Lichtgedanken - flashes of brilliance

If the Jena University had to sum up its Jubilee in one word, it would have to be Friedrich Schiller's idea of "Lichtgedanken, which is, of course, in honour of its most famous professor and its namesake.

But the idea of "Lichtgedanken" means more: It symbolizes all the ideas that are inherent in a university and is what connects all of its faculties with each other in a trans-disciplinary way. "Lichtgedanken" are flashes of brilliance and achievement, whose innovative potential influence both the present and the future of a university. Even the historically-shaped character that makes a university unique can be understood as "Lichtgedanken", as inspired by Schiller´s poem "The Favor of the Moment".



The Favor of the Moment


Friedrich Schiller, 1803

 So, at length, once more we meet

 In the Muses' glad domain!

 Let us twine a garland sweet,

 Fit to grace their brows again!


 To what, God shall we now bring

 Earliest tribute of our lays? -

 Let us first His glory sing,

 Who with bliss our toil repays.


 What avails it that a Soul

 Ceres breathes into the Shrine?

 That great Bacchus brims the bowl

 With the red blood of the vine?


 If that spark which sets on fire

 Mortal hearths, comes not from high,

 Joy will ne'er the soul inspire,

 And the heart will vainly sigh.


 From the cloud must fortune fall,

 From the lap of Deities

 And the mightiest Lord of all

 Is the moment as it flies.


 'Mongst the things that have their birth

 'Neath eternal Nature's sway,

 Nought is godlike here on earth,

 Save the Thought's all-piercing ray.


 Slowly stone and stone unite,

 As the circling seasons roll;

 But our work will see the light

 Soon as fashioned by the soul.


 As the sunlight's radiant glow

 Weaves a golden tapestry-

 As upon her gorgeous bow

 Iris quivers in the sky.


 So each gift that joys the heart

 Fleeteth as a gleam of light;

 So for aye it must depart

 To the darksome tomb of the night.


Translation by Edgar Alfred Bowring, from: The Poems of Schiller, edited by Henry D. Wireman, Philadelphia 1879.