Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 156
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Monday & Tuesday, April 26 & 27 2010
(poetry, thought, the universe)
I often feel that my complete lack of appreciation and interest for poetry is somewhat
of a cultural deficiency in me. The constraints that rhyme and metrical rhythm impose on
it just put me off. The thoughts expressed in it are perhaps clever but too
stilted for my taste. They are imprisoned in an artificial box, can't breathe. (But then : to make them breathe, you might say, is the challenge and aim of the poet.)
Prose on the other hand is like Jazz improvisation, free
flowing, take it wherever you want it to go. Apart from a few grammar rules (like a
chord progression in Jazz) you can do your own thing. I enjoy writing (prose) and find
it a very liberating experience.
We live two different (although interconnected) lives. One in the outer physical world,
the other in our mind.
The one in our mind is a complex one, with several
"dimensions" : emotion, feeling, imagination, thought.
Although all these "mind dimensions" play a part in our lives, perhaps one is more
prominent, more controlling than the others. Which one this is depends on the affinity
and inclination of each individual and is one of the things which makes us different.
For me (as you may have guessed) the most prominent mind dimension is thought.
The desire for insight, to understand, to grasp ideas is of great importance to me and
a most essential ingredient in my quest for happiness. And a thought or idea well
expressed in words (for example as by Charlemagne,
Stendhal, De Botton, etc. etc.)
is like true "poetry" to me, as poetry (at least for me) can never be.
In a larger context, encompassing the entire human species since its emergence on
earth, our thoughts : insights and understanding of life, the earth, the solar system,
the universe, represent the wonderful and only truly important contribution we have made (and
still make) to the universe.
It is now abundantly clear that the evolution of life and indeed the whole universe,
has been a continuous process (covering billions of years) of tiny incremental steps, not towards a
premeditated goal, but (proceeding blindly) on the simple basis of what works (in
the evolving chemical or physical environment) survives and progresses, what does
It is only the human mind that in retrospect is discovering the history and essence of
almost everything there is. In this sense we have added value to the universe as a whole.
Before the human species came along the universe was a mindless evolving
entity. Now (through us) it has an intelligent sense of its identity, who or what it is and how it
I think that scientists of all persuasions feel this. Richard Dawkins revealed (in his recent book 'The Greatest Show on
Earth') that when he visited the new Large Hadron
Collider near Geneva, he had tears in his eyes. This enormous program just
shows how importing it is for us, and how much effort and money we are prepared to
spend, to find out!
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Wednesday, April 28 2010
(rowing, Head of the River 1956)
After writing about our Student Rowing Club Njord the other
day I went online to check out the photos on their website. Unfortunately they had none
of their Club house, so I emailed the Njord Secretary who kindly send me a few. Amazing, it is still
very much as I remember it. Nothing much has been changed.
By far the most enjoyable race I have participated in was the very first one of the
1956 season (around March), the Head of the River in
Amsterdam. This is an 8 km long
pursuit race for eights only on the Amstel river, starting in
Oudekerk and finishing in the center of Amsterdam.
Both Hauk and I were steering a junior eight in the race. The day before the race
we arrived at my Godfather Uncle Ansco Dokkum's home in the Cornelus Schuytstraat in Amsterdam
to stay the night there. My cousin Tom had commenced study at the University in Amsterdam
and Uncle Ansco had become involved with Nereus (the Amsterdam Students Rowing Club) where he had
taken on a coaching role (later with enormous success).
When Oom Ansco returned home
that evening (seeing our light blue Njord blazers hanging in the hall) he asked good
naturedly "What are these Njord fellows doing in our house?"
The next morning we were off to the Amstel to visually check out the course. Back in
Leiden we had closely studied the course on the map and had received detailed advise
from our senior coxswains and coaches on steering the shortest route of this meandering river segment.
Then finally we took to the water with our eights at the
starting point in Oudekerk. Oom Ansco was that day the starting official,
standing on top of the bridge which was the starting line.
There were about 40
eights competing in the race, starting one after the other at (I believe) 1 minute
intervals. My boat was towards the end of the cue, but eventually it was our turn and we
were waved on our way by my uncle.
It was an exhilarating experience, we rowed well and I steered a very sharp course all
the way. We easily overtook 2 competitors ahead of us during the pursuit and beat a 3rd
one right on the finish line. We ended up in the top 10 finishers (in 7th position I
recall) which was a very good result for a junior crew.
celebrations at the Nereus Club house which was right on the Amstel river,
located 500 meters before the finish line.
For photos of the 2010 Head of the River race see the great collection by Merijn Soeters.
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Thursday & Friday, April 29 & 30 2010
I have been waking up at 4 AM these last three mornings to turn on the TV and watch European
soccer matches live, the semi-finals of the Champions League and of the Uefa
Cup. The match between Beiern Münich and Lion was especially
wonderful to watch. (The German club won 3-0 and is in the Champions League Final
against Inter Milan on May 23.)
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It made me realise once again how crude and
primitive the two main Australian football codes (AFL and NRL) are in comparison. But
they are part of this country's culture so will be around for a long time yet.
Australian soccer (the A-League) is progressing slowly (although very popular
in schools throughout the country), but it will take some time before they attain the
quality of European clubs. Still our National soccer team is in the FIFA World
Cup this year.
The local Palmerston Friday night markets started last week, with as usual lots of food stalls, including Dutch poffertjes. The Mindill markets on Fannie Bay in Darwin, hugely popular with the tourists, also started this Thursday.
Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner