for better or worse

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We may have been born blind or ugly, with a twisted body. or a body that turns out too short, or too long, or with skin of the wrong color. We may develop disadvantageous habits such as eating too much or biting our fingernails. We may have some borderline personality disorder or be Bipolar or have one of the many different mental diseases that are still part of the human landscape. We could get some terrible illness like Degenerative Muscle Disease or Alzheimer’s Disease. Some of these disadvantages are a matter of luck. And others reflect on poor decisions, and choices. A person who drives a motor vehicle while drunk might pay for it with a lifetime as a cripple, much worse than any punishment the court would sentence. But that’s life. There isn’t much we can do about that.

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I could tell you about my own personal life, my bad luck, and my failures. But I’m a person who values privacy. When I go out into public, I prefer to be fully clothed. And when in social discussion, prefer to hear of what people enjoy eating and not about their bowel movements. But if I don’t mention them, it’s not because I want you to think that I don’t shit.

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We arrive here in this, our common world, each person with his own talents and limitations, and we have to make do with what we have. It’s our life, and it’s there for the taking from the time we reach maturity till our death. We can find inspiration in the choices of Helen Keller or Stephen Hawking who were able to overcome severe disabilities. We may read the thoughts of the great thinkers recorded in history since the invention of writing. But finally, it is up to us to find our own way and enjoy this period of time we have on earth.

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There was a time when I enjoyed mountain climbing, sleeping on the ground, eating minimal rations which I could carry on my back, and learning what I could about this world. I lived a good life… maybe even, a few good lives, from my perspective. But now, like Saul who put away his toys when he was grown, I’ve given up the pleasures of my earlier days, and have tried to enjoy the possibilities affordable to an oldster. I miss the libraries I used to visit, miss the high mountains, miss driving with all the windows open across the warm desert, picking a spot to make camp, and finding a universe hidden in the wide wild open. But the computer compensates somewhat for the loss of libraries, and I have the advantage of enjoying the parks, and the cozy corners of this city I live in. We even have islands in the midst of thoroughfares in which flower bushes, different greenery and vines are planted.

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Of course, in my city as in every city, there are better spots, and places which I try to avoid. Usually it’s a matter of choice. Even when I go from one place to another in this city, I don’t always travel the shortest distance. It’s important to me that I enjoy myself while traveling, even if it takes a little longer. I think, how good it is when it takes a little longer and I’m enjoying myself all the way there.

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When I hear the exploits of people richer than myself, how many cars and houses they have, airplanes and yachts, I’m happy for them. I wish them happiness and peace and satisfaction. I know it takes very little to live. And fortunately, I don’t see any hungry people here in the society around me. There are people driven by unquenched desires, but that isn’t hunger as I know it. When I see people living according to twisted values, what used to be called worshiping false gods, I know it’s not my place to steer them against their will towards the good. Everyone has to make their own choices. I tried to influence my own children, but I learned that those with the right stuff, eventually found the right way. And now I believe that it’s best only to give advice when you’re asked for it. Otherwise, it doesn’t usually help anyway.

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Since I feel I’m talking to friends on this, my page on the internet, I feel free to offer a piece of advice here and there, You can read it or skip past to find something more interesting. Some people prefer to look at the pictures without struggling through the text. That’s fine too. As for myself, I make an effort to find those places in which I feel best. Even in my own home, there are more preferable places and less. Outside of the home, there’s a whole world to be found in the city in which I live.

D2715_06this is my home, with clouds above… the room that juts out, with wooden boards between the windows and the roof is my living room

The olive trees posted here are found in the liberty bell park. The park was named in honor of the USA because we admire their aspiration for freedom. Olive trees are native to our land, and there are many stories about them and their wonderful fruit. I’ll share just one that I particularly like. There were priests in the holy temple whose job it was to extract oil. They would squeeze each olive just one time, and the oil from that squeeze was gathered in a vessel. It was called ‘pure olive oil’ and was reserved for the eternal flame. The rest of the olive was used for all the regular needs, as food and oil.
Wishing everyone a very good weekend.

