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ISSUE No. 28 | December 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 SILENCE.  In a season that celebrates Advent and Christmas, we often find ourselves in settings awash in sound.  Joyful merrymaking is appropriate and healthy for the awe-inspiring day that Christmas celebrates.  But constant noise can distract us from the meaning and gift of the season. As Pope Francis has observed:  Christmas celebrations are often full of sound. It would be good for us to make room for silence, to hear the Voice of Love. 


This issue of CULTIVARE is all about the ways that SILENCE can help us to listen to the Voice of Love --to attend to our souls -- to hear that (often) still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking love and mercy and grace into our lives.  We encourage you to take periodic times this Advent to sit in silence, to contemplate the wonder, to behold the beauty of the season and to listen for the voice of God.  As Mother Teresa has encouraged:  Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God.  


In this issue you will find a poem by famed poet Pablo Neruda entitled “Keeping Quiet.”  You’ll encounter a musical composer and a Trappist monk who have much to teach us about the power and promise of silence.  You’ll encounter an Acoustical Ecologist who enlightens us to the fact that “silence is not about absence but about presence.”  You’re also invited to read an article that highlights a dozen individuals’ stirring experiences with silence.


One of the most beloved Christmas carols, “Silent Night,” was first sung in 1818 in a small humble Alpine church in Austria.  Father Joseph Mohr wrote the song in German and entitled it “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.”  Following a dozen years of war and a year of extraordinarily harsh weather, Mohr found himself pastoring a congregation that was poverty-stricken, hungry and traumatized. So, he composed a simple song to convey hope that there was still a God who cared. The German version of the song clearly states that on Christmas, today all the power of fatherly love is poured out, and Jesus as brother embraces the peoples of the world.  May you receive the power of God’s love for you this Christmas season and experience Christ’s embrace of you and all the peoples of the world. (DG)  


Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born


Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth


For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

(Psalm 62:5-6 NRSV)



He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

(Isaiah 53:7 NRSV)



Quiet, everyone! Shh! Silence before God.

Something’s afoot in his holy house.

He’s on the move!

(Zechariah 2:13 MSG)



When the Lamb ripped off the seventh seal, Heaven fell quiet –

complete silence for about half an hour.

(Revelation 8:1 MSG)



A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life


Silence is the royal road to spiritual formation. Without silence, the spoken word can never bear fruit. Moreover, only through silence can the word descend from the mind into the heart. As long as our hearts and minds are filled with words of our own making, there is no space for the word to enter deeply into our heart and take root. (Henri J.M. Nouwen)


All of our great traditions, religious, contemplative and artistic, say that you must a learn how to be alone - and have a relationship with silence. It is difficult, but it can start with just the tiniest quiet moment. (David Whyte)


We are starved for quiet, to hear the sound of sheer silence that is the presence of God himself. (Ruth Haley Barton)

A word with power is a word that comes out of silence. A word that bears fruit is a word that emerges out of silence and returns to it. A word not rooted in silence is a weak word.

(Henri Nouwen)

Silence is God's first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God. (Thomas Keating)

All the unhappiness of men arises from one simple fact: that they cannot sit quietly in their chamber. (Blaise Pascal)

Silence is a fence around wisdom.  (German proverb)

How much cruelty is occasioned simply because of the noise that is within us: the din is too great to realize exactly what we are doing to others, or what is being done to others in our name. Thus an offhand remark, which leaves us as easily as a breath and which we think no more of than a breath, cuts a friend to the quick. And thus a whole country can be organized toward some collective insanity because there is no space for individuals to think. (Christian Wiman)


In drawing aside for lengthy periods of time, we seek to rid ourselves of the “corrosion” of soul that accrues from constant interaction with others and the world around us. In this place of quiet communion, we discover again that we do have souls, that we indeed have inner beings to be nurtured. Then we begin to experience again the presence of God in the inner sanctuary, speaking to and interacting with us. We understand anew that God will not compete for our attention. We must arrange time for our communion with Him as we draw aside in solitude and silence.  (Dallas Willard)


Do not speak unless you can improve upon the silence. (The Quakers)



Artist of the Month


John Cage

By Jason Miller

You might expect us to feature visual art in a month when we spotlight silence. It may come as a surprise to you then, that we have chosen to feature the musical composer, John Cage, as an artist creatively illuminating silence. 


Consider this-- Silence is not antithetical to listening.  If you haven’t experienced Cage’s musical composition entitled 4’33”, we invite you to click on the following link before you read further. View Now »


John Milton Cage Jr. (1912-1992) was widely considered one of the more influential composers of the 20th century. Influential, and for some controversial. Cage saw all parts of the world as musical and pushed the music world to embrace a broader perspective on musicality. “If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical, and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience.” As you experience in 4’33”, Cage attempts to help the listener identify the melody of the world through silence. When the instrument is silent, the rest of the noises are the music for the listener. For Cage, silence is a platform for hearing the things we would otherwise ignore. Love him or hate him, Cage stretches the musical imagination regarding silence and thus serves as our Artist of the month. 


