almond blossoms at the top of the little hill where I live in Jerusalem

When I came into this world, it was hell on earth. My earliest memories are of nightmare qualities. My parents, who were orthodox Jews, were married by ‘arrangement’. and complemented each other in a strange and unexpected manner. My father didn’t really want to bring any children into this world, but my mother wouldn’t hear of such a plan. It was either marriage with children or no marriage and he agreed. In an attempt to offer me some consolation, he suggested that I read history, and this I did. It gave me a wider perspective of human affairs. My mother, on the other hand, told me of the good in the world. She tried to share with me what she loved about life. She was an incurable optimist.

Nechama my cat does not believe in religion or any ideology. she looks at life from the ground up. she has an exaggerated faith in me. but when we’re taking a walk together and she sees a dog in the area, she hides behind a bush or up in the tree. she doesn’t rely on me to save her.

As a young man I started my learning with the study of religion, and from there I continued to mechanics, science and engineering. This was simply because Jewish people could not feel safe in any country. They had been driven out of one country after another and been forced to adjust to endless changes in language and cultures. The study of engineering or mechanics would allow me to feed myself and my family regardless of where I might have to go to find shelter. But after securing a professional base, I found myself drawn to philosophy. As I would read the thoughts of different philosophers, I was convinced almost every time, identifying with the thinker, and adopting his point of view until I came across the next which I would adopt too. I was naive and trusting when reading these volumes by intelligent rational people… well, some of them were rational. Eventually, I came to existentialism, and this was more or less where that search ended. I tried to live the present. Not to reach out in hope and prayer for the future… not to entertain fantasies about what could happen, and what I wanted to happen. And not to look back… because in my case, I couldn’t even take a peek without inadvertently seeing images of a blood drenched inferno, being beaten up, and tortured by fear.

she’s an old one eyed cat, but she hasn’t run to fat. she watches the birds on the hill without disclosing her opinions

For most of my life, I continued on this path. And as I’ve mentioned many times in this journal, my life became better and better. To the point where after sixty some years, dying quietly on the floor of my college office after a heart attack, I argued with an ambulance paramedic who wanted to take me to the hospital, saying that I had a good life, and just wanted to be taken home, which was a good place in which to say good bye to the world. Circumstances outwitted me, and I was eventually taken to the hospital where I was saved, but that is a story for another time.

this is wild mustard that grows freely in the fields at this season, and can be included in a sandwich without industrial additives

What I wanted to say, though, was that for most of my life I preferred to focus on the present. But as I grew old, I realized that in many cases that which was most precious to me, was not the contemporary favorite. It was not just that I’d grown old and was no longer able to keep up, and so waxed nostalgic about what had been popular when I was younger. In my youth I had enjoyed Vivaldi and Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. I had read philosophical speculations that were sometimes two and three thousand years old, and back again up till the present day. In the pursuit of happiness I had the advantage of checking out anything and everything that had been studied before me. And then… sometime after my retirement, I became entranced by the desire to keep ‘up to date’… and was disappointed.

more almond blossoms at the same place

technology is a straight line; the arts, philosophy, and music are part of a timeless blossoming of the human spirit. there is no before and after in art.


As we all know, there is nobility in ‘art for art’s sake, or studying for the sake of knowledge. One discerns music by taste. The reason to play is for the sake of enjoyment…of the player or the listener; either or both. But in the case of technology, there is constant forward motion and progress is judged by practicality. Technology started before recorded history, before the invention of the wheel, before the invention of scissors and pliers or the discover of the uses of fire. And we moved a step forward every time we encountered a practical way to get results that were even better than what we were getting before. There was a long period of time when man was learning how to harness the power of water moving in a river to perform jobs that people had previously been doing by hand. And then there was the steam engine, and then the internal combustion engine. And while these major industrial miracles were being celebrated, there were hundreds and thousands ‘little’ miracles that added to man’s ability to impose his will on nature.

the same corner where we looked at post modern sculptures on that rainy day

The industrial revolution was perhaps the first time that major customs and conventions were replaced and changed in order to placate the demands of technological progress. After that came the electrical era, and we are now at the very start of the digital age. It is hard to guess just exactly where we’ll go. But I keep in mind that the god of technology is efficiency, whereas the god of art, music and philosophy is reflected in the infinite variations of human sensitivity, empathy, emotions, and the questioning of our own existence.


