When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
You are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you,
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you,
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.
John Fox, “When Someone Deeply Listens to You” from Finding What You Didn’t Lose (1995)
St. Benedict is one of the most well-known and influential Saints of the Christian church. Central to his life and legacy is the profound importance of listening.
Benedict was born in Norcia (Italy) around 480 AD, just four years after the Western Roman Empire fell, during a tumultuous historical period. He was born into a Roman noble family with his twin sister Scholastica. The expectation was that he would follow his family’s plan for his life and serve in the Roman government. Listening to his soul and the cultural times, at the age of twenty Benedict retreated into a cave at Subiaco, living there for three years as a hermit. As he grew in wisdom, age, and grace, he attracted the attention of spiritual seekers. He would eventually be persuaded to lead a local community of monks. Benedict’s experience with this group of monks did not go well as he faced strong resistance to his efforts to cultivate greater spiritual discipline in the lives of the community.
Benedict left that community and returned to his cave. Spiritual seekers continued to seek him out. Eventually he agreed to organize them into monasteries, each with its own presiding Abbot. He would later go on to establish a monastery at Monte Cassino which became renowned as the birthplace of the Benedictine order. It was at Monte Cassino that Benedict wrote his monastic “Rule” sometime around 516. It was here that he would later die and be buried alongside his beloved sister St. Scholastica.
While monasticism had a long history prior to Benedict, he created a new model for monastic life that grew from his practical and integrative mind. Where earlier monastic communities often stressed strict asceticism and super-human self-denial, Benedict’s novel approach and design was to make it possible for ordinary men and women to faithfully follow God every day in their work and prayer life. Therefore, the disciplines that comprised Benedict’s Rule, reflected a shift from externals to internals. Attention was to be given to humility, obedience, stability, and a commitment to adapt and attune to the life of the community.
The first word found in Benedict’s Rule is “Listen.” Listening is the starting point for how one is to conduct one’s life. In the Rule of St. Benedict, he noted:
One who never stops talking cannot avoid falling into sin.
Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions,
and attend to them with the ear of your heart.
A phrase attributed to St. Benedict is the exhortation to “Listen with the ear of the heart.” As various commentators have written, when St. Benedict urges us to listen, he is not simply talking about listening as we typically perceive it. We are invited to listen in a deeper way. We are invited into a receptive understanding, a trusting position toward truth. We listen with our hearts open, and God imparts his truth to us.
St. Benedict referred to the Church as “the great teacher of the art of listening.” In his view the Church historically instructed students and the faithful on the often-challenging work of opening ears and hearts to God. St. Benedict believed that lectio divina, or the divine reading of scripture, was a particularly meaningful method of reading the Bible. He wrote that “the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer which brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to God with trusting openness of heart.” St. Benedict advocated for this method adding, “If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime.”
This Fall, may we deepen our belief and fortify our commitment that a new spiritual springtime is possible. Let us each start where Benedict started, by listening with the ear of our hearts. (DG)
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) is a coming-of-age movie about Ruby, the sole hearing member of a deaf family. Academy Award winning actress Marlee Maitlin plays the mother of Ruby and agreed to participate in the film only if the actors who portrayed deaf characters were actually deaf. Maitlin is the only deaf performer to have won an Academy Award as well as the youngest Best Actress winner for her role in the film Children of a Lesser God (1986). Maitlin once said, "Deaf people can do anything, except hear." CODA exemplifies this reality, specifically emphasizing that listening is not dependent on hearing. Two things to consider. First, this movie is behind the paywall of Apple+ (4.99 per month) and, while we routinely exclude films behind paywalls, we felt this movie was poignant enough that if you have not already joined Apple+ for Ted Lasso it was worth at least signing up for the 7-day free trial. Second, while this PG-13 movie does have some language, as well as sexual reference and innuendo that some may find offensive, we invite you to listen beyond your moral sensitivities to a family learning that love requires listening to one another. Directed by Sian Heder.
Harman: The Art of Listening
If you haven’t heard of Harman before, they are a multi-billion dollar company focused on delivering high quality sound. In this short documentary a variety of sound engineers and musicologists explore the modern tendency to simply engage music as background noise throughout our day. In The Art of Listening, we are invited to consider what happens when we turn off the lights, when we close our eyes, when we turn off our phones and devices. How does it affect our experience with music? What are we able to hear? What happens to our ability to listen? Music, it is argued, was made by the artist to be listened to actively, with intention, and when so done may potentially offset some of the negative psychological effects of this digital noise era.
Harman’s The Art of Listening Documentary
Humorous Short Film
It's Not About the Nail
Ignoring the cliche' gender roles, this humorous dialogue underscores the difficulty that pragmatists and emotives have in connecting with one another. Some people find comfort in sitting in a problem, and others in fixing problems, but both need to truly listen to one another to connect meaningfully. Created by Jason Headley.
Listen Carefully. . . and Incline the Ear of your Heart
By Dr. Tom Neal
I have found in my experience that the art of listening is really the art of loving, and that, in a real way, listening to others can be far more powerful as a transforming agent than speaking.
