Tuesday, March 10, 2009

U2's "No Line": 5 meta motifs (and a sign from God)-part 1

"But I don't want to say "hello,"
YOU are supposed to take the initiative, and greet me first!
That's why I'm here."

That's what I said to myself today at the
drive-through today, upon seeing this sign:

I understand the reasoning; for some reason (not enough video camera coverage?),
the workers at this fine restaurant are not omniscient, and may not take the initiative to speak first.

But they are supposed to!

I just googled to see if this is a common phenomenon,
and found the post "Perspective From a Long John Silver's Drive-Thru Cashier":

My experience working at Long John Silver's was a marvelous year. I actually learned a lot about fast food....sake, read and learn what not to do or say to cashiers.... Another thing that is considered one of the rude things at drive-thru is to act like no one has waited on you. For example: "Thank you for choosing Long John Silvers, how may I help you?" Then the customer might just ignore you or say "give me a minute". That's alright, but when ready to order never say, "Hello?" or "Anybody there?". The cashier will most usually not like you after that. Elderly people are sometimes excused for hearing problems. The most annoying thing that has happened to me is when customers knock on the window, and more than once is really bad...
Yeah, not only is it wrong, but rude for me to yell "hello" to the magic box.
"I am ready to order," I said.

A minute later, the voice boomed,
"Are you ready to order?"

They never heard my initiative, anyway!

What does all that have to do with the new U2 CD?
If you grant the cheap analogy, as much as everything:

One could make the case that the whole message of "No Line on the Horizon" is:
the Kingdom has come to earth, but not yet fully so yet....
therefore, even though we can expect glorious experiences of God breaking through,
it won't always feel like God's voice is taking the initiative...
even though it does.
If only we could more consistently tune into it. "Let me in the sound, God."

I would like to look at the trajectory and narrative arc of the lyrics...and significantly, the images and music, the sound through these theological grids;

-the sound of God
-divine initiative
-spiritual stillness
-the nonlinear nature of life and spirituality
-now and not yetness

These motifs need to be plotted ("plotting some plot," as the cop in "No Line" schemes) on a Venn diagram, they of necessity overlap and are ocasionally synonymous.

Of course, a Venn diagram, by definition, subverts linearity, as the lines overlap.

And well follow up on my drive-through illustration under point 2 (I just can't be linear).


Even before the album was released, I was guessing from the single ("Get On Your Boots")
and it's "let me in the sound" prayer of persisteverance that this would be a permeating theme:

The "sound" to me is:

  • the musical, mystical sound Bono has often mentioned: "looking for a sound to drown out the world."
  • a reference to string theory ("The universe is at base, sound/music" -Len Sweet), and thus:
  • a cry to be let into God's sound/voice/strings at its very creation, core, and chaotic creativity. (See "The Divine Voice," an amazing theology of sound, and Sweet's seminal "Summoned to Lead"). Perhaps we can only hear/see God's voice/sound when we pray/act in holy synesthesia...some amazing biblical precedence there.
  • link
It turned out to be! Not only does the "let me in the sound" invocation show up three times ("Fez,"), we also hear that Bono (or his character in "Breathe") has "found grace inside a/the sound" (Beth brilliantly suggest the "a/the"), and hear that we are indeed "people born of sound." THAT is excellent string theory!

“Acoustemology..an exploration of sonic sensibilities, specifically of ways in which sound is central to making sense, to knowing, to experiential truth. "

"It's time church leaders developed a philosophy of soundness, even a sound spirituality..

..One doesn't see a vison, one sees a vision."

-Leonard Sweet, "Summoned to Lead"

That last line is loaded, and introduces us to an interpetretive key to the album...and to life:

Jesus had holy synesthesia and wants to infect us with it!

For several years now, U2 have been rumored to feature on tour
breakthrough holosonic technology--"sound spotlights."

We in the church have often been more concerned with sound doctrine and sound mind
(good and godly things), but at the expense of a sound theology of sound.

-"Let me in the theoacoustic/holosonic Sound, God

And how we even forget to remember to pray the prayer to be let into such sound..

And this leads...in fairly linear fashion, amazingly, to theme #2:


"I was born to sing for You/I didn't have a choice but to lift You up"
How "Calvinist" is that?
Maybe Bono was predestined to have free will"
Or maybe Wesley was right:
"Freedom of the will? Ha! Free only to do evil."

Isaiah (chapter 6) heard the sound/voice of God: "Who will go for me?"
The unsolicited (unless God always shows up, and sounds off, when Uzziahs die, and we turn contemplative in the temple) "auditory vision."
The Holy Sound spoke first.
As per the norm.
The Holy Sound sounded as if he were willing for anyone listening to be the chosen responder.
As per the norm and form of divine initiative.

Samuel (I Sam 3) heard the Sound/Voice three times.
The unsolicited (unless sleeping in the church, as young Sam was doing, was invitation enough to God's voice) call came at night.
The Holy Sound took clear initiative in the beckoning.
He always does.
The Holy Sound even risked being misheard as the voice of the only human/very human priest/pastor (Eli).
He always does.

John on Patmos (Rev 1) , with a wild case of "holy synesthesia"
turns to "see the voice" of Jesus.
How does one see a voice?
He must have at some point taken the initiative to seek God's initiative.
He was a Calviminian.
As is God.
That is sound theology.