50 responses to “yesterday

  1. Finally! someone on this Earth wrote something worthwhile! While I was reading it, I was eating a cold salad the Moroccan neighbor, Tsippi, made me yesterday. It was with noodles, nuts, & hot peppers. Both the piece & the salad were stunning together, because you kept on reading, eating, enjoying & wanting more. Both were harif & tasty. I am so proud to get this piece. Why? because finally I enjoyed, learned & celebrated, without wasting my time. Good Job, Shimon*** Words of Value***

    • Ah, my dear friend, I am honored by having my words compared to one of Tzippi’s salads… inspiring too, because I tend to forget about salads during the winter months, except for humus and eggplant salad… but this is the time. As we approach spring, I feel myself coming back to life, and in the mood for a fine vegetable salad… and I think I’ll add a few noodles and hot peppers in honor of Tzippi. Thanks Alan

  2. My favorite post of your hundreds of wonderful posts, Shimon!

    I have always had a very logical mind, which was great when I needed it! I appreciate technology and it’s efficiency, but have never been devoted to being slavishly current or replacing bits that still work fine. I studied the arts, and have integrated those lessons, creativity, and ways of being into my work life. Never made a lot of money, but always felt happy about teaching children and then being a companion to the dying. I’ve always known life was far more about the blossoming, connections, creation, and love.

    I learned that from my parents, and know I was blessed. What is amazing to me is that your hellish nightmare of a childhood led you to the same perspective. It sounds like your mother’s spirit was always with you.

    I’m in awe of what you have overcome and become, Shimon, how much wisdom you have earned, and what a remarkable human you are. Thank you for sharing so intimately, and smooches to Nechama!

    • Thank you for the kisses to Nechama, my dear Kitty. She really does need those kisses. She’s getting old, and it occurs to me that I don’t kiss her enough. Which is really a problem because she’s a little anti social, both with other cats and with human beings. If friends come over, she hides away in some corner. If children visit, she actually goes out of the house and doesn’t come back till they’re gone. Since our big move, she’s had trouble building new cat friends with the felines in our neighborhood, but recently I’ve noticed a slightly more positive attitude to other cats. Yes, she has disdain for children, money, and television… but she does like music. Both classical and Jazz.

  3. “the arts, philosophy, and music are part of a timeless blossoming of the human spirit. there is no before and after in art.” Beautifully stated, Shimon. Perhaps that’s why, when creating art or viewing a master painting or listening to an exquisite Chopin prelude, time stands still.

    • I don’t know, Cathy; I haven’t listened to Chopin for quite some time, but plan to overcome this remiss in the very near future. I’ve always believed that time stands still for no man, but recently, as I hobble along, it seems like I’ll never catch up. Still I thank you for the thought. It is always very good to hear from you.

  4. Hi old man,
    You wrote another great captivating post. When my father was young his family would gather around the kitchen table and play cards at night. When I was young my family would gather to watch TV at night. I got three kids in their late teens living at home and it is almost an event when the five of us can share a meal together. Most of the time it is only me and my wife who use the family TV, the kids got their own portable device and I have no clues what they like to watch anymore. There was a time when I was living with my brothers and sisters that a queue would form in front of the unique phone in the house, these days when the phone rings it is someone trying to sell me new windows for the house or telling me that I won a cruise in the Caribe. In 30 years Internet has ‘dehumanized’ our life but it is nothing compare of what will happen with the coming of the Quantum computer, Artificial Intelligence and the development of autonomous robot. The following video is quite perturbing when you scary when you ponder over it.
    Yves P.

    • Thank you very much Yves, for the link to the clip on the robotic dog. Watching that was a remarkable moment (actually less than one minute) for me. I was thinking, hell, they’ve finally taken all the romance out of the dog…even if it does work just as well. What you say about your teenage children is quite familiar to me. I remember when we first started having grandchildren, I was disconcerted by their attitude towards a feast. We’d put out the whole spread, and they’d walk around the house, taking a bite here and there when they had the opportunity to intersect with the table. But no longer did we have the long discussions that we had once had when the children were growing up. I thought they might have been spoiled by attending too many buffet dinners. But now that some of those grandchildren are adults, I see they’ve grown to appreciate the table. But ultimately, I think you’re right. There seems to be a speeding up of change for humanity. Maybe it’s technology; maybe it’s just the improved communications… but I hardly recognize the world anymore.

  5. Dear Shimon, thank you for sharing the picture of almond blossom and the story of your blossoming. I loved both. Hugs for you. xXx

  6. Contemplating the past as it relates to the future is a fascinating way to start my day. Thanks for the peek into a broader world.

    • And thank you too, for coming by and for your comment Judy. It’s always good to see you. I remember coming across a rather strange prediction in a religious text many years ago. It said that as we would approach the messianic age, time would speed up. And it seems to me that we’re seeing that these days… my very best wishes to you.

