ISSUE No. 18 | February 2022
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 DESIRE. For the shortest month of the year, February packs in a lot of celebrations with a lot of desire – Black History month and the desire to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and their central role in US. History, Valentine’s Day and the desire to celebrate love, President’s Day and the desire to celebrate leadership and liberty, Ground Hog’s Day and the desire to celebrate the dawning signs of Spring – and for many animal lovers, marmots!
Webster’s dictionary offers these definitions for DESIRE:
Conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment.
Craving, sexual urge or appetite
Something longed or hoped for
A usually formal request or petition for some action
We encourage you to take time this month to contemplate the following questions:
What do I desire?
To what end are my desires oriented?
Which desires drive my daily habits and routines?
Reflect on a typical day: What are the desires I am currently pursuing?
In this issue we celebrate two gifted African Americans, artist Ernie Barnes and federal judge Constance Baker Motley. We feature poetry by Langston Hughes and Kahlil Gibran and music from the Irish band U2. We also introduce you to the new book The Soul of Desire by psychiatrist Curt Thompson. In the book Thompson writes: We are people of desire. We want things. We long for things. It is primal to our nature to yearn. As Saint Augustine reflected, “The whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing. . .. That is our life, to be trained by longing.” (DG)
Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37: 3-4 NAS)
He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him;
He hears their cry and saves them.
(Psalm 145:19 NIV)
May He grant you according to your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose.
(Psalm 20:4 NKJV)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it.
(George Bernard Shaw)
Have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life.
If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (C.S. Lewis)
You need to know it's your actions that will make you a good person, not desire.
Anxiety and desire are two, often conflicting, orientations to the unknown. Both are tilted toward the future. Desire implies a willingness, or a need, to engage this unknown, while anxiety suggests a fear of it. Desire takes one out of oneself, into the possibility or relationship, but it also takes one deeper into oneself. Anxiety turns one back on oneself, but only onto the self that is already known. (Mark Epstein)
There are few things we should keenly desire if we really knew what we wanted.
(François de La Rochefoucauld)
Boredom is the inner conflict we suffer when we lose desire, when we lack a lacking.
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C.S. Lewis)
Artist of the Month
His work is visual poetry, vibrant, rhythmic, pulsating, and alive.
Ernie Barnes is the artist we chose to highlight this month, and the art pieces before each section in this issue are presented as a sampling of the Barnes collection. Born Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr. in 1938, Ernie grew up in North Carolina during segregation and the Jim Crow era. As a child Ernie was encouraged to look through art books, which in time resulted in a passion for drawing and art. Simultaneously, at the encouragement of a masonry teacher, he had begun to work out and grow his physical strength in response to bullying from his peers. Two paths were thus born, Ernie as artist and Ernie as athlete. These paths would run parallel during his college tenure at North Carolina Central University (formerly North Carolina College for Negroes) where he studied art on an athletic scholarship and excelled in football and track and field.
In December 1959 Ernie was drafted as a professional football player for what would be a six year career. However, even while playing football, his desire for artistic expression was apparent. Ernie was often fined by coaches for sketching during team meetings, and sometimes during timeouts he would quickly sketch his observations on the field and run these sketches back to the sidelines. Though he did not love playing football, he acknowledges that his years as an athlete play a role in his usage of elongated movement iconic to his paintings.
It is noted that as an 18-year-old on a school field trip to the North Carolina Museum of Art, when asking about paintings by African American artists the docent replied, “Your people don’t express themselves that way.” Ernie Barnes would change that narrative, becoming a prolific painter whose artwork is renowned for its neo-mannerist approach, a unique expression of elongation and motion. Barnes’ art was most widely introduced to the world through the 1970’s sitcom “Good Times,” where his work “the Sugar Shack” was often on display and would later become the album cover for the Marvin Gaye 1976 recording, I Want You. Twenty-three years after visiting the art museum, he would return to showcase a solo exhibition that would be attended by the Governor.
