the teeth are hard

a taste of nature in the city (Vienna)

The rain is coming down, hard and fast now. It looks like winter. And yet because it was late in coming, it took me by surprise. Went for a walk this morning, thinking that I would enjoy walking in the rain, dressed in a raincoat, and well bundled up underneath. But I suppose I wasn’t ready for it yet. Much more enjoyable to watch it from within the house, with the heater going So I came back earlier than I had intended.

people like to put things in a box
painting on pomelo by Leah

Theoretically, I believe there is much to photograph in the rain, and I had taken a little camera with me… one that fits in my pocket, that I could take out at the right moment without drowning the camera. But I couldn’t find a single picture that appealed to me. And looking back, I have very few rainy scenes from all my years of photography. As time has passed, I’ve learned to sympathize with the thirsty earth… to want the rain to come… even, to feel a certain joy when the showers begin. Yet visually, I remain uninspired when it comes.

sculpture in the village where I’m staying

What’s unique about artistic inspiration is that it comes to you as if from outside yourslf. It helps you… it does part of the work. And as you move forward, as you begin to paint or write or photograph, the subject itself engages you in conversation. The images demand attention. The subjects of your stories have a will of their own. You could have planned a certain plot, and then find that one of the characters in your story just refuses to behave the way you wanted him to… or goes off and does something completely unexpected. Ah, how could that be, you ask. After all, you’re the master of his universe. You are god himself in this story you’re writing. But no, every subject has a will of his own, and if you try to bend the subject to your will, the subject will, in the end, seem flat and unconvincing. It is a lesson in life.

Bonnie, well adjusted to suburbia

For in fact, all of life is that way. We want to believe otherwise. We delude ourselves into thinking we have much more control than we have. We try laying down rules to our cats and dogs, to the grass on our front lawn, to our husband or wife. We have so many rules. And sometimes the rules seem to work. Our environment seems to comply to the strict order of things. But there are undercurrents and echoes… there are whispers in the dark, and ghosts behind doors. The stricter the rules, the more the ghosts, the double meanings, the underground and the unexpected; the Freudian slip and the accident. There are those that see it all, and those that see only what they expected to see.. blind in their innocence until they are swallowed up by that sudden tsunami, or revolution, or volcanic explosion.

electric pylon

Go with the flow, say the eastern thinkers… everything is interconnected… accept and don’t try to control. But when we have reality fixed in our minds… when we are absolutely sure we know what’s right, we don’t seem able to internalize such ideas. It seems the more we’ve suffered, the more we want to control, thinking that we can avoid those things we can’t stand. Life can be a constant struggle, full of tension and challenges. And all of it, coming out of our own selves, just because we are not willing or not able to accept what’s going on around us. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we can’t use self discipline to guide our own actions in this world. But the problem starts when we try to discipline those around us. And it’s not only those human beings around us… it can even be the dog or the grass…

the very spot where I wrote this blog post

I remember reading a Chinese proverb once, many years ago… to the effect that the teeth are hard, and yet the tongue outlasts them by far, because of its flexibility.


58 responses to “the teeth are hard

  1. I heard an interveiw with a novelists’ wife who told the story of herr husband coming into the room perplexed. “what shall I do?” he asked her, “gerald has fallen off his horse and broken his leg, he can’t go to that party tonight where he will meet his future wife!”

    • That’s a great story. It might be a joke, but it really tells the story of the independence of a character even in regards to his creator. There is a scene in ‘Breakfast of Champion’s by Vonnegut in which one of the characters meets his creator, and a discussion with him, which deals with the seeming paradox. Thanks a lot for your comment, Bill.

      • At one time, that book was one of my favourites. My story was not a joke, it really happened, but whjat I didn’t convey was that the author was at a complete loss that something unpredictable had happend to his character he was writing.

        • Glad to hear it was a true story, Bill. I still find it amusing, but it illustrates a very important aspect of creativity. The creative artist is actually discovering a truth, or truths… he is a vehicle for the reader or observer to understand the world that surrounds us all. What’s the title and author of that book you enjoyed so much?

