how focused

There was a time, once, when one of my cats had to undergo surgery… and I remember myself asking the doc, if he could give me something for the pain. And he looked at me for a moment… obviously, a bit surprised that I would make such an unreasonable request… and then, realizing that I just didn’t understand, he explained. You can’t give an animal a pain killer, because the pain serves a valuable function in nature. Without the pain, the animal feels as if everything is all right, and he will behave as if he weren’t limited… and might not live through the experience. No, he has to have that pain all the time to remind him to just lie around and not do anything till he recovers.

to know you is to love you

I suppose that’s why I had to have three heart attacks before I changed my life style. Most of my life, I was so strong, that I just didn’t have to think about limits. I could carry any burden, work for as many hours as I thought was appropriate, under any conditions; could keep on going without sleep or without food… and at worst, it just seemed like an inconvenience to me. There were a few times, of course, when things went wrong… when I was wounded or sick, but they were unusual and rare incidents, and I did what the doctor ordered. But then, one day… I discovered that I had found my limit, and it took a while before I learned how to live differently. But I did. I am thoroughly enjoying living life within the limits nowadays.

usually, it’s more fun with company

After they had opened me up and put me back together, what I was given to understand, was that I should just calm down. Fortunately, I was informed that there are some very light medicines that could calm me down. But this was a problem for me. I’d never taken any pills all my life. Not even vitamin pills or an aspirin for a headache. And what’s more, all my life, I’d tried to be more sensitive and not less; to take things to heart; to empathize with my fellow man,… and so on. I accepted their opinions with confidence and respect. But I just couldn’t imagine myself taking a valium every day to remain calm. So I told them I would have to learn to deal with this problem with my own resources. But that it looked liked a serious job. It was. It was one of the hardest changes I had to go through. But I don’t take valium to this day.

the future was in the bag
the future was in the bag

When I first got into commercial photography, it was because I had numerous expensive habits, and most expensive among them, was my interest in art. Having to support a family, I couldn’t take it for granted that I would succeed in such a mercurial profession, where fashions and taste often determine success or failure. And the percentages of financial prosperity are extremely small. Commercial photography is like any craft or business. You have to know your craft, and you have to know a little about business. And then, if you’re willing to work, your biggest problem is not letting your money slip out of your pocket on the way to the bank. I got to know some of the finest in my profession, and I often heard the same story. They had fallen in love with the profession, when first they studied it. But after a while, the greatest pleasure turned into a chore. You had to do the same thing over and over again… and the better you get at it, the more boring it gets.

a cat, even when it’s up in a tree, knows how to get down… usually

I’ve heard similar complaints about other professions. I became good friends with another photographer in my town. He too had a studio, and did work much like the work I did. And I admired his imagination and originality; his flair with the camera. He was able to turn an advertisement into a compelling story, or pull your eyes into an image till you just wanted to bathe your senses in the pleasurable colors and shapes of the images he produced. Since we actually worked in relatively close proximity, we used to go off for long lunches together, drinking and eating to our hearts’ content, and discussing what the world was all about. And since we came from different backgrounds, and had different political points of view, it was all the more fun to discuss and compare our attitudes towards life, culture, politics, and what the future might bring.

my friend Ilan in that same restaurant, a few years back

One day, we had finished our lunch and were sitting on the patio of an enchanting local restaurant that specializes in ‘country food’… you know, using those ingredients that are native to our country, and the spices that grow wild around here. When we would finish our lunch, the owner of the restaurant would come by to ask how we liked the meal, and offer us a liqueur that was flavored with a number of local spices, and was actually pretty strong alcohol… and that day we were feeling especially good, and just kept refilling the little shot glasses we had their on the table. The both of us had a good amount of work to go back to, but we also had employees working hard while we were gone. And we knew, that come what may, we would manage to complete those jobs that we had committed ourselves to.


