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Old 05-06-2009, 08:27 AM   #1
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The Spiritual Journey of One Man

So I've always been interested in Bono's spiritual path, and that of the band in general. It's what brought me to their music. Having done a lot of searching myself, I find it fascinating to see what a man 20 years my senior has to say about such matters... I'll approach it chronologically. We'll call it the spiritual development of Bono:

In the beginning, U2 had the youthful exuberance. I Will Follow, Gloria. The exhaltation of the Lord, etc. Just bringing that young energy into the realm of the spirit. That transitioned into their heaviest punk/activist/riled-up youth era in War, and the first twinges of yearning as heard on "40."

As we know, the band had serious doubts about continuing. Can we serve God while being in a rock band? Will this ruin my chances of salvation or finding what I'm looking for?

They chose to stick it out, lucky for us. Fast forward to the Joshua Tree, where I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For comes out. The exuberance has transformed into sheer yearning and pleading.

Then we hear a shift-- as indicated by the song Desire. I mean, comeon, spiritually speaking that's pretty significant. He's embracing desire and sexuality, though other songs continue that yearning. Love Rescue Me, e.g.

Then in Achtung Baby there is more embracing of the material, as heard on Zoo Station and Even Better. "Ready to let go of the steering wheel" and "Slide down the surface of things." I would argue that the personas from ZooTV are more of a way for Bono to embrace other sides of his own personality... a way to let go of his holier than thou side. A way to "ease" into it. Of course, the shadow side pops up as well, as seen in Acrobat-- his "split personality" of wanting God and wanting the World.

On Zooropa, "I've been hiding. What have I been hiding from?" You can tell he's embraced the world--diving in, in fact.

But of course there's a turning point too. The Wanderer is good in this regard. "To taste and to touch and to feel as much as a man can before he repents" How far can he go?

In Pop, we hear signs of despair. Discoteque, Gone. "I'm already gone. Felt that way all along..." He's given up. Then "I'm alone in this world, and a fucked up world it is too" on WUDM. He's in so deep with the band, feels like he's given up his spiritual life. What can he do!? Prayer of a broken man.
***
The VERY NEXT SONG we hear on a U2 album is Beautiful Day. My question is "What happened!?" I would argue Grace or Salvation. Something gave way, and if I ever met Bono in person I would want to hear the story. My guess is that God helped him to see that he didn't have to be Jesus or anyone else. He was doing his job perfectly, and all shall be well. His role is to "be" Bono. Then of course, we also hear that song Grace.

I want to conclude this with a line from NLOTH. From Breathe he says "I found Grace inside a sound. I found Grace, that's all I found!... and now I can breathe..." This seems to me to be a direct statement of something I'd been curious about for a long time, and can also be seen as an answer to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," in a way. Also, it somewhat validates my opinion that in finding Grace he learned that through music (remember his quote about Amazing Grace, "how sweet the SOUND" always fascinated him?), he was doing his job...

Anyway, this went on a lot longer than I meant, but if anyone wants to jump in with thoughts I'd greatly appreciate it.
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Old 05-06-2009, 09:08 AM   #2
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hmm .... very interesting. I think that something definitely happened between Pop and ALTYCLB.

Bono went from "Badass Bono" to "Nice activist Bono"

I personally like badass bono more, but there might have been a spiritual awakening between these 2 albums. ??
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Old 05-06-2009, 09:17 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zooropop40 View Post
Bono went from "Badass Bono" to "Nice activist Bono"
I wouldn't agree with this assessment, but I agree there was definately a change that occured between the two albums...

