freedom or framework

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I am about to head out this morning, for a huge family get together in the town of Siliyt, a bit to the north. I was going to leave early in the morning… because there is a general strike going on here in Israel, for good reason, I believe. I’m not sure. Because I haven’t really studied the issue. And I know that sometimes the media misrepresents what’s going on… But my impression is that this strike is justified. Even so, I don’t identify with it so much that I wouldn’t mind crawling through tedious traffic jams in its honor. And though it’s Friday today, and that is the first day of our weekend, and therefore, a day on which there usually is only minimal traffic; since the train is on strike too, in all likelihood a lot of people who don’t usually get out on the road, will be using their cars, or will take a bus. And so, I was going to leave early.

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But I was also going to write a post on the blog… yesterday, according to plan. My intention was to write it yesterday, and then post it today… so you wouldn’t even notice the difference. But things came up. And as they say, time moves quickly when you’re having fun. The reason for the gathering, is a very important birthday that Roy, my grandson, is going to celebrate this weekend. I don’t usually celebrate birthdays. When I have a birthday of my own, it’s my custom to hide away, and fast all day, occupied with soul searching. But if someone is celebrating, I try to join in the spirit of the occasion.

And so, I’ve been thinking about what I could say to a young man at the start of his life, that might add something to the day.

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Sometimes I read a piece of writing, or look at a work of art, and I am struck by the disparity between the talent of the individual, and their obvious lack of self discipline. My guess is that it’s a sign of the times. If someone was born in Butte, Montana, and had the English language bubbling around him all the days of his life, he might just think that nobody should tell him how to speak or write, and that grammar and spelling are for those who don’t feel as comfortable with the language as he does. And likewise, in other forms of art, if someone has been blessed with a natural talent, and is able to translate a vision, captured in his or her mind, on to paper, canvas, computer or a structure of any sort, and thus share his or her vision with countless others… who remind this artist with regularity, that he or she is a hell of a good fellow, and touches the hearts of the public… of what importance is studying the conventions of the art world, or art history for that matter? What could possible be gained by spending long hours in trivial considerations of rules invented by academics, or masters long dead?

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But strangely enough, this attitude of laissez faire creativity has not been universally accepted in other fields of human endeavor. If a person gets it into his head that he wants to climb mount Everest, he doesn’t usually go to the nearest sports depot, buy a walking stick… and then go off to conquer the mountain. Nor does a person who has had the luck to inherit a large sum of money, start investing on the stock exchange, without first studying a bit about trade and tendencies, and observe with great intensity, what has happened to others who invested before him. I am not speaking of those occupations in which one cannot find gainful employment without producing some sort of evidence of having studied the profession and having received accreditation. Even on the open market, , and in the purchase of a home or a car, people usually wish to learn quite a bit before plunging in. And in sports, as in music, it is generally accepted that a devotion to practice, and long hours of developing skills, is essential to succeeding in the field of one’s choice… So, what is it about the arts?

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On the other hand, is there any point in an old grandfather giving advice to a young man about to discover the world? Some of us still chuckle over the line in ‘The Graduate’, when that young man was advised to go into ‘plastics’. Now if it had been computers, we might think that there was a telling hint of what the future had to offer. But plastics… we are still trying to figure out how to recycle that material before we all choke on the disposable utilities we so enjoyed.

The photos above are of almond blossoms.

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54 responses to “freedom or framework

  1. Shimon, I have a feeling that you will find words that speak about staying true to your principles, and about showing and earning respect, and about being willing to work hard to achieve a goal. Or something along those lines. Most young people are unable to hear the wisdom that those of an earlier generation can impart, but I suppose it never hurts to give it a try. Sending sincere wishes that you have a safe journey.

    • Lovely photos, by the way. Gorgeous.

    • Thank you so much, N, for your vote of confidence. And thank you for your personal wishes to me. I do appreciate it. I found out many years ago, as a parent, that you can’t teach a child or a student, something that he or she is not yet ready to learn. In such circumstances, one has to listen very carefully to what the young person is saying… what is or her questions are… or problems are… and then try to meet them with advice that they can handle, and sometimes a little of your own experience, told as a story. In this case, I felt joy in seeing what they young man has accomplished recently, and the way he applies himself to life, and I do hope that what I said made sense to him.

  2. I remember that the almond trees near Jerusalem bloom in February. I remember it. I miss it. I loved Jerusalem. I will always miss her. Thank you for reminding me of my other life. Thank you for our thought and your lovely pictures.

    • Thank you very much for coming by teepee, and now that I understand that you’ve lived in Jerusalem, I look forward to checking out your blog too. That is one of the wonders of the internet… and I’m glad I reminded you of something good.

