ISSUE No. 23 | July 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 HISTORY. We chose the theme for two primary reasons; first and foremost, because we think the study of history is a deeply meaningful and powerful source of enlightenment and encouragement that brings much needed perspective and hope. In a cultural time of discord, division, and discouragement, what lessons can we learn from history? Second, we wanted to acknowledge the celebration we hold each year in the United States of our Independence Day – July 4th – our 246th annual celebration of that historical event in 1776. But the U.S. is not alone in celebrating historic national holidays this month. Our Canadian brothers and sisters celebrate Canada Day on July 1 (celebrating an 1867 event) while our brothers and sisters in France celebrate Bastille Day on July 14 (celebrating an event in 1789).
One of the things that is striking about the reading of the Bible is that the God of the Bible thinks in generations. As modern people, we tend to think in the immediate NOW and often tend to think primarily of ourselves, wanting our desires and dreams met in the present day. But God’s perspective is different than ours. God is building a legacy, of which we are a part, but we are not the entirety of the story. This stands in contrast to the various Independence stories we value – be they cultural or personal Independence stories. The blind spot many Independence stories possess is that they tend to be disconnected from what came before. The reality and importance of history is that it reinforces the connectedness of life. History reminds us that we are part of God’s much larger story.
One of my most memorable history lessons occurred when I was traveling through Europe as part of a busload of American college students. When we arrived at the ancient city of Pompeii – which had been destroyed in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city in volcanic ash – we met our tour guide, a spirited Italian man in his 60’s named Joseppi. Joseppi kept reminding us young Americans that: “You know NOTHING about history! NOTHING!” His repeated proclamation was at first annoying but after two hours of learning about Pompeii and Italian history, we found his words both humorous and true. When it came to the vast history of humankind over the millennia, we knew a relatively minor amount. Or in Joseppi’s word: NOTHING!
How ‘bout you? What have you learned from history? How has history helped you better understand today? How might history offer perspective for the future?
In this issue we feature a well-known artist from the nineteenth century who was widely panned and unsuccessful when he was alive but became hugely revered by subsequent generations. We spotlight an American historian that helps individuals discover their generational roots. We feature a film that tells the story of the last emperor in China. And, we call your attention to an original essay by historian Chandra Mallampalli that reminds us that: Reading history takes patience, a willingness to quiet the self, and the opening of one’s mind to things that are “not just about me.”
We hope this issue cultivates both an appreciation for and an interest in history – your own personal history, as well as that of your community, your country, our world. May your engagement in history move you from present day concerns to past days’ lessons, to future faith-filled action. May we each experience history as both an anchor and a lifeline to hope. (DG)
Read up on what happened before you were born; dig into the past, understand your roots.
Ask your parents what it was like before you were born; ask the old-ones,
they'll tell you a thing or two. (Deuteronomy 32:7 MSG)
Stories we heard from our fathers, counsel we learned at our mother's knee.
We're not keeping this to ourselves, we're passing it along to the next generation –
God's fame and fortune, the marvelous things he has done. (Psalm 78:3-4 MSG)
Remember your history, your long and rich history. I am God, the only God you've had
or ever will have - incomparable, irreplaceable - From the very beginning telling you what the ending will be, All along letting you in on what is going to happen, Assuring you,
'I'm in this for the long haul, I'll do exactly what I set out to do. (Isaiah 46:9 MSG)
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do.
And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with –
even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department.
Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (Romans 14:1 MSG)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
To me, history ought to be a source of pleasure. It isn't just part of our civic responsibility. To me, it's an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is. (David McCullough)
History gives answers only to those who know how to ask questions. (Hajo Holborn)
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive. (James Baldwin)
History is important. If you don't know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it. (Howard Zinn)
One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.
There is divine beauty in learning... To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you. (Elie Wiesel)
When you remember the past, you are not remembering it as it was. You are remembering it as it is. It is a vision or a dream, present with you in the present, alive with you in the only time you are alive. (Wendell Berry)
The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history. (George Orwell)
Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
(Martin Luther King, Jr.)
