Transcendent Kingdom

by

Yaa Gyasi

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Sacred Words Symbol Analysis

Sacred Words Symbol Icon

Sacred words, such as those from the Bible, represent Gifty’s quest to make meaning out of her life, especially as she embraces science rather than religion. Gifty was raised in the Pentecostal church, and the words of scripture are deeply and resonantly embedded in her thought processes long after she leaves the church behind. In quotes and allusions throughout Transcendent Kingdom, these sacred words demonstrate the power people have to create meaning out of their lives. For Gifty, much of this meaning lies in the intersection between the religion of her childhood and the scientific vocation of her adult years. While religion and science tend to see themselves as polar opposites, for Gifty, they are woven together in complex ways. When she thinks about optogenetics (using light to influence brain activity), she remembers a verse from the Bible about how sweet it is to see the light of the sun. When she tries to imagine how to raise her mother from her depression-induced stupor, she considers the Biblical story in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And she notes that her favorite Gospel is the one written by John, which begins, “In the beginning was the logos,” or word. As Gifty comes to understand, “logos” means not just “word” but also “question” or “premise,” and thus, for her, the words of scripture become the questions, premises, and context that help her to build meaning out of the jumble of her life.

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