  3. Lovely photos! I am sure you will say just what he needs to hear..maybe not want he wants to hear..Lol! Happy trails to you and yours..

  4. A wonderful piece with a very interesting observation.

    I remember an English professor telling me years ago, as I fretted over a sentence I felt read more smoothly when I began it with the forbidden “And”. He chortled gleefully as he told me. “There you go, girl. You know you’re breaking the rules. When you KNOW what you’re doing, then go ahead and let your feelings and taste dictate what you do. Don’t be afraid to break those rules after you’ve learned them all. Go for it!”

    And that’s what the difference is. It is subtle. But it is palpable.

    • Yes, I agree with your English professor completely. The rules of language are something like a map of the country, letting us know where the highways and the byways are… and once one gets to know the lay of the land, we are free to go wherever we wish. Glad you enjoyed the post, Nikki.

  5. These photographs are amazing… I loved them so much… I miss spring. There was snow this morning again… I am sure your words for this young man on his birthday will be so nice and he will always remember. Because whenever I read your post, it’s been same for me too. Happy Birthday for your grandson and I wish you to have a great day and weekend, and safe journey too. Thank you dear Shimon. With my love, nia

    • Thank you so much, Nia. I miss spring too. It hasn’t come yet, despite the almond blossoms. We don’t have snow yet… but in the past it has come as late as March. Right now there is rain and cold, so we are still very aware of winter. The birthday was a great celebration and enjoyed by all. Thank you for your kind words. It is always a pleasure to trade thoughts and images with you.

  6. Hello Sir, have been circling your a few times … just decided to become one of your followers … for many reasons … mainly because it’s so peacful in here … I’m admiring your beautiful pictures as well … Thank you for sharing your gift of ever so quietly pondering the mysteries of life. Greetings from Canada to Israel. Love, cat. (http://catsruledogsdroole.blogspot.com/)

    • Thank you very much, Cat, for dropping in, and sharing some kind words. As you might know, I have a great love for cats, and see myself as part cat as well. I am honored by your visit, and look forward to getting to know your blog, and a little bit about you. Greetings from Israel to Canada, and my very best wishes to you.

  7. I wish you peace on your journey. Young people cannot always hear the words, but they can hear the love behind them. It may be years before the message you wish to communicate reaches the receiver’s inner ear, as it were. Be gentle with artists…it takes years before we are ready for the yoke of discipline :). Only now, at my age, can I see how correct you are.

    with love and respect, Melissa

    • Thank you very much for your kind wishes, Melissa. I agree with you, that there is a lot more to communication beyond words. And I sympathize with your plea for gentility in regard to artists. I have a great love for art, and for artists too. I spent years teaching in an art college here in Jerusalem, and am very familiar with the independent spirit of the artists. And I know that the real work, is that of the student and not the teacher. And the true discipline comes from the student too. But that discipline and sense of purpose can be of such help to the young artist, and can make his or her work so much easier.

  8. The almond blosoms are perfect. they are something I have always wanted to grow, but not enough room, and not really the right climate here. But maybe one day…..

    • I’m so happy that you enjoyed these photos, Claire. Almonds are very traditional here, and have an important part in our culture. One of our favorite treats are almonds mixed with raisins, and I think my earliest memory is of my mother singing to me a lullaby about that food. I had a very dear friend rip, with whom I would walk around Jerusalem, visiting the almond trees when they began to bloom.

  9. How lovely the almond blossoms are. You have a lot of wisdom to impart, which your grandson may or may not be ready to hear. How can the blossoms understand the time and work involved in creating the almond; it all looks so beautiful and easy now.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. I have been slow to learn, much to my regret, but I think it is never too late to learn.

    • No, it is never too late to learn. And though I’ve spent a lifetime studying, it is still my favorite hobby. In meeting you, I felt truly rewarded for stepping out of the closet, and trying out my English, and I am honored that you visit with me here. The almonds are the first tree here in Jerusalem to blossom, and we regard them with great love. And we eat almonds and raisins as a traditional, favorite treat. I wish I could share some with you… but perhaps you will try on your own. Best with red raisins.

  10. This is my first time reading your blog. I am enjoying your words very much. I love your photos as well so I am going to follow so I can enjoy more. I am a Canadian in love with photography.

    • Thank you so much, Maggie, for coming by, and I look forward to finding your blog as well, and getting to know you a bit. I visited your country many years ago, and only saw a small part. It is so big and so wonderous.