  2. Wonderful post, journal whatever you call dear Shimon… I enjoyed. The photographs are so nice too, especially I loved the sofa and dog… Thank you, have a nice and sunny weekend, love, nia

    • Thanks a lot, Nia. It seems like we’re going to have rain for a while. It’s raining hard now. Didn’t take a walk this morning, but it is nice to look out through the window and appreciate it..

  3. How true. Only we need to have lived on this earth for a fair bit of time to learn that. Until then we are in a race to change the world 🙂
    Thank you for more beautiful images, and for taking us into your lovely home.

    • It’s a pleasure to share… a view of where I work, and a few of the ideas that run though my mind. Yes, we take ourselves very seriously when it comes to changing the world or saving the world… we forget that there were a lot of major changes before we ever got here. Thanks for your comment, Madhu.

  4. Thank you, Shimon; perfectly suited to my energy and experience of this day so far, and profoundly so…I needed such wisdom and spiritual food; thank you, my dear soul-friend. Such lovely interior pictures of light, color, balance. It seems a happy spirit has designed your current home. 🙂

    Thank you, too, for your beautiful and rich photographs during Hanukkah; I hope the light blessed you in ways that will unfold all the new year…

    • Very glad you enjoyed the pictures and the post, Kitty… as well as the pictures of last week. We are now back to normal for a while after this holiday. And we’re getting a lot of rain, which is good for the flowers and the crops. I’m feeling pretty encouraged. The light has surely blessed me. Thanks.

      • And PS: I LOVE those hanging bottles and have been pondering if they are lights…how would a bulb be replaced? They are lovely: simple, clean, bright.

        • Yes, they are lights. Janne cut away the bottoms of these bottles, and some low wattage bulbs have been installed. They are easy to replace, and the whole idea fits in well with the recycling fashion so popular today, and they are also a very practical way to bring light to the table. We’re having rain and cloudy skies these days, and so the light makes it easier for me to use my computer. I like them very much.

  5. Like you, Shimon, I have trouble being inspired by the rain. Maybe it’s the light, I suspect so, but those things that attract my eye and inspire do seem to be the sparks outside of myself. Especially when I want to capture them with my camera. And thank you for sharing your wonderful photos of your family this week. It seems as if it was a wonderful Chanukkah celebration!

    • It was a fine celebration, and I’m getting back to normal life again, appreciating the rain which has been coming down steadily And I do appreciate it in other ways, if not visually. Thanks, Cathy.

  6. It is always perspective, it seems…I like the Chinese proverb, Shimon….thank you again.

  7. Somehow it seems as if the sound of rain is pleasing and contemplative and enjoyable, but visually, it has always had the effect of pointing me towards sad memories. I say out loud that I love the rain, but maybe, perhaps, it is because it allows me the space to relax into my sorrows. It is an interesting observation that the rain is not a jumping off point for your photographic inspiration. Maybe, as Cathy said above, it about the light and shadows.

    Thank you for sharing all the photos today (as well as during the week of your holiday celebration). I particularly like today’s “put things in boxes” photo. How appropriate to the post, as is usually the case. You are clever and imaginative with your choice of photos to illustrate a point. Nothing speaks of control with more emphasis than hard lines surrounding something from every angle. Even when the result is a beautifully-framed image, it is still something that has been controlled; captured between the confines of the box. Interesting. Poignant.

    As for the idea of control? It has taken me many years to figure out that the circumstances of my life made me associate control with safety, and even though I recognize it was all an illusion anyway, I still find myself attempting to control everything, in every direction. I want whatever happens inside my box to be in alignment, and any deviation makes me uncomfortable. What I’m really searching for is some sense of safety, and even though I know better, I still like to believe that I will find it within a controlled environment.

