Serendipity – what do an Indian cartoonist, Peter Reith and the Opera House have in common?

This morning I came across a reflection piece on the Amnesty International Australian homepage about Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi who was recently arrested and charged with “sedition” for his caricatures of government institutions in India.

I immediately thought of my favourite saying by Piet Hein “the noble art of losing face may one day save the human race”. This to me is all about learning to laugh at ourselves. Sadly this is something some people find very hard and all too often they seem to become our leaders.

Being able to laugh at ourselves is somehow tied to being able to admit to mistakes. Maybe there is some connection with ego …

Allan Asher, the former ombudsman who took part in the recent SBS program “Go back to where you came from”, was surprised that even though fellow participants Peter Reith and shockjock Michael Smith privately changed their views about asylum seekers – they were not prepared to renounce their previous public positions.

It’s a bit early on Sunday morning to go much further down that road. Instead I started thinking about Piet Hein and googled him and found a wonderful story.

Piet was a Danish scientist, mathematician, inventor, designer, author, and poet, who often wrote under the Old Norse pseudonym “Kumbel” meaning “tombstone”.

He was confronted with a dilemma when the Germans occupied Denmark in 1940. The choices he saw were: Do nothing, flee to “neutral” Sweden or join the Danish resistance movement. He chose the latter and began publishing cryptic poems which he called “Grooks” [Danish gruk].

Below is his first which passed the censors but had an amazing impact on his readers – so much so that the Danish version was pasted as graffiti all over Copenhagen. Can you work out why?


Losing one glove
is certainly painful,
but nothing
compared to the pain,
of losing one,
throwing away the other,
and finding
the first one again.

Piet Hein also has a strong connection with one of our Australian icons “The Opera House”.

After World War 2, Scandinavian architects tired of square buildings and realising that circular buildings were impractical, asked Piet Hein for a solution. He applied his mathematical insights to the problem and proposed the superellipse which became the hallmark of modern Scandinavian architecture.

Who was the designer of the Opera House – Danish architect Jorn Utzon whose design incorporated the superellipse.


About peterhanley1

Peter Hanley has lived in North Queensland for more than 30 years. His interests include human rights, social justice, sustainability and community development. True North explores issues in these areas.
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One Response to Serendipity – what do an Indian cartoonist, Peter Reith and the Opera House have in common?

  1. When someone writes an paragraph he/she retains the thought of a user in
    his/her mind that how a user can know it. Therefore that’s why this paragraph is amazing. Thanks!

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