  11. Your words apply to anyone, young or old, just beginning or rather experienced. If we are claiming to be writers, we should not be seen without paper and pen and/or laptop–along with a grammar text–and actually be seen writing. If we are claiming to be artists, we should not be seen without sketchpad and pencil, drawing absolutely everything everywhere we happen to be. Truly, in my estimation, the most difficult and demanding artform of all is abstract expressionism because it must result in a daring, yet balanced piece held in an exquisite tension of form, line and texture. There are very very few good abstract painters, and the ones that are, are the ones who can draw.

    • I certainly agree with you Weisser, and though I’ve had numerous occupations in my life, I worked in the world of art, and was surrounded by artists all through the years. And the artists I learned from most, were those who worked all the time. As for what is most difficult, I really don’t know. But I know that the greatest ease, and the most wondrous joy, is when you’ve learned to translate a vision to the paper or canvas, as if the brush was an extension of the mind and the heart, and the technique is no more thought of, than a finger when we scratch our ear. But getting there, involves study and discipline. Afterwards, the reward is endless. Thank you so much for your comment.

  12. Lovely prose and lovely photos. I hope you have a safe journey.

  13. Dear Shimon, This is a wonderful post to ponder over. I feel that by wondering what advice to give your grandson on his important birthday, your words and sentiments have resonated with many of us – young or old. I was stuck in the corporate world and was seeking a creative outlet… this blog has helped me channel my creative energies. With art, it is more of a personal expression; one that you are in complete control of; one that may be embraced by others, or not. I have found that through blogging, I love to write (and have always done, but I had never done it to this extent). As I like to research and travel, I am trying to combine that with my writing. Along the journey, I was given a DSLR to further my creativity. Whilst I may have never learned how to ‘compose’ a photograph in the said way, I am enjoying learning through inspiration of others, and myself – the masters, books, bloggers, professional photographers, my own interpretations. Just as I learned English at school that provided me with the framework (I am currently relearning grammar!), I do seek the same for photography, through less formal means (ie, self-taught via school) where self-discipline is essential. Sometimes unleashing the creativity and then learning to reign it in – a phase I feel that I am in now – is frustrating but a bump everyone may have probably endured, and fought through. Thank you for this post. Again, this is my interpretation of your words and I appreciate you sharing them as they make me think.
    I hope you enjoyed a wonderful day with your grandson and family.

    • It may surprise some people who are not personally involved in the ‘art world’, but the majority of artists, including some of the finest, have a ‘day job’; another source of income. There are doctors, lawyers, and auto mechanics. And many many teachers. Art in itself, is not a lucrative occupation. And there are only a few at the top, that get rewarded really well. Being self-taught can be just as effective as going to a school, but one has to work harder. There are very few shortcuts. One of the problems with blogland, is that people are very kind to one another. On the one hand, this is good, because it allows for very pleasant social intercourse. But it also reduces (to a great extent) the amount of constructive criticism which is very helpful to an artist. It is usually very difficult for us to see our own mistakes. And this is a great disadvantage in the learning process. Thank you very much, Marina, for your comment and your good wishes!

  14. Shimon, I was also appreciative of your images of the almond blossoms. They are very beautiful and evoke happiness. I am looking forward to seeing the blossoms in NY’s Central Park and perhaps, in DC.

  15. i love the almond blossom 🙂

  16. http://photographyofnia.com/2012/02/15/awards-thank-you/
    Dear Shimon, you are one of my nominated blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you, with my love, nia

    • Dear Nia. Thank you very much for your gesture. I do appreciate it. But I do not accept awards. I have been offered them on a number of occasions in the past, and tried to explain my feelings about this. Now, I think that maybe I should write it down in my ‘about’ page. Thank you anyway for thinking of me.

      • That’s ok dear Shimon… I can understand you and also I respect your feelings and thoughts. You know, I love to read you and to watch your photographs, you are one of my beautiful blogger friends. You are welcome and Thank you, have a nice day, with my love, nia

  17. not a lot say, but I found your post quite inspiring…and nice blossoming photos!

  18. As always it gives me great pleasure to read you. Very beautiful pictures, I have never seen almond blossoms before (not even in pictures). After I read you I feel as if I ‘ve just visited Israel.

    • Thank you so much, ammusree, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and glad that I can give you a glimpse of what our lives are like here. Thank you for your comment.

  19. I love how you celebrate your own birthdays, a lot of wisdom in your words. I like too how you desire to give your grandson words of wisdom that will guide him through life’s trials and troubles. I think your advice on developing one’s talent is very great advice. It is one of our greatest duties in life I believe to use every ounce of the talent we have been blessed with. I don’t have that much talent but I study everyday to get the utmost out of what I do have. A few people think I’m critical of myself but I’m surely not but the opposite. I just realize that it is a struggle for me to do what some other people do seemingly with ease. I think it is just knowing myself. Everyone should realize their strengths and weaknesses as they surely exist.