    Every now and again I have to throw my head back and laugh at the absurdity of allowing myself to indulge in believing I am in control. Life has a way of reminding us that we are just a tiny speck in a pile of dust at the end of wide-sweeping broom that is always in motion. At any moment, we might find ourselves being swept in any direction, and suddenly our box has disappeared completely, and we begin the process of building the box all over again. So many boxes. And still, no control. But that doesn’t stop us from trying, again and again.

    Very interesting post, Shimon. Your words and images are an enjoyable nectar for a mind that is not easily quenched. Thank you, especially, for the photo of the very spot you put words to paper (in the electronic sense). Being allowed to imagine you in that spot, hands hovering over the keyboard, head bent in contemplation … well, it gave my heart sustenance. Many blessings to you and yours, my friend. In abundance.

    • I believe that like yourself, N, I tried to use control to guarantee safety, and that eventually I came to realize that this safety was an illusion. The longer we’ve done anything, the more fixed we become in our way… and of course, most of us take safety very seriously, and we want to protect ourselves. Thank you very much for your kind words about my writing and pictures. Knowing that I have friends who are able to enjoy these posts is a great impetus for my continued writing. I truly appreciate that. And I do think that these issues we discuss can help us in our never ending tests in this life. Because no matter how well we’ve managed to situate ourselves, there is always something new or unexpected that forces us to make choices. And it’s those choices, I believe, that are most important in life. Thank you for your blessing.

  8. Very wise words indeed. I wish you had a ‘like’ button on this blog! I often want to press it and then realize there isn’t one!

    • Hi there, Fatima. Thank you very much for your comment. I do get likes on occasion, and I’m not sure how people do it. I removed the like button because I didn’t feel it really added much. But seemingly one can send a like in alternative ways.

      • Thanks for that. I don’t know how else to do it; it’s just that sometimes I’d like to let you know that I’ve read your blog and enjoyed it, but have not much to say on the matter. I’ll ask my son: he’s much better than me on these matters.

    • The e-mail version of posts to subscribers (at least for my blog) has a place where the recipient can click in the e-mail to send a comment and also a place to click to “like” the post.

  9. …the problem starts when we try to discipline those around us, so true! Also, on top of these trivial rules, we have the obligations of meeting expectations from other people. I just remembered my husband said, “It’s quite acceptable to be ignorant, but unacceptable if you don’t have something that meets other’s expectations…”
    Love the spot that you do your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. Happy Chanukkah, Mr. Shimon!

    • Meeting the expectations of others can be a very heavy burden at times. And what your husband says can be turned around as well. One can be learned or very clever, and be admired for that. But if he doesn’t behave according to the general expectations, he will have great trouble being accepted. I suppose we have to try and keep in tune with others while not sacrificing our allegiance to ourselves, and to our own personal choices. Thanks for the comment, Amy.

  10. I am so envious of your ability. Wish we could meet in person. Odd that I had been following a similar subject that I will send you.

  11. I loved the way this blog flowed, from the rain to issues of control. Yes, it isn’t always easy letting go, but flexibility certainly makes life easier.
    Bonnie is adorable, for some reason I imagined her to be bigger. I love the colours in Janne’s lounge, very cosy.
    I’ve taken you up on some of the books you suggested, I enjoyed….if that is the right word…maybe I should say, I found it hard to put down The Mysterious stranger….wow….and now I’ve almost finished The Rain King. What an extraordinary, strange little book, this post seemed to go well with it. Now I know what books you do enjoy I would give the Shadow of the Wind a shot for sure.
    I have enjoyed your holiday pics. And what a strange pic the first one here is….xxx

    • Yes, that first picture is of a scene that really stopped me in my tracks when I first say it. I was in Vienna at the time, on a visit to meet a relative. Lookig at those trees, all clipped in straight lines down the avenue, seemed to spell out the Germanic attitude towards order, and how they stamped their own personality on the environment. I have published the picture on my blog before. Getting to know Bonnie has been a very interesting experience for me. I’ve known some dogs quite well and liked them. But living with Bonnie, I’ve learned to love her… and to appreciate the canine personality as I never have in the past.

