Mar 2019

Statue of Veritas

Truth is most often used to mean “in accord with fact or reality”. But what is the reality?

According to a survey of 3,226 professional philosophers, 45% of respondents accept correspondence theories of truth. 21% deflationary theories and 14% epistemic theories. Correspondence theories emphasize that true beliefs correspond to the actual state of affairs. Deflationary theories hold that the predicate “true” is an expressive convenience, not the name of a property requiring deep analysis. And epistemic theories generally question attitudes or doubt towards knowledge ascribing truth. For example, we can know little or nothing about the “big questions” in life, such as whether God exists or whether there is an afterlife.

Nagarjuna as early as 150 AD, contrasted conventional truths describing our daily experience as concrete versus the real ultimate universal truths free from the duality of apprehender and apprehended. The interdependent nature of reality, dependent origination, is a translation of the Sanskrit pratityasamutpada. The natural law is that all phenomena arise “dependent upon” their own causes “in connection with” their individual conditions free from inherent existence.

Likewise today, with the discovery of quantum mechanics, we find tiny sub-atomic objects in our vast silent universe exist in a haze of probability. They have a certain chance of being at point A another chance of being at point B and so on. Until now in classical Newtonian physics, objects only existed in a specific place at a specific time. Albert Einstein adds:“Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either”.

Of course, we might ask, in reality what is the truth?

“The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. ‘Great is the truth’, but still greater... is silence about truth.”

-Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1946)

Uncertainty Principle

Nov 2016

The Universe

First introduced on March 21, 1927 by German physicist Werner Heisenberg, the uncertainty principle states that the more precisely the position of a particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known. In other words, we can not know where we are and where we are going at the same time. Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932 for helping to create quantum physics and the uncertainty principle.
The 19th century classical universe of Sir Isaac Newton gave comfort to humans seeking answers uniquely solved by experiments with basic elements called ‘atoms”, the universal laws of gravity and elegant self justifying mathematical equations. With quantum physics, Heisenberg, Albert Einstein and others have explored sub-atomic particles, discovering and naming “quarks”, “nutrinos” et cetera. By observing that a particle does not have a precise position and momentum simultaneously, quantum physics describes the fundamental nature of our universe counter to the classical physics of Newton. As Galileo (1564-1642) might graciously remind us, the true nature of our universe is proving to be counterintuitive. Perhaps we all should heed Andre Gide’s advice “To believe in those who are seeking the truth, doubting those who find it”.

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

-Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862.


Jul 2016

Gamelan Dancers

Around 900 AD the Balinese people developed their communal “Subak” irrigation system to grow rice. When not growing rice, Balinese developed diverse and sophisticated art forms, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts, including the percussion orchestra music, known as gamelan. In the 1930s, anthropologist Margaret Mead and artist Miguel Covarrubias created a western image of Bali as “an enchanted land of aesthetes at peace with themselves and nature.” In his Island of Bali, 1937, Covarrubias presented a bird’s-eye view of Balinese life and culture and worried that Western interest and tourism might someday destroy that unique culture.

Today, half the Balinese population works in the tourism industry. Jakarta’s Sunni Islamic rulers are torn between enjoying Bali’s ample revenue from tourists seeking Balinese Hindu/Buddhist culture and the advance of their own religion which would destroy Balinese culture. Buddhists believe in impermanence. Everything is either arising or being destroyed. Nothing remains the same.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower, that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.”

-Robert Herrick, 1591-1674.

Qaboos Bin Said

Oct 2015

Sultan Qaboos Bin Said

Qaboos Bin Said exemplifies great leadership. When at 29 years of age Qaboos became Sultan of Oman, he immediately freed political prisoners, removed ancient restrictions on movement and asked fellow Omanis to help build a better future. From 1970 to 2015, the Sultanate of Oman has risen from a ‘hermit kingdom” with one 15 bed hospital, 3 schools and 3% literacy, 6 kilometers of highway and a 49 year life expectancy to a modern, prosperous nation with 66 hospitals (not including a new $1 billion facility being constructed to attract medical tourism), thousands of government schools serving over 500,000 students, 98% literacy, 19 private colleges, 7 private universities offering a wide range of BA, MA and PhD programs to more than 47,000 students, a substantial national highway system and a 76 year life expectancy.

Before assuming his role in 1970, Qaboos devoted himself to 5 years’ rigorous study of Omani history, the Qur’an and the teachings of Islam. Today, Oman is a country of religious tolerance. Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Copts and other Christians are not only respected, but supported by the State. Shia and Sunni Muslims pray together in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque along with the Sultan who is of the Ibadhi Muslim sect. Imams preaching violence can expect a jail sentence. Qaboos sees all Omani as equal, including women. According to revised Omani Sharia law, it is a Omani woman’s right to keep her maiden name, manage her own private property, initiate divorce and determine dowry.

In foreign policy, Oman is friendly with Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. When Saudi Arabia asked the Sultan to join in bombing Yemen, Qaboos replied “Why would I harm a neighbor? I will offer my hospitals instead”. For 45 years navigating Middle Eastern politics, Qaboos has pursued a path based on fairness, justice, peace, security, tolerance and love. Qaboos, the longest ruling monarch in the Middle East, is universally respected.

Great leaders bring people together to live in harmony. Today, Qaboos Bin Said is our world’s finest example of great leadership.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

-Ronald Regan.