    Beautiful photos! I love seeing photos of your country’s landscape.

    Great post!!!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Bojo. Aside from other work that I did professionally, I also taught at an art college for many years, here in Jerusalem. I found that talent is certainly a great gift, but even the greatest talent doesn’t come to fruition without a lot of hard work. Some people are modest about their talent, and others are modest about the amount of work they invest in their product… but when you know them well, you realize that the work is what produces worthwhile results. I agree with you, that it’s very important for us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and I do like your work. Thanks for your comment.

  20. When I was young, my art was a way to gain attention and feature my creativity and insight; it gratified my ego. Now that I am older, it is about connection and love for the other. I recall how we used to debate the meaning and function of art–that it needed elements of both the unique and the universal–and I think a respect for the tradition and the tools of our trade, whatever form it takes, is still apparent in even the most innovative art. Anchored spontaneity? Free association? Maybe first, and always, art is mystery and an invitation to accept that life is, too.

    I’m so happy I was led to your words and images. Thank you.

    • I too, am very happy you found me, and so I found you, Catherine. Though I’ve been active on the internet for quite a few years now, it is still amazing to me, that we find like minds and congenial hearts out here in cyberspace… and no less a miracle because there are so many people sharing what they care about on the world wide web. I value your thoughts on art…. And I like your view of both art and life as a mystery. For me, art is very much part of human expression; it is something very human. And as we usually have a lot of ego in our youth, art too, can cater to, and be a vehicle of ego. Sometimes the ego is very important because there are so many people who try and dissuade young people from following the path of art. I look forward to getting to know you better, and send you my best wishes.

  21. I think that the social media, such as this one, has opened up door of expression to people who, for various reasons, did not have the opportunities to explore or share their efforts at self-expression and creativity.. As a consequence, there are many journeymen now attempting to share, learn, and in some cases sell their work. I take great joy in that I can find and communicate individuals, such as yourself. It gives me a wonderful window into a wider world. Thanks for posting.

    • Yes, I agree with you elmediat. The internet offers a lot to a lot of people… sometimes just a way to find companionship when lonely… and this is very good. My comments here were meant for those who are moved by a desire to contribute something in the form of art… and in that case, there is a great advantage in knowing how to use the tools properly. A craftsman, or a true journeyman wouldn’t have to hear this… they know from their own experience. But those who have picked up the tools of artistic endeavor without having learned the craft, might not realize that the spontaneity and innocence of a child do not usually work for the adult trying to communicate with others in a sophisticated community. Thank you very much for your comment.

  22. I used to buy art from an artist from Jerusalem named Amir I believe that studied under a man with the last name of Stern. Does that by any chance sound familiar?

    Neat to know you used to teach at an art college.

    • I can’t think of who Amir might be. There are many of that name here. But I think in all likelihood, the teacher was Yossi Stern, who was a rather successful artist in Jerusalem, and throughout the country.

  23. Hey Shimonz, I read this post a while back and it touched me and wanted so much to comment but everything was jumbled up in my head. Your questions “I’ve been thinking about what I could say to a young man at the start of his life” This is a post from a blogger I follow. http://oneincreation.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/a-gift-of-grace/ I think it’s not what you say but what you have done and he has learned from watching you that counts. Let me know what you think my friend. I do read all your posts sometimes I find it hard to put down all the jumble in my head. 🙂 and the photos are beautiful.

    • Thank you Maiya for the beautiful link. And AngelaMarie seems like a very beautiful saintly woman. So sorry that you have too much going on in your head. Maybe you need more quiet time, and less time reading people’s blogs.

  24. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Interesting as ever. It’s difficult to tolerate strikes when they get in your way.

    Shimon, an interesting way to spend your birthday – always been like that? Interesting indeed, and I can see the value in it. Love your thoughtful posts.

    • Well, as you probably know, Noeleen… birthdays bring back early memories. And for those of us who suffered in childhood, a birthday isn’t always a happy event. But fortunately I’ve lived long enough to see happy children, and happy grand children. So now I get to celebrate the birthdays of people I love, and forget about my own. Thanks for your comment.

      • WordsFallFromMyEyes

        I feel some sorrow in your words, Shimon. I am so, so glad you’ve had happy children, happy grandchildren. I know for me it fires my heart to see Daniel well and happy these days.

        You remind me of a cat – you know how they go away when they’re wounded, then come out when ready? A good thing to do.

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