      I am really happy to hear that you’ve taken up a couple of my recommendations for reading material. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you enjoyed both of those stories. I have already bought ‘Shadow of the Wind’, and plan to start reading it soon. I will let you know what I think of it. My very best to you, Dina. xxx

  12. I have enough problems controlling my own live without trying to control anyone else. We have to be flexible to maintain a healthy attitude towards life…even with ourselves!

    • I agree with you Bev. It is healthiest to remain flexible. As to controlling others, it seems to me that some people feel a need like that… whether it be children, or our mates, or even friends. Sometimes it’s intentional, but I think that more often it is unintentional, and often a subconscious need that people aren’t even aware of/ But it can get in the way of good relationships. Thanks so much for your comment.

  13. Great post, Shimonz! The teeth in that sculpture look very fierce indeed. I love the Chinese proverb.So true. 🙂

  14. An interesting post as ever Shimon. I enjoyed the Chinese proverb very much as how true that is. I too have struggled to take pictures on rainy days and we get a good many more of them here than you do. If the inspiration isn’t there you can’t make it happen. You can be disciplined and tell yourself you’re going to take pictures anyway but my experience has always been the same as yours, flat uninteresting photographs.
    I wrote a novel a few years back as was intrigued to find my characters taking on a life all of there own. A very interesting process to have been through in retrospect..

    • Yes Chillbrook, I think it’s a good sign when the characters take on a life of their own. We can force them to follow through on the moves we’ve planned for them, but in that case they usually turn out pretty flat. As for the pictures of rain, I have seen some wonderful photography of rain, including from students of mine. I suppose it has to do with one’s basic attitude, expectations, and taste. But I agree with you completely, it’s not something we can force. Thanks.

  15. Trying to control is one thing, discipline is another … and it takes wisdom to tell the difference sometimes. And for those of us who believe in a Creator, then our awareness that our lives are in His hands needs to influence such attitudes.
    I’m interested that you don’t feel inspired by the rain!

    • Actually, Gill, I am inspired by the rain. Just not visually. I often feel a real ‘high’ when it starts to rain, and this is especially true right now, at the beginning of the rainy season. Because of that, I mentioned my sympathy with the thirsty earth. Rain is something we pray for, here in Israel. And I often enjoy watching it come down… and sometimes enjoy walking in the rain. It was when I tried to translate it into an image, that I felt I was going nowhere. But I do have hopes that eventually I’ll be able to capture it in an interesting way. Aside from that, I agree with you that discipline, both of ourselves and of students and children is not to be confused with the desire to control. And of course, I also agree with you on the subject of how believing in the creator is a very important influence on all of our values. Thanks for your comment.

  16. Control was never my long suit. Neither discipline, I suspect. I like the Chinese proverb very much. You are have a highly disciplined mind, but you are absolutely open and accepting of others and of circumstances that you cannot control. That combination is exceptional, I think.

    I am still smiling about your having said that your friends may have forgotten and will come selling the nursing home in the end. I can see you chuckle as you wrote that. You make my life a little better every time I think of something you’ve said or see your wonderful images. 🙂

    How in the world is that first image done? Are those trees actually trimmed in perfectly straight lines?

    • Yes, George. The trees are actually trimmed along very strict lines, and I found it amazing to look at them. This was in a park in Vienna, Austria, which is very influenced by the Germanic attitude towards ‘order’. I felt the scene said a lot about their society.

      I was raised in a society where discipline was very important. This caused me to be a rebel in many ways. But at the same time, I also developed a strong sense of self-discipline which has stayed with me all my life. It’s my opinion that self-discipline can be a source of exceptional strength. But it can also be a limiting factor on one’s personality. It makes us a little too stiff. So I try to use humor to keep from taking myself too seriously. Glad you enjoy it. It really makes me happy to think I put a smile on your face now and then. Thanks so much for your comment.