Beyond the movement in his paintings two other themes are readily identifiable. Barnes painted many of his subjects with closed eyes. He did this to represent the ways he felt we are blind to one another’s humanity. Many of his paintings allude to his desire to help the Black community know and appreciate their cultural roots. He painted from his experiences with a hope to capture the beauty of Black culture, even in the midst of struggle. He acknowledges his college instructor Ed Wilson as playing a significant role in helping him find the beauty of reflecting upon his own life experiences, saying “He made me conscious of the fact that the artist who is useful to America is one who studies his own life and records it through the medium of art, manners and customs of his own experiences.” (JM)
Photo of artist Ernie Barnes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
From On Love
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires,
let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise on your lips.
Constance Baker Motley
Constance Baker Motley was a woman of many firsts. The first African American woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court (she would argue a total of ten cases there in her illustrious career). She was the first African American woman appointed to become a federal judge. She was the first African American to be elected to the New York Senate. The first African American to serve as Manhattan Borough President. The list goes on. A woman of extraordinary intelligence, grace, and modesty, she was a key strategist and lawyer in the civil rights movement, described as one of the movement’s chief “architects of desegregation.”
Born to immigrant parents from the Caribbean island of Nevis, she was the ninth of twelve children in her family. In October 1945, during Baker’s second year at Columbia Law School, future US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall hired her as a law clerk. She would go on to assist him in the landmark case Brown vs. Board of Education.
In an article on her life, written by Ann Clair Williams for Duke University’s Law School Journal Judicature (Fall 2019), Williams notes that: “Although Motley loved music, she could not sing. She was such a bad singer that, as a little girl growing up in New Haven, she was asked to leave the choir. Judge Constance Baker Motley could not carry a tune, but she spent her life singing songs of equal justice in perfect harmony.”
Williams would go on to recall when she attended Motley’s memorial service in 2005, noting: “The celebration of her life opened with a song she loved Lift Every Voice and Sing. James Weldon Johnson wrote Lift Every Voice and Sing as a poem, and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, set it to music. The song was first performed at a segregated school on February 12, 1900, by 500 children celebrating the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The song’s lyrics, which we sang together in the iconic Riverside Church in New York City as we celebrated my friend and mentor, begin:
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.
Constance Baker Motley’s voice rang with the harmonies of liberty and justice. Because Constance Baker Motley lifted her voice and sang, African Americans, persons of color, women — indeed, all Americans — have a voice. We are all the beneficiaries of her great civil rights and judicial legacy.” (DG)
To learn more about Constance Baker Motley, explore the following:
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
The Devil Wears Prada
“In our factories we make lipstick, while in our advertising we sell hope.” (Peter Nivio Zarlenga) When discussing the topic of desire, the Cultivare team quickly pointed to how fashion and desire are intimately intertwined. While fashion is art, the industry owes a significant debt to our human desire to tell an outward story about our inner condition. With this color, this cut, this accessory … maybe I can convince the world that I am happy, successful, grieving, simple … even if I am inwardly none of these things. The Devil Wears Prada is a winsome story of the desire for success within the fashion industry. Watch it if for no other reason than the performances of Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. While admittedly a classic comedy drama, it brings surprising depth. The movie’s pith and wit offset a subtly posed question: Do I really know what I desire, and what am I willing to sacrifice to achieve it? Available on various streaming services. Rated PG-13.
This 1989 Pixar Short produced by John Lasseter is the story of a snowman who simply desires to leave his snow globe. It humorously depicts the difficulties many of us have experienced when our desires are identified but our capacity to achieve them is questionable.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
This short film documentary highlights the famed U2 song I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. The song describes the deep discontent of the human soul; desire unfulfilled haunts, yet desire realized can also prove unsatisfying. While in the rock genre, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For was written with gospel roots that explore the tension of believing in God yet finding satisfaction difficult to come by in this earthly realm. The film involves a collaboration with the Irish band U2 and a choir from Harlem, two different worlds acknowledging the universal reality that desire both drives and eludes us.