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56 responses to “for better or worse

  1. Age does seem to help us accept our limitations, if we’re willing to “inquire within” and frankly meet the reality of our situation, doesn’t it? And yet, as you say, Shimon, our ability to use our creativity and find new ways to feed our hearts, spirits, and minds, can also deepen.

    I do love these photos; they illustrate your writing so beautifully. Your apartment really offers an expansive view! Wow!

    Wishing you continued moments of “pure olive oil.” However and whenever they may visit, I know you will notice and cherish them! Gentle peace to your week’s end, Shimon!

    • As a young man I had the impression that in adulthood, human beings reached a certain plane and stayed pretty much the same till old age. As I grew older, I realized that every period of our life has its own personality if we are just willing to accept what it has to offer. Some people try to stay young, and miss out on an important part of the adventure. When it comes to old age, it is like fine old wine, if one has enjoyed his life. Thanks so much for recognizing the importance of moments, and I’m delighted that you enjoyed the photos. It’s always so good to hear from you, Kitty.

  2. Wise words.

    Regards Thom

  3. Your photos are stunning and I love seeing them; I am drawn to your text even more. This post has moved me to tears- the good, productive/reflective kind- – and this is why… for a long time, I lived focused solely on the destinations, forgetting to enjoy the paths along the way, the little but extraordinary moments that make our lives worthwhile and meaningful. It took a near tragedy to turn my perspective around. Thank you for this reminder to enjoy the travel.

    • So glad you enjoy the photos, Ashleigh. When I started out in photography, a very important part of it was mastering the chemistry, and learning to take advantage of the physical characteristics of cameras, lenses, and other tools. The work was a discipline. But after the arrival of digital photography the mechanics were largely replaced by computer technology, and any person of vision could capture images without much of the discipline. I have seen works by hobbyist and amateurs that were just as marvelous as the work of professionals. As for the words, I see this as an ongoing conversation between friends. It’s a pleasure getting to know you.

      • It is my pleasure getting to know you too, Shimon, and an honor to be considered one of the friends.
        I know next to nothing about photography, other than seeing my sister-in-law through the years with her cameras and admiring her work-she is a remarkable woman who captures the personalities and essence of those we love and the world around her through her photos and paintings; I would think that the discipline involved in the work carries over into other aspects of life.

  4. I so enjoy your intellectual (and lightly emotive) musings. Your cat is quite lovely. Thank you for this.

    • Thank you very much ekurie . You know, I’ve been living with Nechama my cat ever since she was a little kitten, and so it’s hard for me to see her objectively. But I have to add that I am always amazed by how beautiful my friends seem to me, when I haven’t seen them for a while. But of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  5. With each blog, you take us on a visual journey and a mental journey. As I view each photo, I attempt to imagine what it would be like to actually BE there in the shot: smells, air, noises, possible surroundings. It’s a great sensory-imaging exercise, and I enjoy the experience.
    When I read your thoughts, I am often, by whatever route you’ve chosen for the day, taken down side roads into new territory and thoughts. There are times I nod in understanding and other times I’m informed. There are other themes and thoughts that have my mind pushing into brand new territories. For all, thank you, Shimon.

    • I imagine that every blogger faces challenges when choosing what to publish. I am often tempted to publish additional pictures, images that I find unique and telling. But I know that when I’m served too large a portion when I set down to eat, I feel defeated before I start. so I try to moderate my impulses. In writing too there’s a challenge. I think in Hebrew, and sometimes when expressing myself in English, I find that the mood of the subject has changed in unexpected ways. Fortunately, the nature of the blog offers give and take, and within conversation it’s easier to find common ground and harmonic tones. So I can say that my blog friends play an important part in what is found here, and I am always grateful for the interchanges. Thank you too, my dear Myra.

  6. I come here for your narrative and it’s delightful to see the photos included. I value your thoughts written or unwritten with great respect. It seems that wherever we are, there are similarities, regardless of race, creed or country. Written words are far superior and effective than the photos I see in facebook. Wishing you well.

