Tuesday, March 17, 2009

U2's "No Line": 4 motifs-part 3: she spoke in tongues in my ear

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It is often an intriguing path to follow:
Who is the "she" in U2's lyrics?
Wife Ali? His mother? Womankind? Wisdom? Holy Spirit?
The answer is often YES..one leads to the other, no matter where Bono starts.

See "Mysterious Ways," "Luminous Times,"
(and "Dancing Barefoot," even though they didn't write the song")..

"All our songs are about girls or God,Bono has quipped,
and sometimes we get the two mixed up."

By the way, one could track and trek a related question surrounding the who the "you" addresses:
Who do these songs address? Cathleen Falsani is surprised that critics read "I was born to sing for you" in "Magnificent" as a boast to Bono's audience. But the "you" in U2 songs has long been ambiguous. The list of suspects grows longer each album: Is "you" God, a woman, the individual listener, the audience en masse, Bono's bandmates, or Edge's guitar?

The very structure of No Line's best songs reinforces the sense that the true answer is "all of the above.
-Angela Pancella

Back to the "she"..

Now we seem to have a new "she," she of the "girl by the sea" reference in the title track of "No Line on the Horizon." I have a hunch "she," as leitmotif, may be all of the above usual suspects,
but also and primarily something other:

the album itself:as a work of art personified..
as it emerged; revealed itself;
took on identity/life/personality/gender,

I know a girl who’s like the sea
I watch her changing every day for me:

It seems that, more than usual on this project, the shape/theme of the music/lyrics/storyline
morphed almost daily (or at least by recording location) as it emerged, but it continued to serve the band, not master or overtake it.

It seems that, more than usual on this project, the shape/theme of the music/lyrics/storyline
morphed/shapeshifted almost daily (or at least by recording location) as she emerged, but she continued to serve the band, not master or overtake it.

When the first album ("Boy") was done, maybe they passed out cigars and cried, "It's a 'Boy!'"

When this latest album was complete, maybe they gasped and said, "Oh, my goodness; it's a girl!....and there is no line on her horizon."

One day she’s still, the next she swells
You can hear the universe in her sea shells:

If that is not an accurate description of the "ebb and flow" of the music and movement on this record, I don't know what is. Adam has spoken of inserting "White as Snow" at a critical juncture "to give the listener a break." Break from what and to what. From swell to still.
I won't even the strangely symbiotic, maybe fractal, interrelationship between "Moment of Surrender" and "Get on Your Boots"..

I know a girl with a hole in her heart
She said infinity’s a great place to start:

The "hole in heart" is pretty obviously a nod to Pascal's classic maxim
("There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”)
which Bono has paraphrased before ("looking for the fill my God-shaped hole," in "Mofo").
But this project was birthed in awareness of both the hole and its infinite depths,
and the horizon and its infinite potential. That's a great way to start an album.

(She said,)“Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear”
Then she put her tongue in my ear

Of course, as we have discussed in part 2, the first line of this cozy couplet is classic physics,
and darn good Kingdom theology.
It is even more:

It is the interpretive key to interpretation of the album.

And life itself.

As we discussed extensively
last time, the trajectory and arc of the storyline is not linear.
We should not be surprised, she (the album) tipped us off to that in the first song,
which had to be the first song,
so that in a linear way,
she could tell us that the timeline was non linear.
The second line, uh.....I'd better leave to better U2theologians than me:

"It hits me that of course you could immediately invoke the title cut of "No line" as partaking of the standard U2 apophatic spirit: "Time is irrelevant/it's not linear"; the farthest we can imagine, "infinity," is nothing but a "place to start." However, I find it interesting (and very U2ey; let's not over-spiritualize this one! But still...) that we're told the bearer of this message immediately becomes physically intimate with the narrator."
-Beth Maynard

Time is irrelevant, it's not linear / Then she put her tongue in my ear." The "she" in these lyrics could be referring to a woman, a female personified thought, God, etc. Who knows with U2! In any case, Bono
gets his kicks from the sense that time is not linear. In non-linear time, there is no such thing as past and future. There is only continuous flow of "now." The "past" is simply a former "now." The "future" is simply a coming "now." The only time that exists is "now." There is no great origin that we're moving from. There is no final conclusion we're moving toward. There is no coming eschatological time on the horizon. Or said in a different way, "there is no line on the horizon." There is only "now." Living fully in the "now" is ultimately important. Now is the only time we have. Now is life. Now is our home. Now is the time to enjoy life. Now is the time to fall in love. Now is the time to live life to the fullest. Now is when God is. Now is sacred. Now is the moment of eschatological hope. Marty Haugen emphasized the theological importance of "now" in his hymn, "Here In This Place." The lyrics read: "Not in the dark of buildings confining / Not in some heaven, light years away / But here in this place the new light is shining / Now is the Kindom now is the day." When Haugen and U2 agree on something, it must be right! Time is truly irrelevant when the only time that matters is right now. And that is a sexy thought. I can see why it feels sensuous like someone licking your ear.
-Sara and Brian, emphasis mine

It just had to be a "she" speaking in tongues into's Bono's ear.

And as the record/recording process did that, Bono was elevated into new levels of profound and inevitably sexy/sexual
insight about life.

Part 4 (how linear is that?) coming up

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