Eine Brille liegt auf einem aufgeschlagenen Buch

What are you reading, Mr Kayvanjoo?

Our reading tip comes from Amir Kayvanjoo. Amir is originally from Tehran, Iran. He has completed his Master’s and Doctorate at the Bonn University in Life Science Informatics and Molecular Biomedicine. Amir’s main research topics are immunology and bioinformatics. Currently he is a postdoctoral researcher in the Prof. Katja Simon group at the Max Delbrück Center on Campus Buch. He recommends poems by a Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer.

I hope this message finds you well and full of curiosity for the literary treasures the world has to offer. Today, I am thrilled to recommend a timeless collection that has captured hearts for centuries: "The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.” 

Omar Khayyám, a Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet, crafted verses that resonate with profound wisdom and a zest for life. His poems, known as rubáiyát (quatrains), explore themes of existence, the fleeting nature of time, and the importance of savoring the present moment. Khayyám’s philosophy centers on the idea of enjoying life’s pleasures here and now, rather than being preoccupied with the uncertainties of the afterlife.

In addition to his poetic genius, Khayyám made significant contributions to mathematics and astronomy. He is renowned for his work on the classification and solution of cubic equations, which was groundbreaking in the field of algebra. Moreover, Khayyám played a crucial role in the reform of the Persian calendar. His revised calendar, the Jalali calendar, is noted for its remarkable accuracy and is still in use today as the basis for the Iranian calendar. It is considered the most accurate calendar in use, even more precise than the Gregorian calendar. This precision was achieved through Khayyám’s exact calculation of the solar year, correcting the calendar drift that plagued previous systems.

Beyond his scientific achievements, Khayyám’s poetry continues to inspire and provoke thought. One of my favorite quatrains beautifully encapsulates his philosophy:

“Heaven but the vision of fulfilled desire,
And Hell the shadow from a soul on fire,
Cast on the darkness into which ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.”

In these lines, Khayyám urges us to focus on the tangible joys and experiences of the present, rather than being preoccupied with the uncertain promises of heaven or the fears of hell. It’s a gentle reminder that the moment we have now is precious and should be cherished.

Khayyám’s verses often reflect a skeptical and humanistic worldview, emphasizing the impermanence of life and the value of immediate happiness and contentment. While some interpret his views as agnostic, reflecting a questioning attitude towards religious dogma, he ultimately celebrates the mystery and beauty of existence without succumbing to dogmatic beliefs.

"The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám" is not just a collection of poems; it’s a journey through time and thought, offering solace and inspiration in its every word. Whether you are new to poetry or a seasoned lover of verse, this collection promises to be a cherished companion.

Happy reading, and may Khayyám’s words bring joy and reflection to your days!