May 2015

Ruwanwelisaya Stupa

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site was the Sinhalese capital from 377BC to 1,017AD. Founded by King Pandukabhaya and his strong alliance with India, Anuradhapura’s ancient authority extended throughout Sri Lanka. Legend claims India’s King Ashoka (304BC to 232BC) in great misery after seeing the loss of life caused by his wars to expand his empire, was struck by the peaceful countenance of a simple Buddhist monk, Nigrodha. Ashoka reversed himself to seek peace, happiness, freedom from suffering and to assuage past atrocities and carnage caused by his wars. Ashoka even sent his son, Arahat Mahinda, to the island of Sri Lanka to spread his Buddhist message of peace. Thereafter, for over two thousand years, Buddhism played a strong role in Sri Lankan daily life and culture. Sadly, soon after the fading British Empire surrendered to Sri Lankan independence in 1948, civil war erupted between the Sinhalese and Tamils, an Indian minority imported during British rule as slave laborers. This devastating, bloody guerrilla conflict just ended in 2009. So when visiting Anuradhapura’s ancient Buddhist stupas today, one can clearly witness a reverent Sri Lankan people who prize peace and respect for each other above all.

“Don’t tell me peace has broken out, when I have just brought fresh supplies.”

-Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage, 1939.

The Present Moment in Our Universe

Jun 2014

Hourglass Sand Measuring Time

The universe is commonly defined as the totality of existence, including planets, stars, galaxies and all matter and energy, observable as about 46 billion light years in radius. The best theory of the universe is Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which provides ten nonlinear partial differential equations for space-time that must be solved from the distribution of mass-energy and momentum throughout the universe. Einstein’s equations include the cosmological constant Ʌ that corresponds to the energy density of empty space. Einstein speculated that Ʌ was zero. But more recent astronomical observations have detected energy in dark empty space that is accelerating the expansion of our universe.

The present moment (or now) is time associated with events perceived directly, not recollected or a speculation. The present moment is sometimes represented as a hyper plane or duration which modern physics demonstrates cannot be defined uniquely for observers in relative motion. Buddhists find happiness living in empty present moment space, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Does relativity physics have a place for the present moment as part of our total existence?

“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

-Albert Einstein, letter to the family of his lifelong friend Michele Besso after learning of his death in March 1955, as quoted in Science and the Search for God: Disturbing the Universe, 1979, by Freeman Dyson.


Dec 2010


When Augustus became Emperor in 27 BC, he made Ephesus the capital of proconsul Asia. Ephesus entered an era of prosperity, becoming the seat of the governor, growing into a metropolis and major center of commerce. Second in importance and size only to Rome, Ephesus has been estimated to have had 500,000 inhabitants in the year 100AD, making it the largest city in Roman Asia. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis. The Greek goddess Artemis, later the Roman goddess Diana and before the ancient Anatolian goddess Cybele were identified together in the many-breasted “Lady of Ephesus” as worshiped in the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Artemis, perhaps the most widely venerated of the ancient Greek deities, was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo.

“What man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Artemis, the image of which fell down from Jupiter?” – Pliny the Elder, Natural History, XXXVI, xxi, 95.

Ephesus was also an important center for early Christianity. From AD 52-54, St. Paul lived in Ephesus, working with the congregation and organizing missionary activity. Acts (19: 1-40) says in Ephesus God accomplished mighty things through Paul. Essentially, Paul the Apostle declared only Christianity was necessary for salvation and depicted the world outside the Church as under judgment. He preached that gods made by hands are not gods at all. Thus, Paul became embroiled in a dispute with the local silversmiths’ guild, whose livelihood depended on selling statuettes of Artemis in the Temple. Instigated by one silversmith, Demetrius, a riot broke out. Paul, who was also a Roman citizen, afforded privileged legal status, escaped Ephesus.

A passage of the Gospel of St. John (19: 26-27) suggests that the Virgin Mary may have come with St. John to Ephesus. Now located in the hills about four miles above present day Ephesus, Turkey, the House of Mary, is believed to have been the Virgin Mary’s last home. The Virgin Mary, who was declared to be a Sign of Godin the Qur’an (23: 50), is revered by Muslims. The House of Mary, also a place of Christian pilgrimage, has been visited by the three most recent Popes, including Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (currently Pope Benedict XVI).

I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
– 1 Corinthians iii, 6.


Oct 2010

Aimée du Buc de Rivéry

Founded in 1299, the Ottoman Empire was ruled by 36 sultans for 624 years until October 29, 1923. One of the most expansive empires ever, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents controlling much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. At their height, the Ottomans ruled 29 provinces including what would be present-day Turkey, the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Albania. The Ottoman Empire was also the Islamic successor to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

Such a diverse population had but one common denominator: everyone was subject to the whim of the Sultan. For example, an architect built a castle in Marmaris, Turkey for the Sultan which is today a popular tourist attraction. Unimpressed, the Sultan showed his displeasure by beheading the architect. As Caliphate, the highest position in Islam, the Sultan, or “lord of kings”, served as the Empire’s sole regent and was considered the embodiment of its government. In short, the Sultan’s power was absolute.

When Topkapi Palace was built for the Sultan in Istanbul between 1472 and 1478 the compound included buildings for his Imperial Harem. Meaning “home of happiness”, the Harem was the place where the Sultan lived with his wives, women, female slaves and children. Usually, there were 300-500 women in the Harem, but that the number rose occasionally to 700. Not surprisingly, the Imperial Harem was an important power at Ottoman court. Ruled by the Valide Sultan, or Queen Mother of the Sultan, the Harem would often become involved in state politics. In rank after the Sultan came Valide Sultan, next came the Sultan’s wives having different titles like 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. The Haremagalari, in charge of Harem security, came next in rank. Finally, the Grand Vizier, or State Prime Minister, and the Seyh-ul-Islam, or head of the Islamic hierarchy found their place in Imperial protocol.