All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. (C.S. Lewis)
Artist of the Month
Vincent Van Gogh
History has been kind to artist Vincent Van Gogh. Most of us would say it is well-deserved. Van Gogh was an artist of extraordinary talent. But that talent and creative spirit went largely unrecognized and ignored during his lifetime. His work and life are a reminder that honor, acclaim, and impact may be conferred and recognized long after we breathe our last breath. Future generations may possess a perspective to which our current generation is blind. Van Gogh’s artwork and written words hold strong resonance for many today, which explains not only the value and popularity of his artwork, but also modern-day creatives using his artwork in ways not previously imagined. A case in point are the widely popular “immersive” experiences of Van Gogh’s artwork that currently circle the globe. Check out these two traveling immersive experiences for a Van Gogh exhibit in your city:
BEYOND VAN GOGH: View Now »
THE IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE: View Now »
While influenced by impressionist painters of his era, Van Gogh developed his own instinctive, spontaneous style. He died penniless and virtually unknown in his day. However, to future generations he became one of the most celebrated artists of the twentieth century and played a key role in the development of modern art. We celebrate Van Gogh gifts, graces, and generosity of spirit by sharing not only his artwork but also insights into the thinking behind his craft. The following are three quotes from Van Gogh’s writings.
What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion. (Letter to his brother Theo, July 1882)
Believe me, I work, I drudge, I grind all day long and I do so with pleasure, but I should get very much discouraged if I could not go on working as hard or even harder... I feel, Theo, that there is a power within me, and I do what I can to bring it out and free it. (Letter to Theo 1982)
I think that everything that is really good and beautiful, the inner, moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works, comes from God, and everything that is bad and evil in the works of men and in men is not from God, and God does not approve of it. But I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things.
Pine Trees and Dandelions in the Garden of Saint Paul Hospital, Vincent Van Gogh (1890)
Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands
The Black Family Pledge
by Maya Angelou
BECAUSE we have forgotten our ancestors,
our children no longer give us honor.
BECAUSE we have lost the path our ancestors cleared
kneeling in perilous undergrowth,
our children cannot find their way.
BECAUSE we have banished the God of our ancestors,
our children cannot pray.
BECAUSE the old wails of our ancestors have faded beyond our hearing,
our children cannot hear us crying.
BECAUSE we have abandoned our wisdom of mothering and fathering,
our befuddled children give birth to children
they neither want nor understand.
BECAUSE we have forgotten how to love, the adversary is within our
gates, an holds us up to the mirror of the world shouting,
'Regard the loveless'
Therefore we pledge to bind ourselves to one another, to embrace our
lowliest, to keep company with our loneliest, to educate our illiterate,
to feed our starving, to clothe our ragged, to do all good things,
knowing that we are more than keepers of our brothers and sisters.
We ARE our brothers and sisters.
IN HONOR of those who toiled and implored God with golden tongues,
and in gratitude to the same God who brought us out of hopeless desolation,
we make this pledge.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr
By Jason Miller
I think your ancestors are in purgatory, waiting to be discovered.
When we find them we unlock the doors and they tell their story.
Their story is really a part of your story, you just don’t know it.
For this profile we highlight Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, known to many as Skip. He received his B.A. in History, summa cum laude, from Yale University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at Cambridge, and was the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. As the Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American research at Harvard University, a prolific writer, and the producer and host of twenty documentaries, Dr. Gates embodies the modern term, multipotentialite; meaning there are a variety of creative capacities, giftings, and accomplishments he could be profiled for. When asked for his own perspective on his work he states, “I would say I'm a literary critic. That's the first descriptor that comes to mind. After that I would say I was a teacher. Both would be just as important.” (*)
Literary critic and teacher he is, however Cultivare has chosen him primarily for his distinguished work as a historian, work that led him to being an activist for cultural change as well. Renowned as a “literary archaeologist” Dr. Gates has identified and recovered a significant number of lost writings by African American authors from the early 19th century. Dr. Gates has used his findings to be a winsome force who does not run from history, no matter how hard it is to face. In his writings and interviews he uses history to inform and nuance the cultural, political, and personal conversations of today. A self-proclaimed centrist, he attempts to use honest historical acknowledgement and identifiable common ancestral heritage, as a connective link for a culture polarized by racial, political, and socio-economic dividing lines.
Of his works, perhaps the most popularly identifiable is his PBS series, Finding Your Roots. Entering its 8th season, Finding Your Roots looks at the genealogy of celebrities and helps them become more informed on who they are, through whom and where they come from. As Gates elucidates, “People have so much anxiety about the future, so they want to anchor themselves in the past, and not by taking a course in world history, or American history, but in taking the course of their own family history.” We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the library of Gates writings and productions. We are confident that his use of history, and focus on the foundations of our personal past, will influence how you see yourself, your community, and American society.
(*) Cole, Bruce (2002). Henry Louis Gates Jr. Interview. National Endowment for the Humanities. Archived from the original on December 9, 2006. Retrieved January 4, 2007.
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
The Last Emperor
Winner of nine Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Last Emperor tells the dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City--the object of worship by half a billion people-- through his abdication, his decline and dissolute lifestyle, his exploitation by the invading Japanese, and finally to his obscure existence as just another peasant worker in the People's Republic. Directed by famed Italian Director Bernardo Bertolucci. Available on various streaming services.
