ISSUE No. 26 | October 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 DARKNESS. Darkness can evoke a variety of emotions – fear, alienation, wonder, and even hope. It can serve a variety of purposes – from a time to sleep, a time to contemplate, a time to grow, and a time explore. Musical artists Simon and Garfunkel, emerging out of the countercultural folk music scene of the 1960’s, wrote these memorable lyrics:
Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.
Do you consider “darkness” a friend or a foe? Is it something you fear and avoid? Or is it something you welcome and accept in your life? Perhaps both? Darkness can serve healthy and unhealthy ends. Depending on your cultural tradition, it may be evaded or embraced.
We purposefully designed this issue of CULTIVARE to explore the multifaceted dynamics of darkness. We have tried our best to adhere to the caution of author Edward Abbey who wrote:
You can't study the darkness by flooding it with light. Our sense is that the “Christian” world has often defaulted to flooding darkness with light and missed valuable insight and truths.
In this issue you will meet the daughter of an astronomer who reflects on the lessons learned at night. You’ll encounter a film that explores the true story of the 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine for over two months in 2010. You’ll meet a musical rap artist who explores and questions his internal darkness in ways that have helped to alleviate the darkness of others. And you’ll meet an entire community that served as light and hope in a period of history marked by anguishing darkness.
We hope this issue will leave you with the awareness that author Barbara Brown Taylor gives witness to: “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” (DG)
And the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the surface
of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
Though you live and work in the light, you were conceived and shaped in darkness. Darkness is one of our closest companions. It can never really surprise us; something within us knows the darkness more deeply that it knows the light. The dark is older than the light. In the beginning was the darkness. The first light was born out of the dark.
New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark. (Barbara Brown Taylor)
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. (Martin Luther King Jr.)
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. (Carl Jung)
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. (Plato)
We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen. (Thomas Merton)
Numb the dark and you numb the light. (Brené Brown)
People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. (Carl Jung)
The seed is in the ground. Now may we rest in hope, while darkness does its work. (Wendell Berry)
Artist of the Month
Known as NF
By Jason Miller
Why don’t you write us some happy raps? That would be awesome. All of your music is moody and dark Nate… Ha Ha, don’t get me started. Listen to my verses, this music is not just for people who sit in the pews and pray in the churches… I write about life; I write about things that I’m actually dealing with… I’m not confused about who gave me the gift, God gave me the gift and he gave me the ability to do this, and he also gave me this as an outlet.
(NF, Therapy Session)
For the theme of Darkness we decided to highlight the rap artist Nate Feuerstein. Known as NF, Nate is an artist who is a Christian, and the thing he is known for is his raw honesty about the pain and darkness that has surrounded his life growing up with a mom who was addicted to pills and a stepdad who was physically abusive. His music exploded in a short 7-year window as it deeply connected to Gen Z and the pressures, anxieties and insecurities they acknowledge to be part of their lives. Though his debut album, Mansions, only dropped in late 2015, NF is already currently 117th all time on Spotify's streaming list. His songs having been streamed (played) 7,645,924,920 (that’s 7 ½ Billion) times, giving him more streams than U2 and Green Day. While Gen Z loves him, parents have been more hesitant. Though NF does not use curse words or lean on sex and money to sell his music, there are parents disappointed that he is externally processing the darkness of his past preferring he work through his issues privately and write public music about the victories.
Nate’s music offers an important perspective, “Christian is not the definition of what perfect means.” We invite you to become familiar with NF. As you do you will gain a better understanding of the lived experience of the next generation. You might also find for yourself that God willingly sits with us not only in our triumphs but also in our pain and darkness.
The song Let You Down is his most played song, streamed over 1 billion times on Spotify while the video has been watched over 220 million times on YouTube. View Now »
This song, Therapy Session, is age restricted because it engages topics of cutting and suicide. It has been played on YouTube 65 million times. View Now »
by David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confirmation of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
From The House of Belonging by David Whyte, p. 23, 1997.
The Village of Le Chambon, France
How might an entire community navigate a dark season or nightmarish period? Do dark circumstances draw the community together or pull it apart? How might a community band together to serve as a safe harbor amidst turbulent times? How might a community shine their light and love in ways that meet an urgent need and serve history as a model of goodness and hope? We think a shining example of a community serving as such a model amidst deep darkness resides in the Village of Le Chambon, in France during World War II.
The village of Le Chambon, in south-central France, is well-known to scholars of the Second World War. Le Chambon was a Protestant village in a predominately Roman Catholic region. During the German occupation of France, the town’s farmers and villagers sheltered, hid, fed, schooled, and shuttled to safety hundreds, perhaps thousands, of war refugees – most of them Jewish, most of them children. They did this at great risk to their own lives, and they did it year after year, not just in one great act of heroism.