Aimée du Buc de Rivéry (born in 1763) was the daughter of a wealthy Martinique plantation owner and the cousin to Napoleon’s wife, Empress Josephine Bonaparte. According to legend, in 1784, on her return to the Caribbean after attending convent school in France, Aimee was kidnapped by Barbary pirates, enslaved and sold to the Bey of Algiers. Captivated by her beauty, the Bey saw an opportunity to win the Sultan’s favor. He presented the girl to Abdülhamid I. She was fair, demure and intelligent. The Sultan named herNakşidil, converted her to Islam, made her his favorite and she became his 13th wife. In 1789, when Abdülhamid I died, his son, Selim III, wanted Nakşidil to stay in the Harem since they got on well and he shared his secrets with her. Soon assassins sought to kill her increasingly favored son. Nakşidil saved her son by concealing him inside a furnace. Nakşidil’s son, Ghazi Caliph Sultan Mahmud II,became Sultan following Selim III and thus until her death in 1817, Nakşidil was Valide Sultan, Queen of the Ottoman Empire.

“While lions were trembling in my crushing paw
Fate made me fall prey to a doe-eyed darling.”

- Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, world conqueror, 1520-1566.


Aug 2010


In Greek mythology, Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun; truth and prophecy; medicine, healing, music, poetry, and the arts; and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis. When Hera discovered that Leto was pregnant and that her husband Zeus was the father, she banned Leto from giving birth on terra firma. In her wanderings, Leto found the newly created floating Aegean island of Delos, which was neither mainland nor a real island, so she gave birth there. The island was surrounded by swans. Afterwards, Zeus secured Delos to the bottom of the ocean. Apollo was born on the seventh day of the month, according to Delian tradition: the day of the full moon.

The island of Delos, isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece. Delos had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Greek mythology made it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. During the third century BC, Apollo became identified with Helios, god of the sun. Evidently, Apollo came to the Aegean from Anatolia during the Iron Age, c. 1100 to 800 BC. Homer pictures him on the side of the Trojans, during the Trojan War. Apollo was the protector god who wards off evil. The possibility that the name was inherited has been confirmed by inscriptions in western Anatolia, c. 1280 BCE: Aplu Enlil, meaning “the son of Enlil“, the Babylonian god of the sun.

In literary contexts, Apollo represents harmony, order, and reason, characteristics contrasted with those of Dionysus, god of wine, who represents ecstasy and disorder. The Greeks thought of the two qualities as complementary: the two gods were almost brothers. Apollo is often associated with the Greek ideal of moderation and virtue that opposes gluttony. On one occasion, Apollo fell in love with Cassandra. He promised Cassandra the gift of prophecy to seduce her, but she rejected him. Enraged, Apollo indeed gifted her with the ability to know the future, with a curse that she could only see the future tragedies and that no one would ever believe her.

I am the eye with which the Universe
Beholds itself, and knows it is divine;
All harmony of instrument or verse,
All prophecy, all medicine, is mine,
All light of art or nature; – to my song
Victory and praise in its own right belong.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Hymn of Apollo“, Verse VI, 1820.


Jun 2010

Maltese Cross

After a disastrous 1095-9 First Crusade, the Order of St. John (“Hospitallers”) was established by Pope Paschal II in 1113 to guard the Holy Sepulchre, to tend Christian pilgrims with a hospice in Jerusalem… and to fight. But by 1187 these Knights were driven from Jerusalem. In 1306, after two centuries fighting infidels from their bases in Acre and Cyprus, the Hospitallers bought Rhodes from a Genoese pirate named Admiral Vignoli. Rhodian peasants were subjugated to medieval feudal serfdom which tied them to servitude marina. Of course the Turk Sulieman the Magnificent attacked this marauding force of “crusading” corsairs. So after a 200 year stay on Rhodes, the Order of St. John was again forced to leave in 1523, embarking on a lonely eight year odyssey before finding yet another home: Malta.

In 1530, Spanish Emperor Charles V gave Malta to the Hospitallers in return for one falcon yearly rent. The island’s lonely outpost was a stepping stone for Turks to invade Christiandom and a convenient hub for the Hospitaller corsairs, commissioned to interrupt infidel commerce and to enslave seaports. Malta became a thorn for Turks. On May 18, 1565, Suleiman again attacked the Hospitallers with a standing army of 28,000. The Hospitaller defenders included 500 Knights and 3,000 Maltese men-at-arms. The first month’s siege of Fort Saint Elmo cost the Turks 6,000 men. Finally breaching the main Hospitaller fort at Birgu, the Turks were decimated by the Knight’s ferocity. After five months, Spanish reinforcements led by Don Garcia de Toledo ended the siege and the victory was celebrated by all the Christian monarchies of Europe.

Hospitaller Knights took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Knights owed their obedience to their Grand Master who was subject only to the Pope. This stratagem avoided interference from any Christian state by granting the Order its own sovereignty. The Order had eight tongues from France, Provence, Auvergne, Aragon, Castile, Italy, Germany and England. The Grand Master was elected for life and was subject only to the authority of the Pope. The Order fostered a sense of nostalgia for the medieval notions of chivalry and the rank of Knight became the exclusive preserve of the European nobility.