How to Avoid Chasing Things You Don't Truly Want
By Hope Reese
Our social instincts can lead us to adopt models of desire that might not serve our interests.
Much of this Cultivare edition is focused on the power and movement of our desire. However, we chose an essay from Big Think that focuses on the formation of our desires. The age-old question of "nature vs. nurture" is considered and a strong argument is made that your desire may actually be someone else's. Surprisingly, it is empathy that is suggested as an antidote to a culture of hyper-imitation. Read the full article at the following link:
Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme
The Soul of Desire
We are people of desire.
In The Soul of Desire (2021), psychiatrist Curt Thompson suggests that underneath all our longings is the desire to be known―and what's more, that this fundamental yearning manifests itself in our deep need to make things of beauty, revealing who we are to others. Desire and beauty go hand in hand.
But both our craving to be known and our ability to create beauty have been marred by trauma and shame, collapsing our imagination for what God has for us and blinding us to the possibility that beauty could ever emerge from our ashes. Drawing on his work in interpersonal neurobiology and clinical practice, Thompson presents a powerful picture of the capacity of the believing community to reshape our imaginations, hold our desires and griefs together, and invite us into the beauty of God’s presence.
The Soul of Desire is a mature, creative work, weaving together neuroscience and spiritual formation to open new horizons for thinking not only about the nature of the mind, but about what it means to be human.
A Frog Thing
This simple children’s story sits at the intersection of desire and capacity. Frank, a young frog who desires to fly, learns to accept his limitations by defying expectations.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS ON DESIRE
Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:
a. What brings you joy?
b. What kind of person do you want to be?
c. What makes you forget time?
d. What are you gifted or skilled at?
e. What are three things you’d do if you were going to die tomorrow?
f. If money weren’t an issue, what would you do?
g. Do your actions align with your true desires?
2. PIETY’S ENEMY: SOVEREIGN DESIRE – First Things
In this article by R.R. Reno, he asserts: “In many and various ways, today’s culture in the West teaches us that we’re happiest and our society is most just when we’re free to satisfy our desires. True, we must accept some limits. We can’t harm others, and we must respect their freedom to satisfy their desire. But those limitations operate on the perimeter. The core commitment is to sovereign desire.”
3. CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE DEMANDS THAT WE STUDY OUR DESIRES,
NOT HIDE THEM – CT
Being faithful to a spouse requires living in community, seeking God daily, and learning from our celibate brothers and sisters.
4. SONG: MY DESIRE
Written by Kirk Franklin and performed here by Heritage Mass Choir from South Korea. Both the desire and the need for God are universal – regardless of language, border, or culture. View Now
My desire is to please You
To be more and more like You Jesus
Each and every day, I lift my hands and say
"I want to be more like You"
I give You my life
Take me in Your arms and hold me Jesus
I give You my heart
I know that You can mend these broken pieces
I'm totally, I'm totally
Totally committed to You
5. PRAYER OF DESIRE
From Canyon Road by Kara Kristina Reeves
Organize my days, I pray,
by the working of your Spirit
in my midst.
Organize my thoughts I pray,
by the working of your Spirit
in my mind.
Organize my emotions, I pray,
by the working of your Spirit
in my inmost heart.
Organize my desire, I pray,
by the working of your Spirit
in my will.
Organize my relationships, I pray,
by the working of your Spirit
in my labor, home, and leisure.
Illuminate this life, God,
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:
All artwork by Ernie Barnes
NOTE: Many of the art pieces featured are available for purchase at:
1. HEADER: Sugar Shack, 1976
2. FIELD: The Graduate, 1972
3. SEEDS: Each One Teach One, undated
4. ART: Late Night DJ, 1980
5. POETRY: A Dream Deferred, 1996
6. PROFILE: Lift Every Voice, undated
7. FILM: Window Wishing, 1993
8. ESSAYS: Springboard, undated
9. BOOKS: Anniversary, undated
10. DIG DEEPER: The Dream Unfolds, 1996
11. ROOTED: Angel in Training, 2008
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Elizabeth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Shataia Whitney, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)