And then, after a long pause, he said, ‘you know, Shimon, You could make a lot more money’. How, I asked. I was making enough money. I was thoroughly enjoying my life. But he was always looking for ways to make more… and of course, I was always willing to listen to his ideas. And his was pretty simple. My studio had a photo lab attached, and we were open to any sort of business that would come our way. Sometimes it was some little job, but had to be prepared just right, and that meant setting up a studio background, finding the right lens, arranging the lights just so… And other times it might be a project, which included a lot of graphic work, the use of Polaroids to check the lighting, and dashes into the lab, to check to see that the work was coming out just the way we wanted before all of the theatrical set-up was taken apart. There was a lot of work and time spent, going from one job to the next. And his idea was for me to specialize; to pick just a few types of jobs that were well remunerated, and then to concentrate on them.

sometimes I’m happy just studying wild flowers

I thanked him for his advice, and explained to him that I enjoyed my work being an adventure. Going from one thing to another, having constant challenges, and a lot of variation in my work, was just the thing that kept me in love with what I was doing. I could probably make a bit more money, concentrating on just a couple of really well paying types of work, but then I might lose the feeling of fun I had about my work. He didn’t reply. Because we both knew, that though he was younger than me, he had already lost the fun of working in our profession.


And why do I think about that now? Because in blogging, I do the same. I allow myself to touch any number of subjects, and don’t really specialize, though art and photography are pretty high on my list of interests. And this morning, as I was reading the paper, I thought of a number of subjects that were certainly worth writing about. But then I thought of those people that Lenin used to call ‘useful fools’. And that I might be inviting some responses that would bring me heartache. It isn’t like me, to avoid a subject, just because it is out of the consensus. But at the same time, I thought, I’ve got to avoid this heartache… and that gave me another idea of something to write about.

there are newspaper pages that will give me heartache all my life


20 responses to “how focused

  1. Such a revealing story and well told. In a short space of time I and other readers know a lot about you. And it is interesting and inspiring.

  2. I am concerned about myself I have lately become very impatient and irritable, always in a hurry, to the extent that I am sure I am making myself ill. How do you accept that you have to slow down or let things run their course without getting agitated?

    • I am sorry that I don’t know you well enough to give you any personal advice. But I can tell you that people can produce and accomplish much more when they’re not continuously under pressure. Sometimes, when you’re a young mother and have a number of little children, it seems next to impossible to find a free hour to meditate or just listen to some really fine music, without doing anything else. But even in the most intense periods of my life, I used to get up an hour early, before life really got going, and spend that hour in meditation… I do hope you find peace and calm soon.

  3. “to know you is to love you”…. This is so nice expression… and to know begings by knowing ourselves… The peace in you, the love yourself is the beginning for to know the others…
    I can see a strong soul/man in your words… I know what means without pills to struggle with pains… This is not easy but it is great success. I lived such a long time without taking any pill (I had an allergic reaction any kind of medicine, it is a long story)… When I was ill or had a pain I always tried to
    heal myself with my thoughts… with my mind. Actually everything is in our mind… So I can almost understand you. About make more money… 🙂 Once again I agree with you… Money for living… and then to have fun whatever makes us happy… Of course I didn’t think like that when I was a young girl, in times you learn what is important in this life… Thank you dear Shimon, I enjoyed your wisely written piece. With my love, nia

    • It fills me with happiness, Nia, to know that you found some inspiration in what I write. And I thank you for sharing this post with your friends by way of your blog. You are so sweet.

  4. Pingback: My Colours « photographyofnia

    I am once again here, but your words were inspiration for me and this morning I found myself writing some of lines… I hope you don’t mind for this. Thank you dear Shimon, have a nice day, with my love, nia

    • Thank you so much, Nia. This was a very personal post… more so, than I usually write. And I am glad you enjoyed it. And I’m glad that we share some ideas about the world and have some common experiences. That is one of the amazing things about the internet… that we can reach out and touch others, giving little thought to the distances between us.

  6. You are welcome… Once again I should say, I am so glad to meet with you. For a long time I’ven’t written any poetical lines… Reading your beautiful posts, made me to write some lines… Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, with my love, nia

  7. Thank you for revealing yourself. As a “newcomer” it makes the discovery of older posts very intriguing. The photo of the ra’ke’fet reminds me of my dad singing me the Hebrew song. How do you say ra’ke’fet in English?