  17. Shimon,
    I know how much you like cats. I thought you would enjoy this video of a cat and an owl.

  18. The trees in the first photo look neat. I wondered if they were purposely pruned to look like that?
    Rain. I like it just before it starts to rain, the sharp change in atmosphere, the intensified humidity, and then the sudden unleashing of a downpour.
    Over where I live, it is also the rainy season. This type of rain is incessant, continuing on for hours and even days non-stop. Today I only saw the sun for a brief hour, and this is a place that is so near the equator!

    • I am sure that it was done purposely, plumerainbow. But that still leaves the question open, whether it was because they wanted it to look like that, or whether they feel that they have to impose human (Germanic) order on the environment. Thinking about such things, I find myself wondering about another challenge. We could see all those environment activists as part of the same phenomenon as the greedy industrialists who are dirtying the environment with their waste products. Looking at it that way, the world is reacting to the ever larger human presence, by working to vomit us out. But then the environment activists come along, and try to engineer the universe so as to be more hospitable to humans while we kill off ever other species. But of course, all of this is said with a smile. No offense meant.

  19. The welcome rain after a celebration of light, thoughts of control and the give and take of creativity, the tyranny and necessity of rules and reactions to them, the soft and the hard….it flows so naturally from your “pen.” I remember your post about pens…but you adapt well to the computer, and to your present circumstance. I send bows across land and ocean to you.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, bluebrightly. Some sixty years ago, I used to read science fiction, and wonder what the world would be like in another half a century. For me, having a blog, and meeting with others in this virtual world, and trading stories with them, and enjoying their experiences… it’s all better than the wildest stories I read back then. The imagination can hardly keep up with reality, and I’m very pleased, both to enjoy your pictures, and to trade ideas with you across cyberspace.

  20. Regarding the ancient Chinese proverb: modern dentistry has created excellent implants to replace teeth, but I don’t believe surgeons have yet created a tongue replacement.

    • Ah, a very amusing comment, Steve. However, I have to say that I expect that soon parts will be synthetically produced to replace any physical or personality disorder among humans… with the exception of cynicism. But of course, when thinking of the future, I am always quite satisfied that I’m old. One can bear to see only so much improvement. And then it becomes burdensome. But I do enjoy your comments, my friend.

  21. Another great post, you wise old philosopher. Have a great week.

    • Thank you very much, Pete. I was thinking of you yesterday, when hearing that a storm was approaching, and reminded of the fact that for you it is spring. How wonderful that we can communicate from two different hemispheres.

  22. Great thoughts – and the home photographs are so warm and inviting! A lot of this rang true for me. On reflection, it has seemed to me that I experience the most suffering when I try too hard to avoid the proverb too, great image to keep in mind!

    • Yes, I would agree with you here completely… fear of something, or trying to avoid something, always seems to bring it nearer. Thank you for your kind words, Cath. Glad you liked the post.

  23. I loved reading this post, Shimon. I really like the shot of your “work space” – really interesting to see the physical spot where you wrote. Is it really the “junction” between head, hands and keyboard?

    • I’ve given a lot of thought to portraits… and I know that this is a subject that’s important to you too, Richard. And it’s interesting how often little insignificant details help us to relate to a person or give us the feeling that we know that person so much better. On rare occasions, I offer a portrait of myself. But I thought that it would be interesting for my readers to see the very place where I write. I have a very comfortable room of my own, with a good desk to work at, but this dining corner next to the kitchen is the spot I most enjoy for writing. It’s where I spend a lot of time.

  24. I have done plenty of damage with my hard teeth, in spite of the inevitable futility of controlling people and things around me. For some of us, it takes years of futility before we recognize the wisdom of the Chinese proverb.

    On another note, your writing area looks as if it is full of light. Nothing is quite as cheering as a sunlit room.

    • Thank you so yearstricken. Yes, most days that room gets a lot of light, and it is a pleasure for me to read and write there. As for our desire for control… I write about it because I too have failed many times in that regard. But as you say, if we don’t realize quickly that the world is greater than we are, time helps us understand. As always, I love your comments.

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