Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

The Yonder: "Son, Your Mother Believed in the Yonder ..."

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

The Yonder: "Son, Your Mother Believed in the Yonder ..."

Article excerpt

That is what Abraham Lincoln's father said to his grieving 9-year-old son as he sealed the grave of Nancy, his wife, on a lonely hillside in Indiana in 1821.

The yonder is that vast unknown that is beyond us and envelops us. The yonder is a belief in the sacral mystery from which we came and to which we finally and forever go. It is the heart of an existence that lies in the cosmic dust of the starfields that shine in the vast night sky.

The yonder is what Albert Einstein, walking in the footsteps of Copernicus, Ptolemy, Galileo and the mythic quiet of those ancient wandering astronomers who followed a celestial light across the desert so long ago were pursuing. The German scientist, Einstein, drew a mathematical equation E=MC2 and labored till the end of his life to determine a unified theory of the universe, in which he skirted the boundaries of time in search of the meaning of why we are here, not simply as individuals but why and how life evolved on this tiny globe in the mist of infinity.

I am told that arithmetic is the purest form of reasoning--calculus, geometry, physics, algebra, trigonometry, E=MC2--I was confounded by its listing in the curriculum.

I wanted to be an astronomer when I was a kid, and one of my prized Christmas gifts was a Sears & Roebuck telescope. But living in the crowded hollows of West Virginia, I could only view a sliver of the sky. But it was arithmetic that did me in, so I shied away. I turned to language, literature and poetry to engage the mystery. I landed in the theological arms of God talk, which is the equivalent of Einstein's E=MC2.

We will never likely know if Einstein's theory is finally and forever right. It is language that will carry us to the extent of our imagination, but it, too, must finally surrender to the universe.

Nevertheless, it is my conviction that the power and vitality of language lies in the ability to illumine the actual and imagined landscape that envelopes us. …

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