    • The plant is called cyclamen , though I never ran into the word when I was in the states. Though I think I did see the cultured variety of the flower. As you know, it grows wild here, and is a great pleasure to see. Glad you enjoyed the post. Now and then, we meet someone on the net and want to get to know him or her better… I did the same thing when I met you… started reading old posts.

  8. You write here about something I have seen take place many times with people in my life, where they begin with something they enjoy and even love, and over time it because boring, then a burden and chore, and all the joy is gone from it and their lives. I think you have the right idea that we need to include variety, not to be so fixated on just one objective that there is no interest or excitement in other things. My blog also contains a variety of topics and presentations (with the exception of this month which is a formatted challenge), and at times I am praised and at times condemned for the things I include. I try to gently remind my readers that I write for myself first and foremost, and then always with the hope that they will find some meaning in it too. At least if they don’t like it, it caused them to form an opinion, and that is not a bad thing! 🙂

    • Yes, I agree with you. But we have to remember as well, that when we go off on a tangent, not all of our friends (or customers) will be able to appreciate this new adventure. But when you think of it, most of our waking hours are spent working, and if we don’t enjoy the work we do, we’re not really enjoying our lives. Thank you, Josie, for your comment.

  9. Thank you for sharing this, Shimon, and who knows how I found it? I’m glad your heart is okay now, even if you had to have that awful surgery. You often say the same things as my counselor, who tries to help me live with the diseases I have. I lived much like you did and everything came to a screeching halt, but in my late 20s and it was too soon. I can’t seem to find the middle ground; I’m an A-type/former workaholic who is just lost. I thought if the unrelenting pain could go, maybe I could have my career and life again. Then my vision went from this disease, and the pain hasn’t budged in 12 years. Life is very strange when you can’t fix things or find a meaning, the latter which I stole from Frankl by the way, as I also lost my creativity along the way. Oy vey… And hope you can read through my dry humor.
    Leah x

    • You know, Leah, I’ve found that one of the hardest things about communicating in different languages, is that there are many more misunderstandings, and especially when it comes to humor. But in general, I like a dry Martini, and dry humor too. I’ve had some really difficult times in my life too. And when it gets so hard I wonder whether it’s worth it, I look at Stephen Hawking; a man who has been denied most of the pleasures of simple human existence… and still he uses what he has left to enjoy this life. My challenges are less than his, so I remember his example. xxx

      • Haha. Funny comment and I thought you were so serious! My fellow English speakers don’t get my dry humor half the time, but it is true that what’s funny in one culture/language often isn’t in another.

        And yes, there are always those who are worse. As much as I hate this pain and this life I’m stuck with, I wouldn’t want ALS. I can walk, even with my arthritic knees! It’s hard to remember that at times, though.

        • Sorry you thought I was so serious. I think humor is a very important part of mental health. And I wasn’t preaching to you when I mentioned those who are worse off… it’s just something I remind myself re Stephen Hawking… not that he was worse off, but that he was able to find his strengths and enjoy life despite his terrible limitations. Another thing I could tell you from my own experience, is that sometimes it’s very important to take a break… or a vacation, and see the world from a different perspective. No matter what we’re suffering from, it allows us to refresh and see new possibilities. Again, I send you my best wishes. xxx

  10. No worries, Shimon, and I enjoy your advice. I think you are smart and have seen a lot of this world and have much to share. I can’t leave here unless I need major surgery in LA (not really a vacation), but what I really need to do is unzip myself and climb out of this torture chamber I live in. Now that would be great! What a vacation!

    Funny about the seriousness. I always find Israelis to be very serious and very different from American Jews. I must admit I haven’t gotten along with too many I’ve met here. Yikes! It’s not the strong personality as I have that too (don’t we all?), it’s more the dry-as-toast thing and then I’m so confused as I’m used to the jokes or even the dry sense of humor. So, I’m glad to know you’re funny as I do enjoy chatting with you and humor is how I survive this life, hence my strange posts about being in a freak show and so on. :/

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