But it wasn't something overnight it was a gradual change you can see throughout their career. I think Pop was a slight turn toward a darker time, that's why the change seems to be so extreme.
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Old 05-06-2009, 09:24 AM   #4
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Interesting topic. Shame I have to go and won't be on the forum for the next days. I hope there won't be any more Bono bashing here, because it's an issue I'm very much intersted in, mostly because of my own spiritual journey. I think starting to deal with the Africa issue changed the man A LOT, more than most people would assume.
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Old 05-06-2009, 10:50 AM   #5
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I guess my main question would be, do you think he had a profound spiritual experience between Pop and ATYCLB? Something that would fuel the change from songs such as Gone and Wake Up Dead Man, to songs like Beautiful Day and Grace?
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Old 05-06-2009, 11:10 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Dr. Lemonseed View Post
I guess my main question would be, do you think he had a profound spiritual experience between Pop and ATYCLB? Something that would fuel the change from songs such as Gone and Wake Up Dead Man, to songs like Beautiful Day and Grace?
I really don't think it was one profound awakening. I think his whole career we can see a boy who had faith(October) as he got older started to ask the deeper questions(ISHFWILF) and then a gradual continuance of growth.

I don't think Pop is as dark spiritually as some think it is... Bono spoke a lot about how the Psalms were the blues of the Bible back then, I think Pop was just him accepting the fact that it's OK to yell up at the sky and ask why... I think this was actually a big step for him, I think before he was scared to do so...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Lemonseed View Post
He's given up. Then "I'm alone in this world, and a fucked up world it is too" on WUDM. He's in so deep with the band, feels like he's given up his spiritual life. What can he do!? Prayer of a broken man.
Personally I don't think Gone is about his spiritual journey as much as it is his accepting he's a rock star, I actually find hints of optimism in the song.

Two things you have to understand about WUDM, first of all the chorus and concept date back to the AB sessions, and secondly the first lines Edge wrote. I don't find it to be a giving up.
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Old 05-06-2009, 05:18 PM   #7
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Very good discussion on an issue that has been discussed extensively on U2 fansites - Bono's spiritual evolution.


I have posted similar comments to Dr. Lemonseed's in previous years both here @ Interference & elsewhere so I won't rehash my own ideas too much but the "Drop the Debt" movement of the late 1990's and its foundation in the Biblical concept of "the jubilee year" of forgiving another's debts had a PROFOUND effect on Bono on many levels.




Combined with that, his fascination with Eugene Peterson's "The Message" at the same time as the "Drop the Debt" movement - and you have some of the elements of the current metamorphis of the B-man's spirituality.



My favorite lyrics off of NLOTH is Bono's references to finding Grace within a song and of how his belief in that Grace has allowed him to BREATHE in life.

Bono has already said that "Breathe" is his personal favorite from NLOTH & as autobiographical of a song on NLOTH as we're gonna find.



"Magnificent" & "Breathe"



Dr. Lemonseed, do you ever check out "The Goal is Soul" forum? You would probably find the threads there very interesting.
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Old 05-06-2009, 05:23 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by zooropop40 View Post

Bono went from "Badass Bono" to "Nice activist Bono"


Whatever happened to "Badass Bono"?



^Okay, maybe he was just young and angry...but I always thought that this was the best part of R&H.
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Old 05-06-2009, 07:32 PM   #9
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I think the change from Pop to ALTYCLB had a lot to do with the fact that U2 felt that Pop was unsuccessful, and thus wanted to change and go back to basics... which meant less experimentation as a band and less experimentation for Bono with his characters and personalities. (i.e. the fly, macphisto, and even his affect during Popmart). this caused Bono to go back to a more basic, respectful, and more "normal" personality.

Second, I think the whole activism and Africa thing helped to change him too. I dont know if it was anything religious, but those 2 factors alone changed his personality...

just my $ 0.02
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Old 05-06-2009, 09:53 PM   #10
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There's one part of one song on ATYCLB that always struck me as the tie that both bound and explained the transition from what we were hearing in POP to the band's more earthy approach on the latter album.

On Kite, Bono takes a beat to reflect back on their previous work. Most of ATYCLB spoke on current feelings, looking forward, not backward. This part was different:

"Did I waste it?
Not so much I couldn't taste it.
Life should be fragrant,
rooftop to the basement.

The last of the rock stars,
when hip-hop drove the big cars,
in a time when new media
was the big idea.
That was the big idea..."

