Act II... A respite. Three songs filled with light and levity, and music that is (at this point) comfortingly recognizable. But even the fun is in the service of something higher. I Know I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight is a sweetly cajoling call to "Lighten up, everybody!" Because the work of changing the world is hard, long work and you know what? We need spiritual and emotional nourishment.
Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot/How can you stand next to the truth and not see it? For all its cheekiness, Bono fills this song with beautiful couplets apparently inspired by all those footsoldiers in the NGOs, in DATA, in Children of Chernobyl... A change of heart comes slow/it's not a hill, it's a mountain when you start out the climb... Listen for me, I’ll be shouting/Shouting to the darkness/Squeeze out sparks of light...It needn't be dour work, people! Let joy be our sustenance.
Then it's a tumble into the outrageous and visionary Get On Your Boots. After a couple of hearings (before the album's release) I picked up the roll-up-your-sleeves message in the title...it took a few more listens to hear what else is going on.
I think we're revisiting Mysterious Ways, and dozens of other more oblique references to the Divine Feminine -- and the divine in the feminine. Never seen a moon like this... I can't help thinking of Ali, Bono’s radiant wife, in a song like this. I think Bono referred to her once as an inspiration for When I Look at the World, a more sombre meditation on how "you" see things so differently from me. The spirit of Get On Your Boots is similarly deferent, but we should probably add, goofy as only men can be goofy around a beautiful woman. Satan loves a bomb scare but it won't scare you ...
Women of the world, unite! you have nothing to lose but a whole world in chains. It's great fun but also a great homage ... Bossy boots, yeah! (And no, I don’t take that as disparaging.)
Stand Up Comedy carries on subverting political slogans: Come on, ye people, stand up for your love. Love and beauty really are the greatest political causes. I LOVE IT. Say ‘amen,’ somebody! How can you not grin like an idiot to this song?
I feel compelled to comment on what I hear are criticisms of our Rock Star deluxe for comparing himself to Napoleon. I won’t pretend to know Bono’s mind, but Bonaparte happens to be a favourite subject of mine, and the natural (intended) association I made with
Stand up to rock stars
Napoleon is in high heels
Josephine, be careful of small men with big ideas…
was with Napoleon’s imperial ego! He would have loved to be a rock star, are you kidding? The great “man of the people” declared himself Emperor once he took the stage. Hug Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me made a similar, if darker, point. And by the way, Bono isn't exactly a strapping lad himself. Like the man says: Lighten up, people.
Bono gets in a couple of other digs that I personally really enjoy, because they do have serious substance underlying them: But while I’m getting over certainty/Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady. Bull’s-eye! He sings (making like a choir way off in the distance), God is love/And love is evolution’s very best day.
God and evolution in the very same sentence, how ‘bout that? Again I say, AMEN, brother! There’s an emerging concept of God out there that says, Reality is a fluid, relational, ever-changing dynamic – not a fixed order of existence. It says that God is the process of change itself, not the static Absolute around which things change. And that same school of thought/faith says we have to learn to accept ambiguity and uncertainty. "Truth" is not the point: perfect love and thriving life is the point. Love and the urge to newness is God’s nature. This notion of God suggests that God is becoming-ness, rather than static being-ness. Uncertainty is holy – get used to it.
There is more than one affirmation of uncertainty on this record. There are many acknowledgements of being born, and reborn … And it is not talking about being “born again” in the popular and misleading sense. (That’s a problematic theology we’ll discuss another time.) It is about growing, reaching past the known, about "being busy being born," as Dylan says it. God is a fresh encounter every day. This album is all about the shock of that, about both the treasure and the cost of being made new in God's love -- or new in Christ, as we say in my tradition.
Only love can leave such a mark.
Only love can heal such a scar.