Any Documentary Film by Ken Burns
Fascinated by the Civil War? Watch Ken Burns’ nine-episode history of the Civil War. Love baseball? Watch Burns’ eleven-episode historical series of the game. Enjoy jazz music? Watch Burns’ ten-episode historical exploration on the musical genre. Burns is an extraordinarily gifted documentary filmmaker whose numerous films examine history in a visually engaging and enlightening way. Desire to learn more about historical wars, architectural wonders, impactful events, famous Americans? Ken Burn’s has a film for you. Available on various streaming services.
Students Experience Living History on Retired Aircraft Carrier
Whoever said that “history is irrelevant” never fell in love with it. A few years ago, 10-year-old twins Carter and Jack Hanson really got into the game Battleship. That got them interested in naval warfare in general, which eventually led to a family vacation to see the Yorktown, a retired aircraft carrier in Charleston, S.C., where their encounter with a WWII veteran showed them how amazing living history can be.
How We’re Honoring People Overlooked by History
This Ted Talk is presented by Amy Padnani, a New York Times obituary editor, affectionately known by some of her friends as the “angel of death.” In the Talk she reflects on her realization that “obits aren’t about death, they are about life. They are interesting, they’re relatable, often about something you never knew.” From this framework she presents the Overlooked project where the Times has recognized that the vast majority of obituaries printed since its 1851 inception focused on white males. They are now going back into history and sharing the stories of the lives of women and people of color by printing today the untold obituaries of yesterday.
Memory, History and our Collective Well Being
By Chandra Mallampalli
Reading history takes patience, a willingness to quiet the self,
and the opening of one’s mind to things that are “not just about me.”
The French philosopher Ernest Renan once said that “getting history wrong is an essential part of being a nation.” By this he meant that nations engage in selective amnesia and nostalgia, depending on whichever best feeds our collective self-esteem and need for validation. If nations are in the business of manufacturing myths about their greatness, good history writing can easily become the enemy of nationalism. And yet, this is why history is so important – it allows us to learn from both mistakes and wisdom from the past, as well as the messy in-between. Learning about history provides a more complete picture, which safeguards us from toxic nationalism.
Sometimes nations need to own the darkness of their past in order to move forward. Many African countries emerging from colonialism grasped this well. After a protracted and deadly civil war, the Nigerian leader Yakubu Gowon delivered his famous “no victor, no vanquished” speech in order to promote national healing and unity between northern and southern Nigerians; The Kenyan president, Jomo Kenyatta stressed the importance of learning about the past, as well as becoming “architects of the future;” and after decades of White rule, the Bishop Desmond Tutu oversaw South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” aimed at facilitating confession and forgiveness at a national level.
In this day of fake news, it’s more important than ever to learn about history. History provides an antidote to the impulsive, utilitarian use of knowledge that fuels our culture wars. This is especially the case with the rightward shift in global politics, its demonization of those branded as “outsiders,” and reckless exploitation of populist sentiments. When these impulses arise from distortions of the past, historians need to present a more accurate story. Yes, history can also be biased and can cater to the winds of these culture wars; but when writers are committed to the highest standards of evidence, it safeguards them from purely an agenda-driven treatment of the past.
As never before, Americans today are divided over which history to believe. Despite the fact that there are many ways of talking about and interpreting the past, today we are confronted with two sharply contrasting perspectives: A tribal, Christian nationalist vision that treats America as a white, Christian nation is being pitted against advocates of “critical race theory,” who stress the pervasive racism of American institutions, grounded in a deep history of white supremacy. In These Truths, the Harvard historian Jill Lepore presents a balanced picture of America’s past, one that affirms the values of liberty and equality that have shaped America’s origins, while acknowledging the evils perpetrated against non-whites that have consistently accompanied the profession of these cherished ideals.
History can play an important role in knitting together a profoundly fractured social tapestry – especially when we read about the past together. Rarely is history supercharged with the “my-way-or-the-highway” rhetoric of contemporary politicians or commentators of broadcast media. Reading history takes patience, a willingness to quiet the self, and the opening of one’s mind to things that are “not just about me.” These are important spiritual virtues in their own right!
The Bible stresses the importance of remembering, not as a source of paralyzing shame, but as a source of identity rooted in gratitude for God’s kindness and mercy. Prophets of the Old Testament urged the Israelites to remember what God has done for them as the basis for acting justly in the world. Without memory, there can be no identity, and without identity there can be no ethics. We remember how “God delivered us from the hands of the Egyptians” so that we can love and serve God and our neighbors. In this respect, remembering is not merely an intellectual exercise, but a profoundly theological one.