    • There are similarity and difference between people of different countries and cultures. It is easier to see the similarities, because then we see ourselves reflected back at us. When it comes to the differences, we have to know them really well to understand them. At first, those differences may amaze us or offend us. But we don’t really understand them, because it is harder for us to appreciate the context of those thoughts, behaviors and values. All the same, I traveled far in my youth, and was greatly enriched by my meetings with people from other countries, cultures and races. Thanks for the comment, Perpetua

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed this post…words and images. You write so well…I always feel as if I am sitting in a room with you listening. I find as I get older that I am able to see my own life journey with more clarity. I don’t kid myself anymore….everything just feels OK. Money has never been my priority….and actually the less material stuff i have to worry about the more content I am. Ageing is freeing.
    I like the idea of the pure olive oil being for the eternal flame and the rest of the fruit for everything else. I like it because that’s how it should be….everything in its right place.
    Of course I love seeing picture of Nechama….she is a grand old gal herself now and even from this distance I can see the knowing in her eyes. Thank you dear Shimon. Janet xxx

    • From when we first got to know one another Janet, I always thought we had a lot in common. Like yourself, money was never very important for me, and I realized at a relatively early age, that material things could weigh me down. But I had made so many promises to myself; I had so many expectations and a sense of commitment regarding issues that were far from my daily life, that only in old age was I able to achieve a true general perspective. And when that happened, it was as if a curtain had been lifted. Things fell into place. So I agree with you, “ageing is freeing”. And aside from that, each period of our life is a life of its own worth. And yes, Nechama is getting to be old lady herself. We keep an eye out for each other. Always good talking with you.

  8. Islands in the midst of thoroughfares. So green. So peaceful. I like seeing your country as you see it.
    Naming no names, Shimon, but there are some who have recently celebrated a milestone birthday. These old farts accept their limitations and yearn for their youthful past. You don’t fall into that category. It seems to me that you just choose to change direction and follow another path.

    • To no credit of my own, I was born at a time of chaos and turmoil in my part of the world, and had an unusual childhood. I felt like an alien in this world and took nothing for granted. And though I eventually found my place in society, this experience influenced my view all through life. Each period of life seemed to have its own personality, and though I might get a longing now and then for some pleasure of the past, I don’t think I would ever consent to go back in time. The present is always the most exciting and challenging… though there were many challenges in the past. And despite the limitations and the knowledge that I’m approaching the conclusion of my life, there is a timbre to my experiences these days that make them more precious than all that came before. Thanks, Mary.

  9. Have a wonderful weekend, Shimon.

  10. The friendship between you and your readers is palpable. There is a genuine affection for and desire to be understood by each other.
    And at any stage I would consider this to be a huge enhancement to every chapter, making life a rich and profound experience. I am grateful for each glimmer, Shimon – you add a depth to the sunlight in my data. Thank you

    • You know, Mimi, when we meet someone at work or through friends, we get an impression of them beyond the words we hear from him or her. There’s the body language, and the body itself. The face is so expressive; some say it mirrors the soul of a person. And there’s the choice of clothing, the voice, and the flash in the eyes or not. To me, there is evidence of the soul in the measure of what is revealed when people communicate by way of text. Who would have expected that so much could be learned between the lines. How often we sense the most delicate subtleties of a person’s character when we read their genuine outpourings in a letter or post. And I am grateful and filled with wonder at the friends I’ve gained through this avenue just recently created by human intelligence. Thank you for your comment.

  11. Wonderful post as always, and always you find an interesting subjects, I read with the same feelings. I love the photographs, and you take me walking there too… and your lovely friend, cat, fascinates me always. Thank you dear Shimon, have a nice day and weekend, Love, nia

    • I think of you often Nia, and follow the news from your country. I always wish for peace and tolerance. When I visit your blog, I find many similar subjects and concerns, and enjoy your sense of aesthetics, and love the way you express your appreciation for both the city and the country. Your every visit is a pleasure. with love, Shimon

  12. Smiling here…..

    I don’t for one second think that the van with the bottles advertised on the side of it, is advertising bottles of olive oil, irrespective, the contents of them may be very acceptable and Nechama would concur. I do wonder what that proud lady was considering at the moment when you captured her picture.