As years passed after the 1565 victory, corruption and internal dissension undermined the effectiveness and reputation of the Order. A wealthy Knight claimed poverty by pledging his assets to the Order. A chaste Knight took care of his children but never married. And the Knights self-serving obedience to their Order showed no compassion to the people of Malta. On June 9, 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte, while on his way to Egypt, stopped briefly at Malta and ordered the Hospitallers to leave. Grand Master von Hompesch sailed away without a fight.

“Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide, wide sea.”

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Secretary to the Civil Commissioner, Malta, 1804.


May 2010

La Sagratha Familia

Gaudí designed La Sagratha Familia to have 18 towers, 12 for the 12 apostles, 4 for the 4 evangelists, one for Mary and one for Jesus. He developed a new method of structural calculation based on a model built with cords and small sacks of lead shot. The outline of the church was traced on a wooden board (1:10 scale), which was then placed on the ceiling of a small house next to the work site. Cords were hung from the points where columns were to be placed. The sacks of pellets, weighing one ten-thousandth part of the weight the arches would support, were hung from each arch formed by the cords. Photographs were then taken of the resulting model from various angles. When the photographs were turned upside-down, the lines of tension formed by the cords and weights revealed the lines of pressure of the compressed structure.

By 1906 Gaudi had become a living legend, the most famous architect working in the Iberian Peninsula. Eccentric, egocentric and focused, there was no doubting his genius. But there was a gathering backlash. Gaudí’s originality was ridiculed by his jealous peers. Even so, as time passed his work became more famous. Today, Gaudi stands as one of history’s most original architects.

The Gaudi myth of the hermit and the dejected beggar dates effectively from 1914 on. In subsequent years, Gaudi’s appearance changed. He became like a shadow, appearing more translucent. He changed from his usual model of shoe to his own invention of esparto grass soles with leather uppers held together with elastic. His suits hung off his hollow shoulders, the overused pockets collapsed, while his trousers flapped around thin legs. One day Gaudi was mistaken for a tramp and offered a limosna – alms.

In autumn 1925, Gaudi finally made the decision to live in his La Sagrada Familia studio. Around 6 pm the evening of June 7, 1926 following his habitual route Gaudi walked across Barcelona looking unusually distracted. The Number 30 Tram, unable to slow down, hit what the driver described as a drunken tramp. Stopping briefly, the tramp was pushed to one side and the tram continued on its way. Two pedestrians went over to help the victim. There were no papers on him and just a handful of raisins and nuts in his pockets. Four times they tried to flag down taxis to take him to the nearest hospital but each time they were refused. The following morning, Gaudi was found by his assistants with a Gospel in his pocket and his underpants held together by two safety pins.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world;
The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
- George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950.


Apr 2010

A Sunny Beach

The 2010 Chilean earthquake occurred off the coast of the Maule Region of Chile on February 27, 2010, at 03:34 in the morning, rating a magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale and lasting 90 seconds. The earthquake triggered a tsunami which devastated several coastal towns in south-central Chile. Tsunami warnings were issued in 53 countries, causing minor damage in the San Diego area of California and in the Tohoku region of Japan. Seismologists estimate that the earthquake was so powerful that it may have shortened the length of the day by 1.26 microseconds and moved the Earth’s figure axis by 8 centimeters. Precise GPS measurement indicated the telluric movement moved the entire city of Concepción with over 200,000 inhabitants 10 feet to the west. A tsunami in the deep ocean has a wavelength of about 120 miles and travels at well over 500 miles per hour. Due to the enormous wavelength a tsunami has average amplitude of only about 3.3 feet at sea. This makes tsunamis difficult to detect over deep water. Surprisingly, ships rarely notice a tsunami’s passage. As early as 426 BC the Greek historian Thucydides inquired about the causes of tsunami first arguing that ocean earthquakes must be the cause. Throughout recorded history, many tsunamis in a wave shoaling process have grown dangerously high, in some cases 100 feet or as high as a ten story building, as they reached a distant shore.

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

- William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene 3.


Jan 2010

Doric Temple Segesta, Sicily

Segesta’s 5th Century B.C. Doric temple is one of the best preserved in the world. The 36 columns represent one system of ancient Greek classical architecture, following strict rules of harmony. And the temple was built with great care, so as to look true to the eye and to convey a sort of magical attraction. The terraces are curved, so that the eye may get the impression in the distance, that they are plane. This optic correction, made with millimeter precision to deceive the eye, makes the building look perfect.

“The location of the temple is singular: it stands at the top of a long, wide valley, on a hill that is isolated but surrounded by rocks; and it has got quite a wide-ranging view over the village, but a limited one over the sea. The fertile but sad region is all cultivated, but you cannot see one single house in it. Numberless butterflies swarm on the thistle in bloom. The wind blew among the columns as in a wood, while birds of prey flitted, chirping over the cornices.” – Goethe, A Journey to Segesta, Sicily, 1787.

” Beauty is truth, truth beauty

That is all ye know on earth

And all ye need to know. “

- John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn, 1819.


Jan 2010

Talayotic Taule, Mahon, Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain

Many civilizations have flourished on Menorca, a strategic island in the Balearic Islands with naval control over the western Mediterranean. Talayotic culture, circa 1200 – 800 BC within the Bronze Age, is the first accurate historical civilization recorded on the island. Structures include taules or monuments in the form of a T made up of two large blocks of stone (see picture). Amazingly, at the site of Torre d’en Gaumes, Menorca, an Egyptian medicine man named Imohep was found buried in the middle of a taule. With little archeological evidence, we can only wonder about this 400 year civilization so many centuries ago. The civilizations following Talayotic culture were Phoenician, Greek and Roman.