  7. It is through your writing that I live life vicariously what it feels to live in Jerusalem, the promised land complex in nature. I’ve been there twice. It is through the cat that I learn how to be present. Thoughts I could not conceive to write so eloquently. Mechanics of life coupled with logic and philosophy is what I learned in university days. Ancient history is just as important as listening to great composers. ShimonZ, thank you for writing. Blessings. Perpetua.

    • If you’ve managed to get that sense, a bit of the feeling of Jerusalem, then I have succeeded at what I first set out to do, when I started this blog, Perpetua. I wanted to share a taste of the reality here, in my beloved city. Thanks so much for your blessing.

  8. I knew what I wanted to say, then I read the comments and the descriptive moment of the present flitted away. The flighty brain in its maturity is sometimes like the Operatic Donne Mobile, (not that I necessarily agree with the broader sentiment, but I think I can be allowed artistic licence).

    If your technological heart had been allowed to fade away, none of us would have had the inordinate pleasure of reading you, reading your perspectives on the states of life and the variety of developments you observe in your own inimitable way. More importantly, we wouldn’t be graced with Nechama and her goings on. She is a bonus treat.

    Loved the pictorial Purim journey.

    • Oh, you do have artistic license, menhir. My impression of old age is that aside from some of the less exhilarating aspects, we do seem to relax our grip on our immediate environment. And this gives us a more neutral perspective. Things I saw before now appear to me in their relationship to other things… and though my physical eyes have become weaker, I seem to have gained a wider picture. x

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and more of your background. The way people evolve into the person they are today always fascinates me. You give us food for thought.

    • What you say, Bev, has been very interesting for me as well. We look at the foetus and it reminds us of a fish. There is a certain evolution of the human being, and it doesn’t stop at adulthood. We continue to learn and change… and watching these changes is a great help in getting to understand men and women. Thank you for your comment.

  10. Almond blossoms. Wild mustard. Lovely moments in time. Earth and Nature appreciates you noticing.
    Music and art – made to experience and enjoy – also to really evaluate the artist’ success one must first understand what their objective is. (but realistically in older times, creating something pleasing to the patron in order to get paid was pretty important. HAHA)
    We know families and couples that still consider arranged marriages typical. Sometimes knowing from the first you’ll have to make some effort for the partnership to work is a reasonable idea. Not just all love-dovie clouding feelings?
    History is always good foundation – both good and bad there.
    We are drowning in data glorification. It started out reasonably for the research groups I worked in, but somewhere along the line, it became reduce all to data for understanding – without recognition of the human elements and variation of human performance and thought. Totally wacky now – I keep hoping the ship will right itself and go back to data with reason.
    Enjoyed reading about your background and the images…and of course the real philosopher: the cat.

    • I do agree with you regarding marriage, philosophermouse. Falling in love is infinitely sweet, but the work of adapting to union with another human being, long term, demands a rather methodical approach. On the other hand, if an artist has managed to amuse me for a light hour, what do I care if he was motivated by lust or manipulation? It’s that universal kiss of minds; the break in the loneliness that gives it its character. What you say about data is right on. It’s what I fear as I find myself bound and dragged into the future.

  11. “technology is a straight line; the arts, philosophy, and music are part of a timeless blossoming of the human spirit. there is no before and after in art.” and many more you wrote in this article, are all well stated. I don’t know anyone could explain like you did. In some ways, the digital technology helps us to understand or appreciate arts a little better.
    Beautiful photos go so well with your eloquent words.
    Thank you, Mr. Shimon.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Amy. I don’t reject digital technology. I find it charming and most wondrous. I love to see many of the new gadgets, and my life is improved every day by the computer and other great inventions. I was just trying to see things in proper perspective because it seems to me that the young generation today has a tendency to dismiss the value of things that come from the past. I believe that we have much to gain from the past.

  12. When I sit down with your posts, I imagine having a conversation with you. Sitting here or there, there is music (in my life, there is always music) and the day is bright and clear. It is truly a moment in the present, yet technology has allowed this visual, for our present moments are in differing time zones.
    I am not sure that one reverts to the past, when the thought of the future is unnerving. Time has softened some of the edges that I couldn’t bear to look at years ago, so I can tiptoe back and take longer peeks. And that said, there is no time to be noticed other than this very one – when I gratefully look at these magnificent photos, smile at your wise and trusting Nechama and nod to myself as I read your words. Be well, Shimon, be well.