The story of Le Chambon is told in beautiful detail by Philip Hallie in his book Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, which we highly recommend reading. For a quicker read, below is a link to an excellent article from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. It contains a quote from Elizabeth Koenig-Kaufman, former child refugee in Le Chambon, who recalls: “Nobody asked who was Jewish and who was not. Nobody asked where you were from. Nobody asked who your father was or if you could pay. They just accepted each of us, taking us in with warmth, sheltering children, often without parents – children who cried in the night from nightmares.” (DG)
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
In this dramatic true story, which captivated the world in 2010, a huge explosion trapped 33 miners deep underground in Chile. On the surface, an international team worked frantically to save them. Food rations and human hope were spare, but with deep determination and fervent prayer from those below and above, the miners lasted 69 days and were saved. This riveting film is directed by Patricia Riggen and stars Antonio Banderas. Available on various streaming services.
Lost In Light
Lost in Light is a short film on how light pollution affects the view of the night skies. The night skies remind us of our place in the Universe. The night sky can remind us that we are a tiny part of God’s universe and inspire awe and a special connection with our Creator. Unfortunately, most of us live under heavily light polluted skies. Some have never even seen the Milky Way. We take the skies for granted and are rather lost in our busy lives without much care for the view of the stars. How does light pollution affect the night skies and quite possibly our lives?
Why We Need Darkness
“It turns out that we are afraid of the Dark.” In this Ted Talk, Paul Bogard discusses our obsession with light. He encourages us to consider how this obsession drives light pollution, and how light pollution affects us physically, financially, and environmentally.
What The Darkness Doesn’t Obscure
Those nights impressed on me how small I am in the face of the universe.
How far I am from its center. How near I am to its Creator. (Rebekka Turkanik)
Our selection for this month’s essay is What the Darkness Doesn’t Obscure by Rebekka Väisänen Turkanik. In this essay, Turkanik reflects upon her experience growing up as the daughter of a traveling astronomer who lived on four continents in her first ten years of life. Through her childhood experiences she invites us to consider how necessary the contrast of light and darkness is, and how powerfully darkness proclaims the vastness of our Creator.
Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme
Darkness Is My Only Companion:
A Christian Response to Mental Illness
By Kathryn Greene-McCreight
Greene-McCreight is an Episcopal Priest, Spiritual Director, as well as a person who—herself—suffers from mental illness, specifically bi-polar disorder. Her earnest theological questions about God's presence and absence in her darkness of mental illness, as well as her disarming/honest reflections on themes such as medication, suicide, mental hospitals, etc. provide a robust treatment of the darkness (and possible hope) for those who suffer from mental illness as well as the caregivers who seek to surround them with care.
God’s Holy Darkness
by Sharei Green and Beckah Selnick
In God's Holy Darkness, Sharei Green and Beckah Selnick deconstruct anti-Blackness in Christian theology by celebrating instances in the story of God's people when darkness, blackness, and night are beautiful, good, and holy. From the darkness at the beginning of creation to the blackness of the sky on the day when Christ's birth was announced to the shepherds, children learn that blackness is something to celebrate as an important element of the life of faith. Lush and vibrant illustrations by artist Nikki Faison underscore the mystery and beauty of these wondrous acts of God's holy darkness.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
a. What do you associate with darkness?
b. How does darkness make you feel?
c. In what ways has darkness served you well?
d. In what ways has darkness been a struggle for you?
e. In what ways do you lean on light for comfort and security?
f. Is there one light you might consider changing or turning off as a reminder that darkness serves a role beyond that of being our adversary?
2. INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY ASSOCIATION
This link provides further information on light pollution and how you can help protect the beauty of the night sky for future generations.
3. DARKNESS CAN DO ALL KINDS OF THINGS TO YOUR BODY AND BRAIN
This essay further reflects on the necessity and duality of darkness; in certain settings it brings energy and clarity, in other settings fatigue and emotional drain.
4. THE COURAGE OF A SEED
This essay reminds us that it is only in darkness that a seed bursts forth with new life.
5. MUSIC VIDEO: SURE ON THIS SHINING NIGHT
This video weaves together the contrast of darkness and light with the exquisiteness of Morten Lauredsin’s musical setting to the James Agee poem.
6. PRAYER FOR TRUST IN GOD: by St. Ignatius of Loyola
When all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
please, Lord, give us the sense of Your Presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Please help us to have perfect trust
in your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
may we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.
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: Ralph Albert Blakelock; Moonlight, 1880, Sheldon Museum of Art, NYC.
2. SEEDS: Ty Agha, Fear, 2011, Private Collection.
3. ART: Hieronymus Bosch, Hell, 1490, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice.
4. POETRY: Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, 1941, Private Collection.
5. PROFILE: Gustav Klimt, Death and Life, 1915, Leopold Museum, Vienna.
6. FILM: Douglas Kirkland, The 33, Warner Brothers Pictures, 2010.
7. ESSAY: John Atkinson Grimshaw, Night Vigil, Undated, Private Collection.
8. BOOKS: Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942, Art Institute of Chicago.
9. DIG DEEPER: Bettymaya Foott, Cedar Breaks National Monument, International Dark Sky
10. ROOTED: Georges de La Tour, Joseph the Carpenter, 1642, The Louvre, Paris.
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Elizabeth Bolsinger, Billy Brummel, Amy Drennan, Bonnie Fearer, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Nick Kinnier, 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