The "Unknown Caller" places an unsolicited (unless being a desperate person is itself an invitation for Someone to speak) call to the character in the song of the same name.
There was "no signal at all,"
or was there?

It should go without saying that the "3:33" time reference in the song is a reference to what Bono calls "God's phone number":

"Call unto me, and I will tell you great and magnificent things that you do not know"
-Jeremiah 3:33

Divine initiative. Even though it appears that we make the first call,
it's really a call back.
All calls are.
All "calls from home" are.

One should dovetail in here tme mind-bending, and time-bending
Isaih 65:24: "Before you call, I have already answered"

Wow, is that divine initiative, or not?.
It also suggests that "time is irrelevant; it's not linear."
But that's another album lyric.
And topic #4 (I'm ahead of myself).
But suffice to say the Kingdom of God by definition
IS time travel.
See "Time Travel: Sabbath Novels, Clockless Monasteries,Toyota Corollas and the Gospel of the Kingdom"

God is longing to meet us in the sound, but we miss out wait for him by sight.
And we never see the voice that speaks:
"Shush now...Rise up...Shout for joy...Restart...You're free to go"

I am making the assumption here, and throughout the album, the group singing/chanting (or other than U2 voices)
sections signify that the speaker is God. This helps immensely, in interpreting, for example, "Return the call from home" in "Cedars of Lebanon."

The call home /Home is always a return call.
Home has always called first.
Divine initiative initiates.
The Sound can do no other.
Of course, many will pick up the biblical reference in the title of "Cedars of Lebanon":

The voice (sound) of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice (sound) of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is magnificent.
The voice (sound) of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

-Psalm 29: 3-5

That Soundstorm is radical divine initiative.
The Sound of Yahweh is like that.
Breaks cedars, breaks wills.
Not necessarily against our will, but sometimes without it.
Whic is precisely why "this shitty world sometimes produces a rose"
Even in Lebanon.

Even when someone/Someone knocks on your door...an unsolicted solictor...with the promise to reveal "three things that'll keep you alive." ("Breathe").

Why would I "let a complete stranger(like that) into my home?"



"Sound confronts us with interiority, Craig Matson suggests,"To hear is to relinquish our place as sovereign spectators and managers in the world and to position ourselves in medias res as morally obligated and mortally vulnerable hearers of the word."

Bono free-associates his thoughts on the album:
"Lifeforce, joy, innovation, emotional honesty, analogue not digital, home-made not pro-tooled, unique sonic landscape... Soul music for the frenzied, rock music for the still."

How does one "teach me to surrenferbe still"
How do the frenzied get to "shush now"?

By sabbath.

Which is also time travel.
Time is that irrelevant.
The Sabbath is made for
time travel,
not time travel for the sabbath.

But unless we

"Hear (God)/Cease to speak/That (God) may speak,"
we cannot "Hush now."

Such is the corporate, corporal voicesound/soundprint of God in "Unknown Caller"
Which is also paraphrase of Psalm 46:10.

But what of Caller-God's advice to "Escape gravity"?
Simple (!) and sound physics again.
The relationship between space/time curvature and gravity is well known.
But why let all the physicists have all the fun.
Christianity as a branch of physics,
after all.

It's only as we get out of our zone/realm/earthly kingdom that we hear/see the cedar-smashing sound of God's future voice now. In such times, for all practical purposes, there IS no line (linear or otherwise)
on the horizon.

"The minute I think of Christ and myself as separate,"Luther preached, "I am sunk."

Sunk: "God, I'm going down/I don't wanna drown/Let me in the sound Sound"

Kierkegaard tells a parable:

"A man thought prayer was talking to God.
Then he prayed.
And he discovered prayer was God talking to him."

Even if the "grace inside the sound"of the voice is;

"shush now."

Time to time-travel and sabbath-travel via Kingdom-listening prayer:

Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time. Unlike the space-minded man to whom time is unvaried, iterative, homogeneous, to whom all hours are alike, quality-less, empty shells, the Bible senses the diversified character of time. There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.
Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn; a shrine that even apostasy cannot easily obliterate: the Day of Atonement. According to the ancient rabbis, it is not the observance of the Day of Atonement, but the Day itself, the "essence of the Day," which, with man's repentance, atones for the sins of man.
Jewish ritual may be characterized as the art of significant forms in time, as architecture of time. Most of its observances--the Sabbath, the New Moon, the festivals, the Sabbatical and the Jubilee year--depend on a certain hour of the day or season of the year. It is, for example, the evening, morning, or afternoon that brings with it the call to prayer. The main themes of faith lie in the realm of time. We remember the day of the exodus from Egypt, the day when Israel stood at Sinai; and our Messianic hope is the expectation of a day, of the end of days....

The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.
-Rabbi Abraham Heschel.
"Shabbat as a Sanctuary in Time:The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals, the Jewish equivalent of sacred architecture."

-for the story of the photo, see: "raging chutzpah, sabbath elevators, bibliolatry and missionality"
It has been suggested that the first notes keyboard flourish and then the achingly beautiful Crazy Horse meets Gilmour guitar solo that conclude "Unknown Caller" intentionally echo the hymn"How Wonderful, How Marvelous (My Savior's Love For Me)."

I wouldn't be surprised.

It's the sound of music; it's the Aslan-ic "roar on the other side of silence."

4)the nonlinear nature of life and spirituality
5)now and not yetness


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