Saturday, March 21, 2009

“diachronic historical enquiry" and the world in me

The Exile posted a helpful piece on the new U2 and its place in future history:

The Embarrassment of Premature Evaluation

[Yes, the innuendo is intentional.]

When I was a student pursuing my Masters degree, one of my history professors used to warn us against what he called “diachronic historical enquiry,” by which he meant comparing the thoughts of a prominent figure in one period with those of another who lived many years earlier. The reason for this danger, he insisted, was that when a few centuries separate the men under consideration, it’s very difficult to compare them with any objectivity due to their different time periods.

The same is true with U2 (to a much smaller degree, of course). The desire to compare and contrast NLOTH with The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby is almost impossible while NLOTH is still so new. The reason for this, I think, is that not enough time has elapsed for the new songs to take on the iconic, even mythical qualities that surround the tracks on JT and AB. In other words, many of the same criticisms that people are leveling upon NLOTH (especially when comparing it with U2’s two masterpieces) could have, and probably were, made about all their albums when they were brand new...
It hit me that as much as I love "No Line," and agree with Beth that "it's an album -- which almost makes me want to say, 'If U2 were to quit after this, it would be all right,

I am not sure it does/will rank with JT and AB as a masterpiece.
It just might.

But what helped me grasp it was a line from "Rejoice": "I can't change the world; but I can change the world in me."

"No Line" may not change the world the way JT did ("Still Haven't Found," "Streets, etc"),
but it already has, and will, change the world in me. And maybe that's what matters most.
Beth says of the album, particularly of "Breathe":

"But all this is not just easy triumphalism; it's rooted in the 'every day' task of getting up and doing what needs to be done in a world that is as crazy as those verses."

"Be the change you want to be in the world," Ghandi once said and Bono often quotes.
Somehow I intuitively know that NLOTH is taking me there.
Whether it takes anyone else there would be fantastic, but must also be irrelevant to me.

Even though they are poor souls for not getting that this is a classic, world-changing album(:

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!