I come from a family of political refugees and scientists, but it's not my grandfather's history of political activism nor my father's passion for medical research that inspired me most - Instead, it was their love of poetry. I grew up in a house rich with Persian literature, and from the earliest age, I'd committed to memory the words of the greats - the words of Ferdowsi and Attar, Rumi and Hafez, Khayyam and Sa'adi. Their stories had an enormous impact on the way I saw the world around me and the way I came to see my role in it. In Attar's epic poem, "The Conference of the Birds," we're introduced to a world full of birds, but this bird world is suffering. One bird - the Hoopoe - has a solution. He gathers all the birds of the world together and tells them he heard of a magical bird - the Simorgh (in Farsi “si” means thirty and “morgh” means bird) - who can save them from their suffering. But finding this bird will involve a treacherous journey over seven mountains. Hundreds of birds set off together, traveling over mountains that hold every imaginable temptation, and at each mountain, more and more of them give up. By the time they finally reach the last mountain, the Hoopoe looks around and sees the Simorgh he was promised is nowhere to be found. There are only thirty birds left, and together, they are Simorgh. They are the solution they were seeking.
I believe that by committing ourselves to our shared humanity and committing our lives to the fight for a better world, we can become the thirty birds. Attar's story serves as the inspiration for everything I do, because I've seen that through unity and compassion, small teams can build big ideas that change the world.
What's your big idea?
- Rostam Zafari, Founder and CEO of Thirty Birds