Yesterday, I decided to introduce my six-year old to U2. I had How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in the car (yes, an honest to goodness CD – I am ancient, clearly), and popped it in. “What’s this?” she asked. “U2,” I answered. “YouTube?” she asked, incredulously. But after getting the band name straightened out, she decided that she liked “Vertigo,” the opening track on the album. Which meant that she begged me to put it on endless repeat, just like she does every time she discovers a new favorite song. So while driving her around town today, I heard that song more than ten times in a row. She was right – it didn’t get old. Instead, it unfolded, becoming more interesting the more I listened to it. She liked how they sang, “Hello, hello” in the beginning, and how it was fast, and how all the guys in the band shout together at some points.
As for myself – I move in and out of a spiritual state like the one described in the song, and I found a lot of phrases worth latching onto, not least, “It’s everything I wish I didn’t know…” Listening to the song on repeat gave me the opportunity to cycle through the overwhelmingness of everything that is wrong with the world and myself into the mysteriousness of God’s presence into gratitude for the Love that is teaching me how to kneel, even as my mind continues to wander. How could my desires continue to be so disordered after so many years of seeking and finding? Some days, I hardly know what to make of myself, in light of St. Paul’s advice that Christians should consider themselves “dead to sin.” Like dear old John Wesley, I have to wonder sometimes if I am saved after all. Honestly, it comes as a relief that Bono, who is clearly at least as God haunted as I am, and almost 15 years older, is still working out this stuff too – or at least he is still writing about it. Obviously, I could get these insights elsewhere, say Teresa of Avila for instance – but Teresa of Avila does not have 5 minute pop songs that endlessly amuse my kindergartener while I muse on God, sin, and the spiritual life.
Maybe the fifth cassette (Cassettes! Remember cassettes? No?) that I bought was the earliest purchase that I still listen to: Joshua Tree. I was 14. I spent a truly obnoxious amount of time alone in my room, listening to it over and over again. For months. And then I spent all of my allowance buying up all of their earlier albums. Also on cassette.
I think that the days are behind me when I could happily listen to nothing but U2. But I haven’t tried it lately, so it may be possible. There are a lot of bands that I have outgrown – their music is still fun, or even interesting, but the lyrics are juvenile, or insulting, or boring, or repetitive… As I look at my collection of CDs, U2 is one of those bands whose lyrics have staying power. Good thing, too. Looks like I am going to be listening to U2 for the next few months whenever my daughter is in the car – or at least I’ll be listening to “Vertigo.”