Now, as twilight fades over the British Empire, few remember Menorca was once occupied by the British. At its height in 1922, the British Empire had held sway over one-quarter of the world’s population and approximately a quarter of the Earth’s total land area for over a century. In 1756 a French army commanded by Louis François Armand du Plessis, duc de Richelieu landed near Ciutadella and marched across the island to lay siege to the British at Mahon which eventually surrendered. Following this defeat, the unfortunate British Admiral Byng was shot before the mast on the quarterdeck of HMS Monarque in the English Channel for failing to engage the French fleet and thereby lift the siege. This incident provoked Voltaire’s famous quip: “In Britain, it is wise from time to time to kill an admiral in order to encourage the others.” (Candide, 1759) To mark the occasion, Richelieu had a sauce called mahon-esa, based on the local aioli sauce, served at the victory banquet in Paris. This delicacy, which his chef had invented while on the island, has become today’s ubiquitous “mayonnaise”, still a favorite after 250 years.

“Could mayonnaise now be forever?”


Cornell 45th Reunion Interview

Nov 2009


Torrence Harder Class of ‘65 Reunion E-mail Interview Questions

By Peter Barton

November 22, 2009

  1. You fund a chair in the Cornell Literature Department and host the annual William H. and Jane Torrence Harder Lecture and Garden Party at Cornell Plantations each September. Yet you graduated Cum Laude in Economics at Cornell then went on to similar scholarship achievements at The Wharton School. Had you to do it over again, would you be a Literature major? No. I was able to read literature at Harvard University’s Extension School for ten years.
  2. As I recall through the years you were an advocate of short story and essay writing or even short flash quips on what you felt were evocative social commentary and topical urgencies. Does the laconic form suit your temperament or have you just not had the time to contemplate a novel or some other sort of long form narrative? Reading a lot makes your fingers itch. I’ve tended to writing essays.
  3. You lived for many years in Concord, MA right in Walden Woods. In fact we walked several times through Bear Neck Hill where Thoreau sat and made notes and meditated on the natural order of things. Now you are on a three-year seafaring venture focused around the Mediterranean. Can I assume that nature still informs your literary scholarship or are such environments simply the backdrop for a more social and philosophical viewpoint? Sailing is a perfect form of meditation, living with nature.
  4. You were intricately involved with Wall Street and even pioneered the FirstCall electronic Wall Street research worldwide distribution among other successful business ventures. And you have put together so many venture capital investment companies and groups including a million dollar capital fund partnerhip for the Lennox-based Shakespeare & Company. Is your writing meant to reconcile the gap between the writing life and corporate culture—and by ‘reconcile’ I mean in the mathematic metaphor of a true connection which disturbs the gap between two otherwise oppositional standpoints on living your life? I have always invested in people, not business strategies. Shakespeare is in a class by himself writing about human nature. There is nothing to reconcile.
  5. Your sailing vessel is named S/Y Freesia; where did you get the name? How long is she? She has been calling you to sea for many years, so now how do you get along? Is she the right fit and fiddle for your dream voyage? S/Y Freesia was named after the flower. She is 76 feet long and all that I need to travel the world.
  6. The Mediterranean ports and cities sometimes evoke a stark contrast between past and present; everyone today wanting to live a contemporary life style with all the gadgets and toys of the time, fresh architecture and so on. Are you enticed by the historic aspects of this journey or are you a thoroughly modern kind of voyager—yacht clubs, grand hotels, James Bondian amenities? Life aboard S/Y Freesia is simple ocean going fare. Which way and with what force is the wind blowing today?
  7. Where does Asian philosophy fit into the present tense of Torrey Harder? You have been reading into Buddhist literature but also come from a tradition grounded in European and American writers like Emerson, Rilke, Wordsworth and what might be called secular humanist and nature-bound writers—the Green Earth and Transcendentalism. Is this another gap you seek to reconcile formally, east and west, nature and the divine plan, or are you simply drawn into this sense of a secular spirituality through what Rilke called ‘external equivalents in nature that replicate internal experiences ’? Henry David Thoreau was a Sanskrit scholar at Harvard and a lifelong Buddhist.
    Rilke also wrote:
    “Rose, pure contradiction, joy
    To be nobody’s sleep
    Under so many
  8. How is your management company faring in your absence? By that I mean, have you set things up on automatic pilot or do you rely on key thinkers and core operatives to handle the day-to-day affairs. A lot of what you engage in can be quite volatile as evidenced in the recent financial upheavals and shifts in asset wealth investments. Fortunately, my thirteen company Presidents have run my companies. I don’t do anything. Of course, high speed Internet is everywhere.
  9. You had a lot of dreams when we were classmates in Ithaca. In fact you were one the bigger dreamers I knew in those days even though I was in the Art and Architecture College. How would you rate your dream success rate? I mean did they all come true, just some, or are you still a seeker after goals creative and financial, perhaps spiritual as well? I think you can let your dreams go by sitting quietly abiding and focusing on your breathing. Having compassion and a spiritual component to life is critical.
  10. Physically your sea voyage will come to an end. Do you think you will be able to settle back on land satisfied? Or are you planning some other type of seafaring challenge, the Pacific Rim, say, or south to the Indonesian Islands or Istanbul to Rhodes? Istanbul and Rhodes are in the Mediterranean. S/Y Freesia will sail in Greece and Turkey next summer. Isn’t every present moment impermanent?