    Privacy is not so easy to keep these days, however one tries. Even writing comments here can and will open me and you up to analyses, if anyone desires to attempt it. In the final analysis, we compromise, by deciding which bits of ourselves we share and which we do not. (That’s without getting into a discussion about individual online presentations).

    You’ve given us a lovely variety of photos of some special corners and pictures which seem to be metaphors of your observations.

    Shalom.

    • Thank you for your smile, menhir. Such a wonderful expression, universal in its ability to communicate and to build bridges. You’re right about the bottles on the truck in the picture. The truck belongs to one of my neighbors, and I see it now and then. It amused me to include it in the picture, though it’s not a hint of what’s important in our neighborhood. Actually, one of the major concerns of the neighbors, is parking space, though many of us have private garages. Over the last 20 years there has been such a multiplication of motor vehicles that travel times have grown longer, and finding parking has become frustrating despite a new application that brings digital intelligence to the rescue. Everything is relative these days… and privacy is not a goal, but a natural inclination. Of course, we do have to open up in order to share what is important to us with others, in order to learn, and for play. Shalom, peace to you, my friend. Thanks for your comment.

  13. What you tell contains, in addition to your great honesty, a bitterness for the limitations that every human being (sooner or later) realizes.
    But if you miss these things, if the mountain peaks are a memory, if you did look for a place to camp for the night are locked up in pictures of the past… here, dear Shimon, I think you can still transgress and redo what you once did, albeit in a more “sensible” way that can be adapted to your physical possibility.
    The computer will never be able to replace the emotions or the tactile and physical sensation of a visit to a bookshop! As well as the most beautiful gardens and urban parks cannot replace a trip to the mountains or sandy deserts…
    It is true, in our mind, we do not place all those physical limits that age imposes on us… We realize that “within us” the child of the past is always present, and this, yes, can create a lot of sadness.
    I share the idea that advice should be given when requested… even if sometimes, I find it difficult to be a spectator of bad situations that could have been avoided if I gave my opinion!
    But this is life too. A wonderful roller coaster ride, between steep climbs and spectacular breath-taking descents.
    We do not know, fortunately, when it will be the day to leave our “wrapping”… naked of everything, of every wealth, of every memory, deprived of a material substance that has allowed us to “grow spiritually”: in the positive or in a negative way.
    The philosophy that I follow for many years, has helped me to consider each of my actions with the utmost severity. I did, I do and I will certainly make many mistakes because I am human and I cannot always channel my emotions and prejudices. For this, I apologize, certain that in my karma each one of these errors will come to maturity… sooner or later. This is the law of “cause-effect”.
    (Nechama, your beautiful shadow… who knows what is her true “identity”… Behind all these sentient creatures that we simply call animals, there is a “mystery” that we can not understand … not now.)
    Hugs and thank you Shimon for sharing these with us, it’s always a pleasure reading.
    🙂 c

    • I’m not really a person given to nostalgia, Claudine, and certainly not bitter about the limitations that come with age. They surprise me occasionally, when I have the urge to do what came naturally a few years back. But on the whole, I consider myself more satisfied and happy than at any other time in my life. There are things I miss… like mountain ridges covered with pine trees… but there is no shortage of things to thrill and enlighten me. I share your point of view, that this (old age) is life too, and no less precious to me than youth was. Interesting that you call it a roller coaster ride. That is one piece of knowledge that I was much too slow to learn. For many years, I was disconcerted by the downs, and was always anxious to get to level ground, as soon as I encountered a ‘down’ in life. Finally I realized that ups and downs were the mechanics of life, and that there was no other way… and now it’s a little easier for me. Thank you Claudine for your spirit and for your music. Thanks for your recognition of Nechama. It’s a pleasure to share your presence.

  14. Wonderful lines Shimon. That house you now live in looks very nice,as being so high you must have great scenery to look out over. It never crossed my mind that you might not shit, so I won’t tell you of my body’s experiences. That you share so much and with photos….need one ask for more.?