    • The greatest advantage that I’ve found in reading, Mimi, was that it transcended time and place. As a lonely boy, I was able to ‘make friends’ with people who lived in other centuries, and thousands of kilometers away. Time is a measure of our own subjective awareness of change and continuity both. So glad you enjoyed the post. I too enjoy the sensation of the presence of my virtual friends, as if we were sitting together here in my salon. Thanks for your good wishes.

  13. “the arts, philosophy, and music are part of a timeless blossoming of the human spirit. there is no before and after in art.”
    This is a wonderful expression/explanation, I do agree with you dear Shimon.

    In different lands, in different culture and language, and in different stories, we both passed all these years… As you mentioned at the beginning of a new period of the world/maybe earth too, we will be leaving so many histories behind us… and no one will remember our times, our memories… They will be reading/watching but not knowing as us… Time changes, people change too.. To be honest dear Shimon, this new period is not for me… I can’t get used to this digital world… (I know you are smiling there, I am at my desk and by using this technology I am writing to you… but believe me, I would be happy if I could have been writing a letter by an ink! )

    But I know, there is nothing to say for your last passage, except my agreement… Every period has its own power and fans/humans… Always coming new instead of old..

    I am in my sixties years and I haven’t seen a wild mustard plant and even it was just a mustard in my sandwich… I smiled myself.

    Spring is my best season and I wish to take long…. But in here, it’s suddenly happening hot summer days… But in the old years, it wasn’t like that…

    It is so nice to see Nechama, I love her, even we haven’t met… I remember one of my friends asked me one day, “is it easy to love someone without knowing?”…. My answer was like that, there are words, there are some images, there are some events, ….etc. but absolutely there is something that touches your heart… To know someone takes time, a long time… and you may not love or you may love as at the beginning… Anyway, I love your cat, because of your words, and photographs and also how possible not to love, I am crazy with cats too… Blessing and Happiness to you both,
    Thank you, Love, nia

    • I can understand you very well, Nia. I believe that a lot of people who lived half their life or more before the coming of the digital age feel as we do. I used to write with a fountain pen and ink, and writing itself was a sensual experience. Reading a letter written by hand included visual recognition of the character of the writer which was similar to watching the face of the person speaking to you. A lot of the benchmarks and the standards that we used to live by have disappeared into the ether. But as we both know, there have also been a lot of improvements in our life. It is typical of us, as humans, to take the good things for granted and to complain about what we’ve lost. But I know… it is a different world today.

      Spring is my favorite season too. I love seeing the new flowers… and the grass… all of nature springs to life. Yes, there might be a few heat waves or unexpected weather too… but that is part of the seasons of change; both spring and fall. They take us to unexpected places occasionally. Thank you for Nechama. I know you can appreciate her. I know how much you love cats, and I suppose we can sense one another though pictures and writing. Thank you for your blessing and love. And I send you too, blessings and love

  14. Wow. I agree, this is the best post I’ve witnessed from you, and it made me wish I had known you longer. Perhaps it isn’t serendipity that you entered the philosopher mode. I have long suspected that aging is what leads us to the philosopher role, and it fits you well. Perhaps you were delivered to the right parents for this reason.

    Be well Shimon, and please don’t throw that keyboard away.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Bob. I know what you mean… we meet people on the net, and feel a special affinity for them, and regret that we will never see them. Sometimes I feel that same frustration. But on the other hand we have to be grateful for the opportunity to reach out and actually communicate in real time with those far away fellows. I remember as a youth, reading the works of people on the other side of the world, or in some cases long dead before I was born… and the very fact that I was able to enjoy their work or read their journals, was compensation for my momentary discomfort. Today it is even easier. We are able to reach out… and chat. What a miracle!

  15. You have had a very interesting life Shimonz

    • Ha, Peter. I remember when I was young, I heard that one of the curses popular among the Chinese, was ‘may you live in interesting times’. Yes, I lived an interesting life, but it also had its good and bad. I try to remember the love I have known, and to immerse myself in continuous learning… because that is my favorite experience. Thanks for the comment.

  16. There is little above that hasn’t been said about this post, Shimon, that I could add to, other than to say that I am so glad that our paths crossed, virtually and in reality. You have been, and continue to be, an inspiration, especially as we enjoy the retired life and continue to explore those infinite variations.

  17. This is only a little test. My comments are disappearing this morning, either into spam or the ether. If this appears, I’ll be back with a real comment while I’m waiting for assistance with the larger problem.

    • For some reason, this comment did appear in spam. I can’t imagine why. Look forward to hearing your comment. But no rush. Deal with what you have to.

