Saturday, March 14, 2009


Like One; like I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For; like Bad, Moment of Surrender is a moment perfectly distilled -- musically, prayerfully, vocally, it will pierce you to your core. It captures brokenness, the collapse of the illusion that we are independent. It touches the profound compassion the band called up for Bad (a revelation in Rattle and Hum); the difference is that while the older song came from a friend looking on helplessly, the new song comes out of the one who is broken.

What have they done? What Grace touched them, all 6 of them, to create in music the sound of a soul in ecstatic disintegration? They say they did it in one take! That's raw, that's live -- Bono’s voice is choked with all the fears and burdens of living too long in one’s skin, of trying too hard; his pleas are naked and raw against a heartbeat bass and a pulsing organ … until each chorus resolves into an unbearable sweetness -- at the moment of surrender I folded to my knees… accompanied by a harmony of men, a little like angels. I did not notice the passers-by, and they did not notice me…

what is that moment of surrender? Is it, as in Bad, an addict hitting bottom, finally giving up the delusion? Is it the sound of a resurrection, a whisper of eternal joy reaching in from Paradise? Is it death … or is it new birth, in the shock of love, in humility? I was speeding on the subway through the stations of the cross/every eye looking every other way, counting down ‘til the pain will stop… It reads like a song of despair, perhaps, but it sounds… oh dear God, it sounds like a hymn of absolution. The greatest terror we can know is the crumbling of the self, even as we are yearning to break free.

This extraordinary music to say it?? like a glimpse of Heaven – of vision over visibility – a soul in terror collapses, and is lifted up, fleetingly, into homecoming and peace.

The wordless cries, the chanting through the last break recall Peter Gabriel's elegy for Steven Biko. Somehow it is not an inappropriate allusion.

And still the song ends on a fading dissonant chord, hovering in the tension between autonomy and surrender – between will and Grace – not pretending to resolve it.

I have never felt more exposed before God.

How do you follow a sequence like that? The first time I listened to this record, I was tingling, almost shivering after those three songs. But the fourth one made sense. Sunshine, sunshine… apropos of nothing, that gentle opening phrase brings you back to yourself, to meet yourself and to have a chat … with an Unknown Caller. Edge’s guitar recalls that giant victory riff from Walk On – yet this is a song not about walking through an open door, but about hitting a wall. It contemplates the limits of the flesh, and possibilities of the Spirit. All these songs roam all around the unseen and the ineffable, while touching down naturally on the concrete and mundane. Force quit, and move to Trash … You can have a moment of surrender at a bank machine. God reaches you on an unconnected cell phone. Prayer is a password: you know your name so punch it in … God is calling, to remind us of joy, of the still small voice, of new birth … and of God. Restart, and reboot yourself/you’re free to go. It’s whimsical and loving, all at the same time.

Having taken me to the heights and to the depths, they have deposited me lightly back on earth – with a mighty tabernacle amen echoing -- or is that a memory? -- high off in the distance.

No comments:

Post a Comment