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Economics- Literature- Sailing

The Many Interests Of

Torrence C. Harder

"Sailing is a perfect form of meditation, living with nature"

After four decades in the ever-turbulent financial realms of venture capital strategizing and investments, Torrence C. Harder has taken to the open seas where, as Rilke might say, seeing and working are one and the same. While to many of us a 57 foot sailing yacht may seem like indulgent luxury, for Harder she is basic fare for an Odyssean voyage of personal contemplation, natural adventure and inner discovery, of the sort that only sailors and poets enjoy and endure. Under the canopy of stars and naked horizon of earth and sky, where the eye is the first circle and the horizon it sees the second, as R.W. Emerson made note in his own ocean voyage, a mere 57 feet can seem mighty small, especially when the wind comes up and a rolling seaway threatens at the stern.

But for all his adventures, financial and nautical, Harder has little to say, having reached a state of mind that combines the awe and wonder of the sea which he navigates by satellite bearings and, in equal measure, the inner sanctums of his mind which he navigates by means of Buddhist meditation. A life of non-attachment? Well with more than a dozen companies in his portfolio, hardly that; but his laconic responses would imply that he is exactly where he wants to be; in the Buddhist sense of it, "On the verge of Nothing."

Harder is working on a new Website with his eldest daughter Lauren, which he says will be posted in a few months with abundant samples of his literary efforts and most likely reflective and more informative about his physical, mental and karmic ports of call.

Peter Barton: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?

Torrey Harder: No. I was able to read literature at Harvard University’s Extension.

PB: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?

TH: Reading a lot makes your fingers itch. I’ve tended to writing essays.

PB:You lived for many years 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?

Torrey Harder: Sailing is a perfect form of meditation, living with nature.

PB: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 partnership 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?

Torrey Harder: 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.

PB: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?

Torrey Harder: S/Y Freesia was named after the flower. She is 57 feet long and all that I need to travel the world.

PB: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?

Torrey Harder:Life aboard S/Y Freesia is simple ocean going fare. Which way and with what force is the wind blowing today?

PB: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'?

TH: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

PB: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?

TH:Fortunately, my thirteen company Presidents have run my companies. I don't do anything. Of course, high speed Internet is everywhere.

PB: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. 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?

TH: 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.

PB: 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?

TH:Istanbul and Rhodes are in the Mediterranean. S/Y Freesia will sail in Greece and Turkey next summer. Isn’t every present moment impermanent?