Wednesday, February 18, 2009

At one time I had both Volumes of the Collected Grooks of Piet Hein. Now I find only Volume 1 on my bookshelves (which are scattered hither and yon around the house).

Did I give the other away? It is quite possible that I slipped it into a gift of books and sent it off in the mail. It would be something I wouldn't mind sharing.

I have always been delighted with Grooks, - well, more than delighted... Behind each verse is a serious thought; a tantalizing expression of common wisdom, - something we all know, and in which we find wry humour.

The Cure for Exhaustion

Sometimes, exhausted
with toil and endeavour,
I wish I could sleep
for ever and ever;
but then this reflection
my longing allays:
I shall be doing it
one of these days.

Makes you perk right up and enjoy each available moment!

Piet Hein was known as Kumbel Kumbell when his Grooks first were published in 1940. When the German occupation of Denmark became more than an administrative effort, and the dark side of the German agenda became more apparent, Piet Hein disappeared into the Underground Resistance. His Grooks became messages of encouragement to the Danes who were enduring this menacing occupation.

A highly intelligent man with common-sense, Piet Hein, it is said, compares favourably with Albert Einstein and Buckminster Fuller.

Among his inventions:

The Superellipse, whose shape was adopted in Danish furniture, in parks and stadiums and in city planning, - and whose equation is a little beyond my ken, although I understand the concept.

The Soma Cube - "he conceived the idea of the SOMA cube in 1936, during a lecture on Quantum physics by Werner Heisenberg" and if the link works there are a lot of fascinating details about this addictive combination of shapes.

The game of Hex was invented in 1942 by Piet Hein, and then reinvented in 1948 by John Nash. It got its name in 1952 from a commercial distribution by Parker Brothers and was popularized by Martin Gardner in 1957. Piet was a whizz at formulating mathematical games and engineering mathematical shapes - here is his concept of a free standing egg....

All very astonishing, but my bent is more literal than mathematical, and so I appreciate most his words on The Miracle of Spring..

We glibly talk
of nature's laws
but do things have
a natural cause?

Black earth turned into
yellow crocus
is undiluted

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