    • You know Bob, I didn’t want to move, and my friends pushed me into it. I used to live on the ground floor, and I would have stayed there until they pushed me into my grave. All my life I’ve had goals, objectives, plans and desires. My wife, my associates, and most of all ‘life itself’ had other plans for me. Now in old age, I finally accept what comes without struggle. I marvel at all I ‘didn’t have time for’ before and am thankful for what I do have.

  15. What a treasure to visit with you, Shimon…and I know that I’ve said it before, maybe even more than once, but it would have been a great treat to sit with you over coffee or whiskey and enjoy an afternoon or evening in your presence. That’s not going to happen, though, so I will enjoy your company here at your electronic kitchen table. Thank you for the meander through your neighborhood, as well as through your heart and mind. Truly…I thank you.

    • Thanks for your visits and your words, Scott. We come from very different backgrounds, but I remember reading your blog a while back, when you were sharing some stories of what you’d learned about people under stress, while at work. You and I have had many similar experiences, from hiking in the mountains to trying our best to raise kids, but it was a few of those descriptions in your stories that left a mark… as if we’d seen a bit of reality together… reality in the old meaning of the word.

  16. For me, I greatly enjoy reflections like this. Excellently done, Shimon!

  17. It’s a blessing to share with you, dear Shimon and your photographs illustrate the flow of your words beautifully. Your humour nestled within is a delight. Hugs for you, my lovely and Nechama. xXx

    • Thank you for reminding me of my humor, dear Jane. You know, in old age we often forget where we’ve put things. I was just looking for something, and then noticed it hanging on a hook with my tolerance and tomorrow’s weather… but it’s a hug from you and a friendly paw that keeps me breathing; blessings.

  18. Ah, wonderfully written! Yes, we have to accept who we are at various stages of our life, we can’t cling to youth and fight aging, far better to travel through life accepting our limitations and see it all, as a great adventure. The simpler life is, the more I like it. Loved the pictures, especially of dear Nechama, good to see where you live too, what a great view you must have, do you get great views of sunsets and of the stars?xxx

    • When I was young I just loved to spend time with old people. They weren’t playing tag or cheering for the local soccer team and it was easy to converse with them. Now that I’ve finally caught up with them, we can sigh together, watch the sun set… and a few moons illuminate the night (cataracts, you know… they’re as much fun as fireworks). And it’s always a pleasure to see Nechama appreciating a chicken breast. Like yourself, I have a love for the simple life, and I’ve discovered you don’t have to chase after it. All you have to do is wait quietly and it comes to you. I do have great views from my patio. It’s like a wonderful dream. xxx

  19. Wise words Shimon. Its up to people themselves whether they heed your advice.

    • Thank you very much, Peter. Always a pleasure to see you. The evenings are very long and pleasant these days, with a gentle breeze blowing through the leaves. I think of you on the other half of the globe, and send you blessings for strength, wishing you warm nights and a steady firmament.

  20. Hello Shimon,
    I am catching up with you, as we have come home from the great American West, still very much alive and well, Thank God.
    This post is alive with sagacity.
    The photos of Liberty Bell Park and those old tangled olive trees speak to us, we who shepherd our own small grove of such trees. Hooray for the eternal light, receiving hand-squeezed oil!!

    Your photography parallels your narration which, as you know, I absolutely love, as such presentation leaves room for imagination.

    • Thanks very much for your kind words, Cheri. Enjoyed your views of the old west, and am happy to follow such travels. There are olive trees all over Israel. And you can come across trees much older than those in the park. I love them all, but take special pleasure in the parks here in the city now that I’m old and don’t get around much. I’ll have to write about the eternal flame one of these days. You can still see a reminder of it in the synagogue today, over the closet in which the torah scrolls are kept.

      • I would love to read your blog post on the eternal flame. I had questions about that “eternal” part when I was a child.

        • It’s always complicated to translate from one language to another, especially if it’s poetry, or if the languages are not related. The flame that we remember was in the holy temple, and in Hebrew it sounds more like constant… but was translated into English as eternal.

  21. We have so many choices to make and each affects the next. The memories of all those things I’ve done over the years make me happy that I took the time to enjoy each moment. Things mean very little to me, but it’s the people we meet in our daily life either in person or through the computer that make life meaningful. Writing about the people I meet and the places I visit gives me extreme pleasure.

