U2: The Journey Toward Ascension (Part IV)

Three Chords and the Truth (Part IV)

By  Nikki Vanasse

Blackstone, MA


In this final trilogy of records, we find our quartet stripping back down.  Imagine the excitement of the fans!  They’ve been waiting for this since Achtung Baby.  All the buzz words and phrases were making their appearances in publications everywhere:  “back to basics”, “strip it down”, “four guys just playing music”.  Essentially, to “dream it all up again”.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind - At home, there was much going on in Bono’s life.  That can only mean one thing:  it’s all here in the record.  You’ll remember that Bono’s dad took ill and passed during this time and again, if you’ve read the accounts, you know it was hard on Bono growing up in a house full of men, without his mother.  Things were particularly hard with his dad and Bono tirelessly sought his approval throughout both of their lives.  In the studio, Flood is out, Eno and Lanois are back in, Anton Corbijn is commissioned for photos…feels like The Joshua Tree all over again…only we’re all a bit older.

Ok, first things first.  Right off the bat, you don’t even have to open the package.  Some of the albums released had a special enhancement in which the original notation of flight and gate numbers on the upper left part of the cover were airbrushed to read:  Jeremiah 33.3 (which incidentally, comes back again in the latest album No Line on the Horizon, “It was 3:33 when the numbers fell off the clock face…” from “Unknown Caller”).  The biblical reference states, “Call to me and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things which you have not known.”  Bono calls this “God’s phone number” so it seems that the line is open again.

Bono“When I Look At the World” is the one I’d like to highlight only because it’s really speaking to me at the moment.  Without God…without God in you, you can’t see the world the way God sees the world, “I see an expression/So clear and so true/That changes the atmosphere/When you walk (in)to the room/So I try to be like you/Try to feel it like you do/But without you it’s no use/I can’t see what you see/When I look at the world”.  

The only way we can change the world and bring about peace is to truly be the peace you want to see in the world, as Mahatma Ghandi so famously stated.  Without God in your life, you can’t see what God sees, when you look at the world.  Change your thoughts, change your life.

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb - At last, we are allowed a taste of the punk revival scene that served as incubator for this band back in the 70’s.  And it hits you square in the nose in the opening track, “Vertigo”:  “You give me something I can feel.”

However, three years after Bob Hewson died, Bono was still feeling the effects of the event.  The rumor is that Bono and Noel Gallagher were having a conversation as Bono’s father’s illness progressed and Bono wondered aloud if his father ever did believe in God.  Gallagher remarked that he was one step closer to knowing.

The lyrics of this song seem to illustrate various crossroads in which we are on the brink of being “one step closer to knowing” about God.  “I’m ‘round the corner from anything that’s real/I’m across the road from hope/I’m under a bridge in a rip tide/That’s taken everything I call my own”.  

LarryWhile the song echos Bono’s contemplation of his statement to Gallagher, we are reminded that life is precious and we are all “one step closer to knowing.”

I’d like to also talk about “Yaweh”, since this is probably the most transparent of prayers on any of U2’s work.  In this song, Bono prays to Yaweh (i.e. God) to help us turn this worldly existence around.  “Take these hands/Teach them what to carry/Take these hands/Don’t make a fist no/Take this mouth/So quick to criticize/Take this mouth/Give it a kiss”.  

In other words, show me the way, teach me the ways of non-violence, and help me find other ways to communicate that come from the heart; from love.  Bono hints at the endless supply of love that God has and that it is found everywhere, “the sun is coming up/The sun is coming up on the ocean/His love is like a drop in the ocean”.

No Line on the Horizon - Ok think about this.  This band has survived three decades intact.  Same core of folks since the 70’s people.  Sure the organization has grown, but all the same people have been around.  How do you think they do that?  Do you think they don’t face problems?  You couldn’t be further from the truth.  Do you think there is a higher power at work here?  Does God have something to do with it?  

My answer is, “Ya’ think?”  Now don’t misunderstand me on this; I’m not saying other bands didn’t last because they didn’t have heart, didn’t love each other as mates.  Didn’t have God in their lives.  But you have to admit there is something missing.  U2 is more alchemy than chemistry.

I’m not setting them high on the pedestal here, but you can’t deny that this band has been through some very trying times and again, if you’ve read the books, you know the stories.  Just because any one individual or any band has more money or more notoriety, doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain, despair, fear.  The difference is how you deal with it.  U2 chose to meet that challenge head-on, each and every time.  They were committed to each other like bride and groom.

When you look at the U2 body of work, you can see a complete cycle of learning.  As boys, they begin as normal adolescents with the usual problems, their worlds get clouded by a veil of organized religion that is heavy enough to split the band for a time.  

The EdgeThey sort out their faith and continue on and experience life, all the way while keeping that faith.  Then you run into a time that I’m sure some of us can relate to, being angry at God, and then surrendering to God allowing life to happen.  Essentially, letting go and letting God.  So we’ve come full circle here and there is no better testament to that letting go in “Moment of Surrender”.  Let’s look at a verse:

“I’ve been in every black hole/At the alter of the Dark star/My body’s now a begging bowl/That’s begging to get back/Begging to get back /To my heart/To the rhythm of my soul/To the rhythm of my consciousness/To the rhythm that yearns/To be released from control”  Uh…WOW.  Coming back around to what really matters.  

Allow me to suggest a way of looking at that lyric.  Bono seems to be saying, “We’ve had some dark times when we didn’t get along and now I want to get back to my faith and in believing and feeling the energy of God flow to my soul, my consciousness…

I want to think like God, and I want to be released from the ties that keep me from doing that.”  

If I wasn’t sitting down when I first heard this song, I would’ve dropped to my knees.  It brought tears to my eyes as it closed the show.  I thought, “what a FANTASTIC message to leave with”.  I found that I was in the minority of that sentiment.  But I got it.  

AdamAnd that’s what U2 has done.  If you’ve been paying attention, you can hear the messages of being one with each other.  We all want the same things, happiness and prosperity, so let’s make that happen for each other.  Let’s help each other out.  

People balk at Bono’s “self-righteous, megalomanic” existence, but perhaps that’s because they know deep down that he’s got the right stuff and they recognize that they don’t, but would like to.  I’ve always said that the people who knock this band, just aren’t giving them a chance.  

They’re minds aren’t yet open enough; open to the possibilities of love, peace, charity, compassion.  U2 is on message and if they asked me what I thought, I’d tell them to do more!  Let your spirituality fly and do a record of hope for these times.  Inspire us.

You can read the whole series from start to finish here.

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