Love Made Flesh: The Christmas Philosophy of a Busking Bono
December 26, 2012 · Print This Article
Bono has a thing for Christmas, having called it the “Carnival in the cold.” Bono adds music and many meanings to this holy hybrid of the sacred and the secular, the cozy and the commercial.
For a moment on Monday, we thought the U2 news-blast of the 2012 Christmas season was going to be the length of Adam’s hair. Or the release by U2.com of a new live version of “Angel of Harlem.”
But then Bono changed all that by showing up for his annual busking gig on the streets of Dublin, in an upscale shopping area called Grafton Street.
Joined this year by Glen Hansard and Lisa Hannigan and others, Bono busked for donations to the Simon Community (http://www.dubsimon.ie) and indulged us with a set that included: 1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home); 2. I Believe in Father Christmas; 3. Silent Night; 4. Desire/Not Fade Away. A YouTube version of the full show is here: http://youtu.be/9kZNGSP88lg
To see a bazillionaire big-shot rock star of Bono’s backstory becoming a busker, if even for a mere few minutes surrounded by adoring fans and clicking cameras, brings to the front of our consciousness the common Christmas theme of social reversals and sacred inversions that form the core of the religious narrative for this festive holy day.
Back in 2005, with the release of the book In Conversation With Michka Assayas, Bono reveals his own amazing interpretation of the religious nature of Christmas myth with a personal and theological story of his own Christmas re-conversion:
“I remember coming back from a very long tour. I hadn’t been at home. Got home for Christmas, very excited of being in Dublin. […] On Christmas Eve, I went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.[…] It’s kind of a tradition on Christmas Eve to go, but I’d never been.
I went to this place, sat. I was given this really bad seat, behind one of the huge pillars. I couldn’t see anything. I was sitting there, having come back from Tokyo, or somewhere like that. I went for the singing, because I love choral singing. […]
But I was falling asleep, being up for a few days, traveling, because it was a bit boring, the service, and I just started nodding off. […] Then I started to try and keep myself awake studying what was on the page. It dawned on me for the first time, really. It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story.
The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in shit and straw…a child… I just thought: ‘Wow!’ Just the poetry … Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this. […]
Love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. To me, it makes sense. It’s actually logical. It’s pure logic. Essence has to manifest itself. It’s inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh.”
Rock music’s interesting relationship with Christmas gets revived with all the holiday releases each year. And in Bono’s case this year, it comes to us in the form of a rugged hand-made video clip, in the form of a busking rich man, in the form of reflecting with Bono on the deeper essence of the season. May this Christmas time be one of love, logic, and re-conversion for U2 fans and everyone, everywhere.
—Andrew William Smith, Editor