Whatever else Kite meant to Bono or to the fans, these lines struck me as a mea culpa from Bono, a statement that screamed of a loss that was so close to having happened that it may as well have.

With Achtung and POP (and Passengers), U2 had spent enormous amounts of energy chopping down that Joshua Tree, redefining their sound, pushing the envelope, and in a way, pushing a lot of their fans away.

When R&H was in full swing, U2 began to feel some backlash from the public for being too big, too earnest, too idealistic. For being too unabashedly themselves, in a way. 'Three Chords and the Truth" may have been an honest statement about their skill and their purpose, but for some it reeked of sanctimony.

That backlash hit Bono hard. He had gotten the recognition all rock stars wanted. He wrote his heart out on a wealth of songs, actually moving from sketches to full-blown masterworks, and he was beloved for a time. He was the real thing..

... and then the fickle public got tired, and looked for cracks. Bono was confronted by his own rock mortality when the public - or at least part of it - needed him to be even better than the real thing.

His reaction was that of any kid whose known abandonment, by the death of family or otherwise - he backed off, internalized it, decided to rid himself of the guise that both got him so much love and so much cynicism at the same time. He developed a negative personality, a photo-negative of all that he was before. The plastic pants, the bug glasses, the muscle shirts, the smirking, the posing.

He pushed back at the critics, and showed them that he could redirect the force of their critique into art, and he knew, deep down, that those truly loyal U2 fans, those who earnestly and honestly believed in those Three Chords, would follow faithfully.

POPmart, perhaps, may have pushed it too far.

AB sand of heartbreak and doubt, but underneath it all was hope. POP was an album that meandered along the brink of spiritual despair, and the tour's gaudiness, while completely tongue-in-cheek, may have been to good an act. Some of the faithful faltered, just as Bono was faltering, and you have to believe he felt the loss.

Bono wrote once that he knew something was wrong with him because he needed the cheering of 20,000 people to feel normal. U2 got big enough to entertain three times that number each night, and yet POP wasn't filling the stands as it used to.

Something was stirring amongst the faithful, and Bono could taste it.

Being the Best used to mean being the Biggest as far as U2 were concerned. The two were so intertwined, maybe Bono got them confused for a second. And when the masses died down to mere mortal numbers, maybe he started to feel less.. normal. Maybe he started to believe all those ironic twists, just a little, maybe he saw the Joshua Tree had fallen in the desert, maybe Michael Hutchance's blazing mortality showed him that U2 had risked a little too much.

ATYCLB was, in Bono's words, a re-application for the status of biggest band in the world. What I think he meant was, it was an effort to shed all the superficialities they had dressed up in over the years, so that both they and the public could see for sure that they while it would take work to be the biggest, they were always the best, and they knew the difference.

He didn't waste it, but he saw the writing on the wall. POP was about the last of the honest rock stars going through a crisis of faith in a time when no one was listening to rock music anymore. It was a good idea, it was a big idea.. but they didn't need big anymore.

So Bono and the boys played small clubs, played live TV, stripped down the production and turned up the earnestness. The same earnestness that had America sneering at them for getting to big during the R&H days. But this time, U2 mixed that idealism with humility and soul, and turned in an album that was, for me, the equivalent of a spurned lover coming back home to beg for his place back in bed.

The experiment in examining darkness and irony and cynicism was over, because really, life should be fragrant.
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Old 05-07-2009, 03:03 PM   #11
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Does anyone else remember the story Bono told in U2 by U2 about his cancer scare? He said that the doctor found a mass in his throat during the recording of ATYCLB (I think in 1999) and Bono was so scared by it that he didn't tell anyone about it. It turned out to be nothing serious, but it seems that this episode made him think about his own mortality more, along with the fact that he was about to turn 40. Plus, I think he said in the book that his dad had been diagnosed with cancer around this time, so it was really on his mind. All of these things might have had an influence on the change from Pop to ATYCLB, especially if you consider a song like "Kite."

Spiritually, the tone seems to have changed from asking God, "Where are You?" to saying "I need You."
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