Insightful words from Dr. Tom Neal who serves as Professor of Spiritual Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. In this short article he offers encouraging stories from his life and the lives of others that give testimony to the power of listening. A therapist friend uses the phrase, “I listen people into health.” Neal observes: “And is that not a form of loving? You’ve likely heard the saying, ‘Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer.’ But the truth is that this should be a standard ascetical practice for Christians called to love especially those ‘who can’t pay you back’ with interesting conversation or warm affirmations. In fact, you might say that doing this is merely an imitation of God who, as we presume whenever we turn to pray, is always waiting in rapt attention, ready to listen to whatever small or large thing we have to say.” Read the entire article at the following link:
Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme
The Scent of Water
The Scent Of Water was written in 1963, and it chronicles the move of the central character Mary from a high powered executive job in London to the rural quiet of Appleshaw. Mary tells her disbelieving friends that she wishes to experience village life before it disappears forever. Her reasons however are deeper and more personal than that. She has been bequeathed a house by a cousin whom she met just once as a small girl and thinks at first that she will just put the property on the market and sell it. But as the memories of her visit resurface and as she listens to her life, she changes her mind and moves in. Goudge’s ability to layer a book so that the threads and narrative lead one ever deeper into the heart of the story, in this case an invitation to renewal, is truly inspirational.
If you have never read a book by Goudge you are in for a treat. Elizabeth Goudge was a British novelist (1900-1984) born into the home of an Anglican priest and theologian. She wrote children's books as well as novels--her Green Dolphin Street was made into an Academy Award winning film. In style and themes she parallels English writers such as the creator of the Miss Read series and mirrors the spiritual depth found in George MacDonald's novels. She won the Carnegie Award in 1947 for The Little White Horse, which is J. K. Rowling's favorite children's book.
Suzanne & Max Lang
Jim the chimpanzee is in a terrible mood for no good reason. His friends can't understand it--how can he be in a bad mood when it's SUCH a beautiful day? They have lots of suggestions for how to make him feel better. But Jim can't take all the advice...and has a BIT of a meltdown. Could it be that he just needs a day to feel grumpy?
Suzanne and Max Lang bring hilarity and levity to this very important lesson on emotional literacy, demonstrating to kids that they are encouraged to listen to their feelings.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. REFLECTION QUESTIONS ON LISTENING
Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:
a. What are some benefits for you personally from effective listening?
b. What are some barriers to effective listening?
c. Which of these barriers is most problematic for you?
d. Who are some of the best listeners in your life?
e. What has led you to understand that you are being listened to by these individuals?
f. Who in your life do you find it easy to listen to?
g. Who in your life do you find it difficult to listen to? Why?
h. How do you view your ability to listen to God?
2. BEING A GOOD LISTENER
We hear a lot about how to speak well in public, but very little about how to master the equally important art of listening well to others. This 5-minute video from TedEd describes four steps to becoming a good listener.
Watch here: https://ed.ted.com/best_of_web/foptnjVE
3. WHAT GREAT LISTENERS ACTUALLY DO (HBR)
What makes a good listener? Most people think is comes down to three components: not interrupting the speaker, following along with facial expressions, and being able to repeat back almost verbatim what the speaker has just said. According to research from Zenger and Folkman, however, we’re doing it all wrong. Instead of thinking of a good listener as a sponge —absorbing everything but providing little feedback — a skilled listener should be thought of as a trampoline who amplifies and supports a speaker’s thoughts by providing constructive feedback. Engaging in a two-way conversation is essential, according to data, and Zenger and Folkman define six levels of listening, all meant to help listeners develop this skill.
Read the full article here: https://hbr.org/2016/07/what-great-listeners-actually-do
4. TED TALK: THE POWER OF LISTENING
In this Ted Talk, William Ury explains how listening is the essential, and often overlooked, half of communication. His stories of candid conversations with presidents and business leaders provide us with impactful lessons, such as understanding the power of a human mind opening up. He asks us to join a listening revolution and promises that if we all just listen a little bit more, we can transform any relationship. Ury is the cofounder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation and is one of the world’s best-known and most influential experts on negotiation. He is the coauthor of Getting to Yes, the bestselling negotiation book in the world. His latest book is Getting to Yes with Yourself (and other worthy opponents).
Watch Ury’s Ted Talk here: https://youtu.be/saXfavo1OQo
5. LISTENING PRAYER
I wait upon you.
I pause, still my mind and still my heart.
I wait upon you.
I stop, and listen beyond the everyday.
I wait upon you.
I rest, and allow my soul to have space.
I wait upon you.
Quiet, at rest, held.
I wait upon you.
And call Abba, Abba Father.
I know you have searched me, and you know me.
I know you are the beginning and the end.
I know you are the Redeemer.
I wait upon you,
Allowing your grace to penetrate my whole being.
And in this place, close, protected and eternal
I find that this grace renews my strength,
Wipes away my tears,
And promises new hope.
I wait upon you.
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: Duane Grobman, Photo, Mill Run Telephone Booths, 2019
2. SEEDS: Ernie Barnes, The Quintet, c.1970s
3. ART: Photo of Bridget Kibbey, https://bridgetkibbey.com/
4. POETRY: Zilola Nazarova, Conversation Painting, 2018, https://www.saatchiart.com/
5. PROFILE: Duane Grobman, Photo, Volkenroda Zuhören, 2013
6. FILM: Paul Jenkins, Phenomena Listen Listen, Diptych, 1968
7. ESSAY: Joseph Wheelwright, Listening Stone, 1995
8. BOOKS: Marc Chagall, The Concert, 1957
9. DIG DEEPER: Norman Rockwell, Doctor and Doll, 1929
10. ROOTED: Ted Ellis, It Is In The Lord’s Hands, undated, www.tellisfineart.com
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Beth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)