Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Buy Steve Harmon's book yesterday..
can't live without it (More on the song at hand here, here , here,
and aqui).


The band’s most successful single ever is one of those yearning songs. “With or Without You” from The Joshua Tree (1987) gives voice to the yearning for a difficult relationship to be other than it is. (It makes me feel really old to realize that when “With or Without You” was in heavy radio rotation late in the spring of my freshman year in college, many college undergraduate readers of this book weren’t even born!) Various non-lyrical aspects of the song evoke yearning: The Edge’s ethereal, whistle-like infinite sustain guitar notes; Adam’s relentlessly pulsating bass line; the pleading wail of Bono’s voice in the final chorus; and Larry’s drumming that in the studio album version seems to pick up steam in the final few bars and drive toward something beyond the song, even as The Edge in minimalist fashion resists a grand finish and everything else is winding down and fading away.


Bono wrote “With or Without You” during a period when he was torn between artistic creativity and the responsibilities of family life, and he felt he was losing his creative muse—“on a bed of nails she makes me wait.” But like all U2 songs, no one explanation, not even the original inspiration of a song, can exhaust the song’s multiple layers of meaning. At one level it can be taken as a song about the pain of fallen relationships and about responding in a Christlike manner when the other hurts us—“And you give/And you give/And you give yourself away.” At another level the song can be heard in light of broken ecclesial relationships. Bono didn’t have the quest for Christian unity in the midst of the church’s current divisions in mind when he wrote the song, but that application doesn’t do violence to the way it explores the eschatology of interpersonal relationships.

“With or Without You” takes a cliché—“can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em”—and turns it into a truth about the contradictions of relationships. We often find it impossible to live with the other, and yet the truth is that we can’t live without the other, because the other belongs to our very identity as persons-in-relationship. That’s true of human relationships in general, and it’s true of relationships within the body of Christ in particular. Because we’re one body, because we’re members of one another, we can’t live without another member of the body of Christ...
-Steve Harmon, link


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!