Chandra Mallampalli (PHD) is a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Divinity School and a Professor of History at Westmont College, where he holds the Fletcher Jones Chair of the Social Sciences.
Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme
THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1943
Review by Brad Keister
Although the final armistice was ultimately two years away, to many people in 1943 it was becoming clear that the Allies would eventually prevail in World War II. At the same time, several Christian intellectuals independently concluded that Western civilization was unprepared for the real task of world leadership that lay ahead. Alan Jacobs, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University, chronicles the lectures, writings and activities of five such critics: T. S. Eliot, Jacques Maritain, C. S. Lewis, Simone Weil, and W. H. Auden. Their journeys, and their faith positions, were all quite different, and there was no coordinated effort among them to make any sort of common statement. Yet there were common threads of concern among them.
The force of opinion in the West was that the worldview of Nazi Germany was evil, but the question was how to achieve a post-war society that did not pose the same risks of evil. Western victory owed much of its success to scientific advances in radar, encryption, and nuclear physics, but would a purely science-based authority lead to the desired outcome? What authority, if any, would the organized church hold in a democratic society?
Jacobs concludes that the men and women featured in his book came on the scene too late to alter the rising influence of science and technology as a hegemony that discounted philosophical and religious perspectives. Yet he also offers hope that it is not too late for a new generation to take up the cause. With contemporary concerns like gene editing and artificial intelligence (just to name two), the field is ripe for modern-day approaches to the questions raised in this book, and it is a key reason why Jacobs chose to write it.
A review by Brad Keister, former Deputy Division Director of the Physics Division for the National Science Foundation. In 2018, Brad retired from the more formal demands of research and teaching, and lives in northern Virginia. First published in journeywithjesus.net.
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge
By Mem Fox
Illustrated by Julie Vivas
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next door to a nursing home in which several of his good friends reside. Of course, his favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, because she has four names just as he does. The only problem is Miss Nancy, who is 96, has “lost” her memory. Undaunted, Wilfred sets out to “find” Miss Nancy’s memory for her. Full-color illustrations.
BONUS: Watch actor Bradley Whitford read Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge aloud:
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on your own personal history:
If you could go back and re-live any part of your life, what would it be?
What was your proudest moment?
What main things guided your life decisions?
At times of stress in your life, what got you through it?
What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?
What are the most important lessons you have learned so far?
As you look back, what are the three most meaningful changes you have witnessed?
2. HISTORY PODCASTS
There are many excellent podcasts devoted to history available today. We draw your attention to two podcasts written and narrated by Pulitzer-Prize winning and Best-Selling Historian, Jon Meachum.
HOPE THROUGH HISTORY: View Now »
IT WAS SAID: View Now »
3. THE PROBLEM WITH HISTORY CLASSES – The Atlantic
In this Atlantic article Michael Conway challenges the notion that history is a set singular narrative. He argues that it should be taught acknowledging its messy subjectiveness, stating, “history is essentially a collection of memories, analyzed and reduced into meaningful conclusions—but that collection depends on the memories chosen.”
4. VIDEO: WHAT IS HISTORY FOR?
Soren Kierkegaard once wrote: Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. This four (4) minute video seek to answer the question What is History For?
5. PRAYER – The Nicene Creed
For our Prayer this month we spotlight the Nicene Creed first written in 325 AD and revised in 381 AD -- an enduring historical proclamation of the Christian faith.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
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: Pompeii, World Tours Italy (2015).
2. SEEDS: Tree of Life, Sophy White (2010)
Available for purchase: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/1-tree-of-life-sophy-white.html
3. ART: Tree Roots, Vincent Van Gogh (1890), Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam,
4. POETRY: Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze, Gustav Klimt (1909), Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria
5. PROFILE: Roots, Jamie Wyeth (1971), Private Collection.
6. FILM: Hanging Monastery Xuan Kong Si, mi jun/Shutterstock.com
7. ESSAY: Frida Kahlo, Family Portrait (Unfinished), Frida Kahlo (1950),
Museo Frida Kahlo, Mexico City, Mexico
8. BOOKS: Trinity Root 9/11 Memorial Sculpture, Steve Tobin (2005) Trinity Church, New York http://stevetobin.com/trinity-root/
9. DIG DEEPER: Petrified Logs in Petrified Forest, National Park Photo by National Park Service http://www.nationalparkguides.com/parks/335/petrified-forest-national-park/
10. ROOTED: Tree House, Sorta Art Design Life: https://www.sortra.com/36-amazing-dream-tree-houses/
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Elizabeth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Andrew Massey, 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: email@example.com