We love the story that Cage tells about the power of silence in our everyday lives:

“[O]ne day I got into [a cab] and the driver began talking a blue streak, accusing absolutely everyone of being wrong. You know he was full of irritation about everything, and I simply remained quiet. I did not answer his questions, I did not enter into a conversation, and very shortly the driver began changing his ideas and simply through my being silent he began, before I got out of the car, saying rather nice things about the world around him.”


For a deeper dive into Cage’s 4’33” we encourage you to click on the TedTalk link below featuring Dallas Taylor on the topic of What Silence Can Teach You About Sound which highlight’s Cage’s work. View Now »



Keeping Quiet 

by Pablo Neruda



Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.



Thomas Keating

By Bonnie Fearer

The silence of the Creator is thunderous. Drowning out 

everything else and hiding in endless creativity.

(Thomas Keating, “Out of a Stone”)

As we delve into the topic of silence in this issue, we can think of few better to profile than Thomas Keating. 


Thomas Keating was born in New York City in 1923. After attending Yale and Fordham universities, he decided –at age 21—to become a monk, joining the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (also known as Trappists). Trappists are considered the strictest version of the cloistered communities. They dedicate their lives to vigorous physical work, observe a strict schedule of chanting the Psalms (usually six times per day), live mostly in silence apart from others, and believe their vocation to be one that leads to deeper love of God and healing in the world. “I joined the Trappists,” he said, “because they were the most demanding, and that’s what I wanted.”


But it was more than the discipline they offered that drew Keating; it was the goal of that discipline, which was to lead people to experience the unconditional “love beyond love” that is God’s presence within us, and to have that love lead us “to respect and befriend and love one another.” Keating believed that to experience God’s presence – this “love beyond love” – was rooted in an ancient practice of disciplined stillness before God. He called it “Centering Prayer,” and his community modeled and taught it as a “disposition of the heart,” not just for Trappist monks, but for everyone. The practice of centering prayer has grown dramatically since Father Keating and his fellow Trappists first taught it in the late 1970s. Today, there are several organizations dedicated to centering prayer, and it is commonly practiced in the growing field of spiritual direction. 


Father Keating recognized the deep spiritual need we all feel to connect with our Creator, a need that is rooted in silence, and which is often at odds with a world of noisy polarized discourse, politics and (sometimes) misuse of religious authority. “People are unhappy with authority these days,” he said “and I understand why. But they shouldn’t be unhappy with direct and intuitive practices of direct relationship with God.” And isn’t this just what we all need right now -–a disposition of the God--connected heart that leads us to love and respect one another?


Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.



Each month we recommend films focused on our theme

Feature Film

Sound of Metal

In Sound of Metal, a tale of sound, fury, and self-discovery, Riz Ahmed delivers an intensely committed performance as the volatile Ruben, who has found new purpose as a drummer in a noise-metal duo, playing blistering live shows with his singer girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke). When Ruben suddenly loses much of his hearing, he is launched on a profound odyssey—through denial, anger, grief, and, gradually, acceptance—as he comes to understand what it means to live as a deaf person and to discover deafness as not a disability but a rich culture and community. Through stunningly immersive, Academy Award–winning sound design, director Darius Marder invites us to experience the world as Ruben does, capturing a sonic spectrum in which silence comes in a thousand shades.  Available on various streaming services. 

Documentary Film

Into Great Silence 

Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months—filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one—it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, INTO GREAT SILENCE dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it’s a rare, transformative theatrical experience for all.  Available on various streaming services. 

Short Film

The Silent Child

(20 minutes)

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Short Film, The Silent Child centers around a profoundly deaf four-year-old girl named Libby who is born into a middle class family and lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her the gift of communication.

View Now »


TED Talk

Gordon Hempton
(Acoustic Ecologist)

For this month our “Ted Talk” features an episode from “On Being.”


If you have never heard of Acoustic Ecology, we are not surprised. Acoustic Ecology is the study of the relationship between human beings and their environment, specifically the sounds of their environment. This is a niche academic field that involves the fullness of our experience with sound. The field of study originated from Simon Fraser University in the 1960’s and has developed into a poignant field of understanding how sound and silence intersect on this planet.


