left biblioblography: THE PATH LEAST TAKEN: OF OMAR, OMNISCIENCE, AND THE SIN OF OMISSION

Friday, June 23, 2006

THE PATH LEAST TAKEN: OF OMAR, OMNISCIENCE, AND THE SIN OF OMISSION

And here I go again.

Some nitwit at the NGB (claiming to be a world traveler, no less) claimed that:

  1. Muslims have not contributed to Western civiliztion (I have yet to see why we’re the best thing since sliced bread, anyways), and

  2. They should all be wiped from the earth.

I guarantee you; I had some harsh words for this mook. Somewhere along the lines of dental rearrangement. I’m a peaceable guy, but some things are beyond the pale.

I see this a LOT in this country. This dehumanization process, deposited in one broad stroke, over a group of folk that are as diverse, and as human, as we are. So here I am, playing Devil’s Advocate yet again, trying in my small way to inveigh against the rabid mad-dog patriotism, by putting a face to the looming specter of the Saracen we are being told to believe in.

I have expounded elsewhere, on the significant contributions of the Islamic world to our culture.

Time now, to pull out our history books (no moaning in class, students! I have my ruler at the ready, should yer knuckles be a-needin’ it! I kid, of course), and bring a human element into the discussion.

Two words:Omar Khayyam.

I trust this name rings a bell? Good.

I read the Rubaiyat some decades ago (along with Kahlil Gibran’s the Prophet, though in what order, I couldn’t tell ya). Shamefacedly, I admit: I can only quote a few stanzas:A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou
Art all I need

I stumbled across this on the Internet this morning (why? How? Who knows?) researching what, I can’t recall.

From here:
(image placeholder) “Omar Khayyam, Poet / Astronomer
  • Born: 18 May 1048

  • Birthplace: Nishapur, Persia (now Iran)

  • Died: 4 December 1131

  • Best Known As: The author of The Rubaiyat
Historically speaking, Omar Khayyam has led a double life. In his own time he was a respected mathematician and astronomer who helped reform the ancient Muslim calendar. In the modern era he is more fondly remembered as the author of the brief, lyrical poems known collectively as The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Omar is said to have adopted the name Khayyam ("the tentmaker") in honor of his father's trade.”

Most Americans will shrug, and say, “So what? He wrote some poetry. Big whoop. Is the game on?”

This fella was a whole lot more. Same source (encyclopedia):

“The details of his life are mostly conjectural, but he was well educated and became celebrated as the outstanding mathematician of his time. As astronomer to Sultan Malik Shah, he was one of a group that undertook to reform the calendar. Their work led to the adoption of a new era, the so-called Jalalian or Seljuk era, beginning Mar. 15, 1079. Although he wrote a number of important mathematical studies, Omar's fame as a scientist has been greatly eclipsed in the West by the popularity of his Rubaiyat, epigrammatic verse quatrains.”

Put down the remote. There’s more:

“Most people who speak English know about Omar Khayyám. They recall that he wrote about "a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and Thou." In fact, he did not. That was Edward FitzGerald, a 19th-century English poet whose translation of Omar was so loose that most scholars consider the FitzGerald poetry as a separate work.”

Oops.

“Omar was a great poet himself, as readers of Persian attest. But he is also the mathematician who solved the general cubic equation of the third degree hundreds of years before Tartaglia, the 16th-century mathematician generally given credit for the feat. Omar's method for solving the cubic did have some limitations, however. It was completely geometrical and so produced only positive roots (a line segment cannot have negative length).”

I’m betting I couldn’t find one American in a hundred who even understands the ramifications of that. Myself included.

“Omar's work was also a step toward the unification of algebra and geometry that came in the 17th century with Descartes and Fermat. Omar pointed out that algebra is not just a collection of tricks for obtaining an answer, but a science deeply related to geometry.”

Can you say, “Ahead of his time, boys and girls?” I’m just guessing here, but this guy was way smarter than I could ever hope to be.

Wait: more to come.

“Omar Khayyám and Islam
The philosophy of Omar Khayyám was quite different from official Islamic dogmas. It is not clear whether he believed in the existence of God or not, but he objected to the notion that every particular event and phenomenon was the result of divine intervention; nor did he believe in any Judgment Day or rewards and punishments after life. Instead he supported the view that laws of nature explained all phenomena of observed life. Religious officials asked him many times to explain his different views about Islam. Khayyám eventually was obliged to make a hajj [pilgrimage] to Mecca in order to prove he was a faithful follower of the religion. “

There’s a poem of his following this, well worth the read.

So somebody, tell me please: is this the face of fear?

Too often we make the hasty judgement, the snap decision, without realizing that there is so much more, depths to the lake we were told was a shallow puddle.

Mind you, this isn’t an unrepresented example: their history abounds with people who stood high, and were far from the savages we’ve been told about a million times, by television, by film, by fiery rhetoric and fear.

I will, from time to time, trot out some more examples. Other efforts to put a human face to the stereotypical hype we’re innundated.

Because there is one thing that transcends boundaries, race, creed, religion.

Hemoglobin is the same color, no matter where you go, no matter who spills it.

And too much of it has been spilled already.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

7 comments:

PastaLaVista said...

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou
Art all I need..................I think he may be on to something.......

Krystalline Apostate said...

PLV:
Hey, I was wondering what happened to you. Almost shot you an email. Nice to have ya back. How are ya?

karen said...

I am a big fan of The Prophet by Gibran.

Mesoforte said...

This dehumanization process, deposited in one broad stroke, over a group of folk that are as diverse, and as human, as we are.

That's something that society likes doing RA. Especially during wartime.

Time now, to pull out our history books (no moaning in class, students!

YAY!

My CDI group did a presentation on Islam last spring semester. Really surprised some people. Even better, we're going to be doing a 'World religions' series for our school this upcoming Fall/Spring semesters. I'm going to see if my department head will let me do Atheism.

PastaLaVista said...

Hey, I was wondering what happened to you. Almost shot you an email. Nice to have ya back. How are ya?

Thanks reluctant. Had to take a much needed hiatus from blogging for a while. Things are much better now with me thank you. Things have very much improved in my personal life. Under much less stress now. Just kind of easing back into the blog world. Thought I'd just basically stop in and leave a few words as a hello. I'll try to stop in from time to time.

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen:
I am a big fan of The Prophet by Gibran.
Hey, shamefacedly I might add, I almost quoted The Prophet (I get confused sometimes, hard to believe, I know).

MF:
That's something that society likes doing RA. Especially during wartime.
Ain't that the truth.
I'm going to see if my department head will let me do Atheism.
Ummm...I know you know this already, but atheism ain't a religion.

PLV:
I'll try to stop in from time to time.
Please do so. Don't be a stranger.

say no to christ said...

Thanks Ra

Another good piece of info. And I know all too well your feelings of frustration with some hard headed people.