My all time favorite band with my all time favorite person, live in concert on a reunion tour of one of the best albums of my youth – checked an item off the bucket list for sure! U2 did not disappoint. Gerry reminded me in the car on the way home of a documentary we watched that claimed The Edge’s guitar parts are the U2 songs, and musically that’s true I guess. I don’t think they’d still be selling out concerts full of people singing along to every single song after thirty years without Bono’s lyrics, though. But I’m a word person much more than a music person. The Joshua Tree connected with people coming of age in the 90s, the tail end of Gen X, in some powerful ways. The honest expression of life’s tensions and paradoxes, the rejection of the la la hippie notions of the generation before us, show up in almost every song. You know – “You carried the cross and all my shame…but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, “I can’t live, with or without you”, “Angel, angel or devil?”
I’m a big fan but certainly not the biggest. I thought I might have some huge spiritual experience at the concert, but I didn’t. I did have a blast. I also observed something interesting for us word people. U2 has been using their song One as the theme for a campaign against extreme poverty and preventable disease around the world. You don’t have to know much about U2 to know that this is a huge passion of Bono’s for many years, rooted in his faith and his personal experience of traveling with aid organizations. The lyrics to One work so well for this – we are one human race in one world, we get to carry each other. It’s also funny that Bono is using this song because he himself has said that it’s a song about splitting up. He doesn’t understand why people use it at their weddings. He said the lyrics “fell from heaven” at a time when the band was struggling with direction and really thought they might break up. Interestingly, this song was their breakthrough and they recorded it in Berlin during German reunification. It seems to me that what the song means to Bono, the writer, the only one who really knows his original intent, has changed over time, maybe even been influenced by the audience’s interpretations. A song ostensibly about disunity has become a song that inspires unity.
Don’t you think that’s interesting, the relationship between intent and interpretation, how there can be so many levels of meaning and how context changes those? I’ve experienced this on a small-scale with some of my own words. What is meant is not always what is heard, and sometimes what is heard is far more powerful.
Today at Life Prompted, we’re starting a Summer Concert Series. Each week I’ll be writing off the page inspired by a different song. This week it’s One. I’d love, love, love for you to join me. You don’t have to analyze the song, understand the song, like the song, even write about the song, just be inspired by a few lyrics and see where they take you. It’s a laid back summer schedule here, so email your responses any time to firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s where my thoughts carried me in response to One:
One is the loneliest number, the Beatles said. I’ve been a party of one, or worse, a third wheel, enough times to know the truth of this. One may be the loneliest, but it also may be the greatest.
In the beginning, a man left his father and mother to cleave to his wife and the two became one flesh. Literally, of course, but also that mystical union that causes two people to dress in separate closets and emerge completely color coordinated. My children express great frustration when I tell them it’s no use to ask their father because “your father and I are of one mind.” It’s true but sometimes becoming of one mind involves a lot of gritting teeth and hashing out until we get to the place of really hearing each other. Sometimes one mind requires a lot of compromise, sometimes complete surrender of one’s own way. We are one, but we are not the same. It’s easy to forget that we don’t have to carry each other, we get to.
We pledge allegiance to one nation, under God, indivisible. We shed the most blood in American history on our own soil trying to divide. The most violent heartbreaking places on earth it seems have been countries at war with themselves, trying to stamp out indigenous injustice or oppressing their own people for power and personal gain. Why is it that our own are the easiest to hurt, at home and at war? We are one, but we are not the same. We hurt each other, then we do it again.
We come together to worship the One God. We proclaim one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We recite around the world that we believe in one holy catholic church, but we each build our own buildings explaining why we don’t really belong to the other. We are one, but we are not the same. One love, one blood, one life, you’ve got to do what you should. Something tells me this is not what brothers and sisters should do.
One is the first number we learn. It’s the easiest to add or multiply, but the hardest to divide. We sure have tried, though, and we are lesser for it, fractions of what we could be, who we should be. Two can become one. Many can be one. It’s a great mystery worth believing, a dream still worth pursuing. We are not the same, but we are one. We don’t have to carry each other, we get to.
Ok, my friends, what song has grabbed you lately? I can’t wait to hear from you! email@example.com