Nov 2009

Napoleon's Field Army Cot

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I on December 2, 1804 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The coronation of Napoleon I has been said to mark a transparently masterminded piece of modern propaganda. Napoleon had faced Jacobin plots as France’s ruler and his police uncovered an assassination plot against him which was ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbon opposition. Napoleon used the plot to justify creation of a hereditary monarchy in France with himself as Emperor.

The House of Bonaparte was to be an imperial, royal European dynasty with members of his family on the thrones of the Kingdoms of Italy, Spain, Westphalia, Holland and Naples. The dynasty also made very powerful enemies with England, Russia, Germany, and Austria. Within ten years the House of Bonaparte collapsed under its own weight.

Following his Russian defeat and the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Emperor Napoleon I was exiled to Elba where he arrived at Portoferraio on May 3, 1814 with a personal guard of six hundred men. Despite luxurious accommodations high above Portoferraio, Napoleon felt more comfortable sleeping on his field army cot (photo attached). Napoleon’s stay on Elba is the basis for the famous English saying: “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”

“Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

- Lord John Emerich Edward Dalton-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, Royal Victorian Order, 1834-1902


Oct 2009


S/Y Freesia’s starboard spring line cleat was bent and ripped from the deck by the surging sea swell while tied to a fuel dock seeking shelter from a local gale in Porto Masuccio Salernitano, Italy at approximately 1900 hours October 23, 2009. S/Y Freesia had just sailed from Isola d’Capri by the Amalfi Coast and Galli Islands (“The Sirens”) to Salerno.

“You will come to the Sirens, they who bewitch all men. Whoever sails near them unaware shall never again see his wife and children once he has heard the Siren voices. They enchant him with their clear songs, as they sit in a meadow that is heaped with the bones of dead men, bones on which still hangs their shriveled skin. Drive your ship past this place, and so that your men do not hear their song, soften some beeswax and with it seal their ears. But if you yourself should wish to listen to the Sirens, get your men to bind you hand and foot with ropes against the mast-step. In this way you may listen in rapture to the voices of the two Sirens. But should you begin to beg your comrades to unloose you, you must make sure that they bind you even more tightly.”

-The Odyssey, Book 12

“When you do dance, I wish you

A wave o’ the sea, that you might ever do

Nothing but that.”

- William Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale, Act IV, Scene 3.


Sep 2009

The Fez Medina

The word “madersa” comes from madrasa, a classical Arabic word for “school” – which meant of course, Koranic school, in which the only subject was the memorization of the Koran. Founded in the 10th century in Fez, Morocco, the Kairaouine Madersa is the Western world’s first center of higher education, predating Oxford, La Sorbonne and Bologna. In the Middle Ages, Kairaouine Madersa enrolled some 2,000 students and housed a library of 30,000 volumes. Some of its most famous students are Averroes, Maimonides and Pope Sylvester II, a master mathematician who introduced the zero into European mathematics.

Moses Maimonides, (1135-1204) was the preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. With the contemporary Muslim sage Averroes (1126-1198), he promoted and developed the philosophical tradition of Aristotle. As a result, Maimonides and Averroes would gain a prominent influence in the West, where Aristotelian thought had been lost for centuries. Thomas Aquinas was notable reader of Maimonides.

Pope Sylvester II, (946-1003), born Gerbert d’Aurillac, was a prolific scholar, teacher, and Pope. He endorsed and promoted the Arabic knowledge of mathematics and astronomy in Europe, reintroducing the abacus which had been lost to Europe since the end of the Greco-Roman era. He was the first French Pope, reigning from 999 until his death. Gerbert studied Arabic digits and applied this knowledge to the abacus with the number zero represented by an empty column.

‘Tis education forms the common mind:

Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.

- Alexander Pope, 1688-1744

Simple Arithmetic

Sep 2009

How Congress Spends Your Money

If the Federal government borrows $1.6 trillion dollars a year for the next two years, Interest on the Federal Debt will grow 35%, faster than any other Federal expenditure. In fact, Interest on the Federal Debt could soon become the largest single line item in the Federal Budget, surpassing Defense, Social Security and Health and Human Services. Should worldwide interest rates rise even one percent, a likely occurrence, then Interest on the Federal Debt would dwarf all other Federal expenditure categories.

A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining,

but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.

- Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

Salon de Embajadores, Alhambra Palace

Aug 2009

Salon de Embajadores

Built between 1334 and 1354, the room depicts the seven heavens of the Muslim cosmos and suggests the complexity of Allah’s infinite universe. In 1492, the Moorish King, Boabdil, signed the terms of his surrender before leaving for Africa ending a 700 year long Moorish battle of conquest in Spain. Shortly thereafter in this same room, Christopher Columbus made his pitch to Isabel and Ferdinand to finance a sea voyage to the Orient. Born in Genoa in October 1451 to a family of wool weavers, Columbus had gone to Lisbon to join his younger brother Bartholomew in chart making. He then made several voyages to Iceland, Madeira and Africa. On the last he was the master of a Portuguese ship. Columbus now moved back to Lisbon to promote the idea that it was possible to sail west to the Orient rather than around the treacherous Cape of Good Hope. For ten years Columbus attempted to get backing for the venture, but Portugal, France and England all turned him down. In the Salon de Embajadores, Alhambra Palace, the Spanish king, the queen and the greatest minds from the University of Salamanca gathered while Columbus produced maps and charts to make his case that he could sail west to reach the East. Ferdinand and the professors called Columbus mad, not because they thought the world was flat, but because they thought Columbus had underestimated the size of the globe and thus the length of his journey. But Isabel said “Si, Senor”. Queen Isabella supplied the vessels and men he required and the concessions to trade and future power he demanded. Columbus set off to sail along latitude 28°N believing he would reach Japan. On 12 October 1492 he made landfall in the Bahamas at an island he named San Salvador.

