The yonder: "Son, your mother believed in the yonder ...".
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. Language arcs toward the place where meaning may lie. At its best it is ineffable, at its worst it is warped and destructive.
As one writer holds it language can never pin down slavery, the holocaust, hunger, poverty, war, not even love, peace and justice. Nor should we yearn for the arrogance to do so. The scope of language, if you will, lies in its reach for the ineffable. The choice word or the intended silence which surges toward knowledge and transcendence. But there can be no final summing up of the universe; the distance is too near, too far. The mystery of the yonder will not allow us to penetrate it. It is the Black Hole of language.
Word work for those who know it, is sublime because it creates meaning that confirms our uniqueness in a way that makes us like no other creature. Death may be the ultimate meaning of life, but we live language, which is the eternal measure of our lives.
Yonder, through my lens is wherever it is we go beyond ourselves into the meaning of our being here. It is to measure space, E=MC2 it is whatever we do to calibrate the mystery of time made precious by its passing. It is the word once spoken; the heart of the yonder is language, and Barack Obama more than any political figure in recent memory, took us to the edge of the landscape of inspiration and hope. It is framed in the Air Force hymn Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder.
Written in St. Louis, the Inauguration day of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. January 20, 2009.
Robert W. Tabscott is a Presbyterian minister and president of the Elijah Lovejoy Society, a historical organization in Webster Groves.
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|Title Annotation:||off the record|
|Author:||Tabscott, Robert W.|
|Publication:||St. Louis Journalism Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2008|
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