  18. Good morning Shimon. I have just returned from France and your blog is very fitting for my thinking at present. I also try to live within the moment, but am also appreciating what I have learned throughout my life and the beautiful people I have, and continue to encounter. This alone is enough too raise the spirits. Of course I love seeing the beautiful Nechame….How old is she? I saw almond trees in blossom in the south of France – always uplifting. Have a beautiful day my friend. Janet

    • Hi there Janet. You sound so chipper after your trip. Welcome home! I was on a shorter trip than yours… just to the north of this country. But came back aching in all my joints, and somewhat irritable. I don’t seem to have the old immunity and capacity for adventure. But I suppose there is reason enough to be grateful just for the fact that I made it home. Each time I visit the places I loved when young, I hear of another friend who is now ‘resting in peace’. It reminds me not to pray too much for peace. Nechama is 13 years old. You no doubt remember her when she first came into my home and adopted me. But she too has joined the old timers… almost caught up with me… So glad you had an opportunity to enjoy the almond blossoms. If we were to take a walk together, I’d bring some almonds and raisins for you. xxx

  19. Yet we need technology, don’t we? And of course it brings you and I together, across vast lands and oceans. But we need a balance, and when we’re going to start looking harder for that, I don’t know. I’m glad you use technology the way you do – the words and the images!

    • I agree with you Lynn. I’m not against technology. I use it and like it. But it has brought a lot of new tools into our world. And some people like to try everything that’s new, and I’m okay with that too. But personally, I don’t want to be weighed down with any unnecessary posessions, tools, or distractions. So if something can help me do what I want to do, great. But I don’t want to get caught up in all sorts of activities that are just there to give me the opportunity of trying some new invention. My time is too precious. Thanks for the comment.

    • Thanks for coming by. What does that mean. bullied for 50? Visited your site, but didn’t find out.

      • bulliedfor50 is a name of the blog because I chose not to use a real name. for my writing here. Sometimes I write to help bring awareness to the topics of surviving bullying, and other times I write about current events or national or International news. You have an interesting blog, great photographs.

  20. And another fine essay. You have been mining a rich vein of thoughts and impressions while I’ve been away in Wales. Now I’m off to catch up with your current post.

    • Thanks Tish. While you were in Wales, I was visiting in the north of Israel, in the Galilee. It’s a landscape I fell in love with in my youth, but I find traveling much harder than ever before. There are more people on the road…more everywhere, and I have become somewhat pampered. I’ll have to think about it; kearn the lesson before going off again.

      • I find the too many people and too much traffic troublesome too. But then perhaps one wouldn’t mind so much if one went out and confronted it more often. Hm. Your trip north sounds like an adventure. I’m picturing dramatic rugged landscapes.

        • It’s not so dramatic… nor rugged. There are rolling hills and valleys, green for the most part, with a lot of wild flowers found everywhere. The nature was a great pleasure. It was just the going back which was a difficult hassle.

  21. Your mention of the straight-line march of technology reminded me of something. If you look at a Google map of Louisiana, or even parts of Texas, you’ll see some perfectly straight lines cutting through the landscape, and other lines that are curvy and meandering.

    If they aren’t highways, the straight lines most often are canals: part of the oil and gas or agricultural industries. The curving lines are the bayous; dim, alligator-infested, incredibly beautiful bits of nature that allowed people to penetrate the land in the first place. While the bayous have thrived for aeons, the canals are destroying the land by allowing the incursion of salt water into the marshes and freshwater swamps. Say what you will about climate change; the fact is that the subsidence and increased salinity brought to the land by human techology are the worst culprits.

    Have you read the book The Control of Nature, by John McPhee? It’s an absolute gem comprised of case studies of man’s attempt to impose his will on the world around him. One of the classic chapters, about the Atchafalaya River and Mississippi flooding, is available here as a pdf file.

    The almonds and the mustard are beautiful. The rock in the structure shown in the first photo appears to be limestone — if it is, there’s a fun bit of similarity between Jerusalem and the Texas hill county, which is filled with limestone homes and commercial buildings.

    • Yes, I would say that straight lines is a sign of human activity, whether on the map or in history. But I wonder if anyone would accuse the ants, as they tunnel under the earth and leave little volcanoes of activity on the ground, that they are trying to control nature? The ants are a part of nature, and so are the humans. And now that we’ve learned a bit about social utilitarianism from the ants, we might want to examine the lemmings or the whales that throw themselves on the beaches from time to time. We’ve been warned by our ancient forbearers. We read the Greek tragedies or the Hebrew bible, and the message is clear. Those very characteristics that enabled our prominence might be the eventual cause of our undoing. If we get too proud or too smart for our own good, it all may blow away. My hope is for well tempered rationality.

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