Subsequently, after three voyages to the New World, and becoming rich with gold, Columbus gained a bad reputation amongst the colonists, was arrested, and returned to Spain in chains. Though pardoned, Columbus fell out of favor with the court. He died in Valladolid in 1506, felled by gout and by grief at seeing himself fallen from his high estate. He also died thinking he’d visited Asia, unaware he’d opened up Europe to a New World.

“Nail to the mast her holy flag,

Set every threadbare sail,

And give her to the god of storms,

The lightning and the gale.”

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1841 – 1935


Jul 2009

The Rock of Gibraltar - July, 6 2009 1530 hours

“I went to the woods (sea*) because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived.”

- H. D. Thoreau, Living in a simple cabin beside Walden Pond for two years, two months and two days, 1854.

* Torrence Harder, North Atlantic Passage aboard S/Y Freesia, 2009.


Jun 2009

Pegador in Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, Azores

Pegador def’n Species found in the city of Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, Azores. A pegador wearing a traditional red and green hat “sticks” himself between the horns of an angry charging wild thousand pound bull to the applause of his fellow countrymen. Occupation not recommended.

Setting Sail

May 2009

Setting Sail 7 May 2009

S/Y Freesia set sail from Palm Beach, Florida at 1435 hours, Thursday, May 7, 2009 on her North Atlantic crossing to Gibraltar. Happily, Rosemary decided to join us on board for the passage to Bermuda. As Captain, I’m assisted by Harry Simpson and Greg Geisel. Harry holds the prestigious British Yachting Master’s License, has sailed all his life and has crossed the Atlantic thirteen times. Greg holds the U.S. 100 Ton Captain’s License and has many years experience chartering, delivering and managing sailboats.

“O’er the glad waters of the dark blue sea;
Our thoughts as boundless,
Our souls as free,
Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home.”
Lord Byron 1788-1821 The Corsair

A Meditation on Consciousness

Aug 1989


…I’m sitting in North Conway, looking out my window through a birch tree at the triple chair North lift at Cranmore Mountain. My study area is by my bed, looking through the windows south or by a porch off the suite west. A table sits beside me holding my computer whose fan murmurs “ready”. And my thoughts move through my fingers, saved by the electronic circuitry, copied onto a floppy disk to be carried to my office next week. The office printer will convert the bits and bytes to ink jet impressions, which will then be sealed and stamped and sent from the mythical East by thought-gram on to you.

One evening two winters ago, when I built this house, I came to the spot where my bed/study/ retreat is now and crouched down on the plywood sub-flooring, balanced against the 2×4’s and huddled to keep the winter chill at bay. I could see the stars up close between the rafters. The crystal clear sky came near. I wonder what the miniature electronic circuitry of my computer chips have to do with the star circuitry of the universe?

I think back to when I sat staring out upon the Pacific Ocean, absorbed in feelings from the Esalen experience and just meditating.

Meditation. Breathing, relaxing, following the breath…in and out…effortless breath. Letting go is so very hard to do. But the quiet bliss of inner consciousness beckons too. Oh! Money and “practical” concerns capture my mind. Sensual pleasures and bodily distractions heat my veins. What pulses my soul? Gentle breathing, now, here, presence, tranquility…

And what lies beyond?

According to Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1782), this life is just a process of psychological clarification and self-discovery. “When a person dies, he simply crosses from one world to another. All his intentions and loves remain with him after death. He leaves nothing behind except his physical body.”

Pollster Dr. George Gallup has produced a statistical report, indicating that of 8 million near death experiences, one-third of those patients who were declared clinically dead and were then revived experienced another level of consciousness.

The nine common denominators, as assembled by Leon Rhodes, director of the International Association of Near Death Studies, are as follows:

  1. “Even in distressing and traumatic conditions, the person becomes aware of a peacefulness, freedom from pains, and an indescribable bliss.
  2. “The person is able to be an observer, floating above the unconscious body, able to describe the activities and conversations of others, often in astonishingly accurate and verifiable detail.
  3. “There is a sensation of traveling through a dark tunnel – floating or at high speed – and an awareness of a distant, bright light.
  4. “Approaching the ‘light,’ which is indescribably bright, yet not painful to the eyes, one may sense an identity or personality, feeling that the light has come to convey the message that the person has died.
  5. “One finds oneself in a beautiful new realm with magnificent colors, never before seen, with preternatural beauties.
  6. “Other people may then be encountered – a few or a great many – and frequently it is possible to recognize friends that are known to have already died.
  7. “There may be communication with these friends, but usually not in verbal language, so much as thought transfer of a profound nature.
  8. “The person encounters or is told about a sort of border that may not be passed because it is ‘not yet time,’ or may feel there is something still to be accomplished on earth. Frequently, one also reports a reviewing of one’s own life, a ‘book of life’ in great detail.
  9. “With a feeling of family obligations or unfinished work, the experience finally chooses to return and is abruptly back in the body, conscious of the surroundings.”1

Within the forces of negative and positive polarity, atoms freely associate with each other in the universe. One evening after literature class, two winters ago, I happened to walk into Harvard University’s Science Center B, to hear Nobel Laureate (Biology) George Wald speaking about “wonder.” He related a conversation he had as a young man with Niels Bohr (physicist) asking Niels what he wondered about. Niels replied… the North American fresh water eel. The eel lives 3,000 miles away from North America in the South Atlantic until mating time. Then they swim to their respective North American fresh water stream, spawn and die. The newly born, swim back out into the Atlantic Ocean and travel the same 3,000 miles to where they, like their parents, live until they return to spawn and die. How do they know where they are swimming?