    • What you say about choices is so right. Philosophers argue, do we have free choice or don’t we? There are good reasons to argue that we don’t, because so many things in life are beyond our control. Even so, I believe that the choices we do have are a great blessing. There’s a limit to how much we can handle though, and so many things are truly beyond us. I enjoy your travels very much Bev, and used to get to know people in my travels when I was younger, just as you do… and share with us, your readers. Thank you.

  22. This line caught my attention: “It’s our life, and it’s there for the taking from the time we reach maturity till our death.” One question, of course, is precisely when we reach maturity. It’s easy to pinpoint death; maturity, not so much. And of course we don’t mature in every way at the same rate. While we may be perfectly responsible citizens and loving people, there still can be those areas which cause us distress or struggle.

    The line also reminded me of one of my favorite responses for people who spend inordinate amounts of time pondering questions of heaven, hell, and so on. I like to say, “The question isn’t whether there’s life after death. The question is, will there be life before death?”

    The issue of privacy interests me. Sometimes I think we’ve gone astray by confusing privacy and secrets. Secrets, to my mind, are a good thing. We not only have secrets, we are a secret, even to ourselves. That’s what makes the Biblical imagery of God as the One who knows us so powerful. In Jeremiah we read, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Paul says, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known…” When we reduce these insights to who has access to our credit scores or purchasing habits, we’re missing out.

    Well, this is just musing. I must say I love the story of the olive oil. I can’t quite put my finger on what appeals so deeply, but I couldn’t help wondering how the world might change if we contributed that first, best pressing toward its illumination.

    • In most of the world, young people have maturity thrust upon them, often before they are ready. But recently… for the last 20 years or so, in the wealthy west. in America and Europe there has been a tendency to ‘baby’ children. That is to let children do more or less what they feel like without any demands on them. In the past there were many who reached adult responsibility at age 16, and some brave individuals who began their adult lives at 14 or even younger. Now I hear of children who remain living in their parents custody at age 30, and occasionally even older. I try not to judge if it’s unnecessary. But this late childhood and increasing obesity in western society brings to mind the decline o society. I enjoy your answer to the question of life after death. Your question is the one that counts. Perhaps one day we’ll discuss life after death too. I have often been asked about it, and only in old age a certain understanding sort of snapped into focus. Linda, please feel free to let your mind wander when you’re visiting with me. I enjoy it so much.

  23. Both of these ideas used to be what normal society expected:
    “When I go out into public, I prefer to be fully clothed. And when in social discussion, prefer to hear of what people enjoy eating and not about their bowel movements. ” “We arrive here in this, our common world, each person with his own talents and limitations, and we have to make do with what we have.”
    The world might be much better – and more civil and more peaceful – if once again these were foundation behavior concepts and guides taught and followed. As you say, it is up to each to find their own way – and to discover joy along the way.
    Appreciate your reflections – a grounded read for the end of this week.

    • Thanks Phil, for your encouragement. Last week I started a post, and got tied up in the middle. Though I feel I’m among friends when blogging, I do occasionally get mails when I write something politically incorrect, and just didn’t feel like defending myself or protesting my innocence. The older I get, the more alien contemporary society seems to me, though it might be just the media, which often reminds me of Orwell.

  24. Hello ShimonZ. I think I read in The Thousand Nights and One Night tales that it is wiser to wish for contentment than for wealth or, even, happiness. Proof that you have discovered an old truth. But if we know the answer, why are we so often miserable? (I don’t mean you of course.

    • It seems to me that though our personality as human beings is very rational, we are often motivated by instincts and psychological values which are no less an influence than our desire for general happiness. The cleverest among us often intimidate or manipulate those less able. In my generation we have seen large parts of the world brought to despair by the inspiration of those who wished to repair the world, or make it more just. Thanks for coming by, Phillip.

  25. Such a beautiful post, Shimon, just perfect. I am still puzzled by how you move so smoothly from one thing to another when you write, and how you bring different things together in such subtle ways. But you’ve been doing this a long time. Specifically, in this post, the idea of finding a place in which one feels best is resonating with me.

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