In this On Being conversation we introduce you to Gordon Hempton. For Hempton, silence is not absence, it is presence. A dying presence. Similar to our engagement with light pollution in our October edition on Darkness, modern noise pollution is slowly eroding the presence of silence. Hempton acknowledges that silence can be frightening, that it becomes a void we often attempt to fill. We hope you will find, as we did, Hempton’s perspective on “Earth as a Solar Powered Juke Box” to be enlightening, enriching, and challenging.


Audio:  Listen

Transcript:  View Now »



Essays By Readers of The Christian Century 

What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. 

I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort, as the huge monk in cloth of gold put it, than being able from time to time to stop that chatter, including the chatter of spoken prayer. If we choose to seek the silence of the holy place, or to open ourselves to its seeking, I think there is no surer way than by keeping silent. God knows I am no good at it, but I keep trying, and once or twice I have been lucky, graced.  

(From Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets)

In choosing Silence as a theme this month we were delighted to find a collection of reflections from “everyday” people across the United States who were given the one-word prompt of Silence and then asked to write their reflections on silence. What comes forth from these reflections includes a rather universal experience of the profoundness of a silent moment, a silent posture, the gift that silence is to others and to ourselves. We think these essays give meat to the bones of Buechner’s observation that when we silence the inner monologue, we still the outer monologue, and in this fleeting moment we find grace together.

View Now »



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



By Justin Zorn & Leigh Marz

Golden reveals how to go beyond the ordinary rules and tools of mindfulness. It’s a field guide for navigating the noise of the modern world—not just the noise in our ears but also on our screens and in our heads. Drawing on lessons from neuroscience, business, spirituality, politics, and the arts, Marz and Zorn explore why auditory, informational, and internal silence is essential for physical health, mental clarity, ecological sustainability, and vibrant community.

View Now »


Remains of the Day

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Remains of the Day sheds light on the regrets of the aging butler, Stevens, through all the things he doesn’t verbalize. His disillusionment and losses are better captured through everything Stevens fails to put into words for the readers. Silence weighs down his lonely existence as we see him consciously rejecting companionship and love. Everything that has been left unsaid brings into fore the reality he is living within. By using silence as a plot device, Ishiguro makes space for the readers to ponder on the happenings of his novel.

View Now »

Children's Book


by Lemniscates

Beautifully illustrated and gently written, Silence encourages children to stop, listen, and reflect on their experiences and the world around them. Using qualities of mindfulness, readers are asked to pay attention to what otherwise gets drowned out in our noisy environment and use those sounds as a means to develop imagination and curiosity, and learn a little more about themselves.

View Now »



Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme


We encourage you to take (at least) 10 minutes to simply sit in silence.

a.  What did you hear/notice about your environment? About yourself?

b.  How do you feel in the silence? Is it comfortable? Busy? Anxiety ridden?

c.  Where do you need more silence in your life during this Advent season? 

d.  How will you be intentional to make space for this?

e.  Where/who might you offer more silence to during this season?


We all have extra events in December. Whether for work, school, church, or the community, seasonal social opportunities keep us occupied. We assume everyone is “crazy busy.” It’s a noisy season, one of music and cheer. To enjoy the season to its fullest, then, one of the most significant disciplines we can practice both individually and corporately is “Christ-centered silence.”

View Now »



– First Things

Sound of Silence, as few other songs can, gives one a genuine scare regarding modern life. It is like pages out of Spengler, or Rousseau, condensed to a poetic moment.

View Now »


View Now »



From The Mood of Christmas by Howard Thurman

May the sounds of Advent 

stir a longing in your people, O God. 

Come again to set us free 

from the dullness of routine 

and the poverty of our imaginations. 

Break the patterns which bind us to small commitments 

and to the stale answers we have given to questions of no importance. 

Let the Advent trumpet blow, 

let the walls of our defenses crumble, 

and make a place in our lives for the freshness of your love, 

well-lived in the Spirit, 

and still given to all who know their need and dare receive it. 


dig deeper


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:   Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Shepherds, 1622, Pommersches Landesmuseum, Germany



2.  SEEDS:  Vincent van Gogh, Landscape with Snow, 1888, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York



3.  ART:  Mark Rothko, Four Darks In Red, 1958, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York



4.  POETRY:  Odilon Redon, Silence, 1911, Museum of Modern Art, New York



5.   PROFILE:   Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA



6.   FILM:  Vasily Kandinsky, Painting with White Borders, 1913, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York



7.   ESSAY:  Vilhelm Hammershøi; Rest, 1905, Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France



8.   BOOKS:  Alex SanVik, Silent Night. Holy Night, 2021



9.   DIG DEEPER:  Austin Kleon, Ransom Note, 2017



10.   ROOTED:   Valerie Anne Kelly, The Saviour is Born, 2012.

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, Heather Shackelford, Jason Pearson (Design:



We welcome hearing your thoughts on this issue

and suggestions for future issues.

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