George Wald’s wonder is whether consciousness is the third element in the universe beside matter and energy…

Wait a minute. Isn’t religion the ultimate resolution of meaning and consciousness? Let’s see. The following excerpt is from The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, in a 1985 and 1986 conversation at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch and later at the Museum of Natural History in New York.2

MOYERS: “…what is the meaning of the virgin birth?

CAMPBELL: “I think they best way to answer that is to talk about a system they have in India that describes stages of spiritual development. In India, there is a system of seven psychological centers up the spine. They represent psychological planes of concern and consciousness and action. The first is at the rectum, representing alimentation, the basic, life-sustaining function. The serpent well represents this compulsion – as a kind of traveling esophagus going along just eating, eating, eating. None of us would be here if we weren’t forever eating. What you eat is always something that just a moment before was alive. This is the sacramental mystery of food and eating, which doesn’t often come to our minds when we sit ourselves down to eat. If we say grace before meals, we thank this figure out of the Bible for our food. But in earlier mythologies, when people would sit down to eat, they would thank the animal they were about to consume for having given of itself as a willing sacrifice.

“There is a wonderful saying in one of the Upanishad: ‘Oh, wonderful, oh wonderful, oh wonderful, I am food, I am food, I am food! I am an eater of food, I am an eater of food, I am an eater of food.’ We don’t think that way today about ourselves. But holding on to yourself and not letting yourself become food is the primary life-denying negative act. You’re stopping the flow! And a yielding to the flow is the great mystery experience that goes with thanking an animal that is about to be eaten for having given of itself. You too, will be given in time.

MOYERS: “I’m nature, nature is me.

CAMPBELL: “Yes. Now, the second psychological center is symbolized in the Indian order of spiritual development by the sex organs, which is to say the urge to procreation. A third center is at the level of the navel, and here is the center of the will to power, to mastery and smashing, and trashing of others. This is the third, aggressive function. And as we are given to recognize in the symbolism of the Indian psychological system, the first function, alimentation, is of an animal instinct; the second, procreation, is of an animal instinct – and these three centers are located symbolically in the pelvic basin.

“The next, or fourth, center is at the level of the heart; and this is of the opening to compassion. Here you move out of the field of animal action into a field that is properly human and spiritual.

“And for each of these four centers there is envisioned a symbolic form. At the base, for example, the first one, the symbol is the lingam and yoni, the male and female organs in conjunction. And at the heart center, there is again the lingam and yoni, that is to say, male and female organs in conjunction, but here are represented in gold as symbolic of the virgin birth, that is to say, it is the birth of spiritual man out of the animal man.

MOYERS: “And it happens –

CAMPBELL: “It happens when you awaken at the level of the heart to compassion and shared suffering: experienced participation in the suffering of another person. That’s the beginning of humanity. And the mediations of religion properly are on that level, the heart level.

MOYERS: “You say that’s the beginning of humanity. But in these stories, that’s the moment when gods are born. The virgin birth – it’s a god who emerges.

CAMPBELL: “And do you know who that god is? It’s you. All of these symbols in mythology refer to you. You can get stuck out there, and think it’s all out there. So you’re thinking about Jesus with all the sentiments relevant to how he suffered – out there. But that suffering is what ought to be going on in you. Have you been spiritually reborn? Have you died to your animal nature and come to life as a human incarnation of compassion?

MOYERS: “Why is it significant that this is of a virgin?

CAMPBELL: “The begetter is of the spirit. This is a spiritual birth. The virgin conceived of the word through the ear.

MOYERS: “The word came like a shaft of light.

CAMPBELL: “Yes. And the Buddha, with the same meaning, is said to have been born from his mother’s side from the level of the heart chakra.

MOYERS: “Heart chakra meaning…?

CAMPBELL: “Oh, the heart chakra is the symbolic center associated with the heart. The chakra means ‘circle’ or ‘sphere.”

MOYERS: “So the Buddha comes out –

CAMPBELL: “- the Buddha is born from his mother’s side. That’s a symbolic birth. He wasn’t physically born from his mother’s side, but symbolically.”

And I’m still breathing in and out…in meditation…effortless breathing…

And these thoughts are brought to consciousness before you on paper, transcribed by fingers, saved by silicon chips, copied onto a magnetic medium, later to be converted into ink jet impressions, which can be folded, sealed, stamped and so forth…North, East, South, and West…

North Conway, New Hampshire
July 11, 1989
Torrence C. Harder

“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
-Wm Shakespeare, The Tempest, IV.i.


1.“Unraveling the Ultimate Mystery Science, Religion, and Life After Death” by Steven Caming, The Mountain Ear, published in Mt. Washington Valley at Conway, NH 03818, Volume 14, Number 6, 29-Jun-89; and

2. The Campbell-Moyers conversation was later edited by Betty Sue Flowers and published by Doubleday, see pages 174-6.