Songs of Innocence 3: Every Breaking Wave

I’ve just been watching Bono and U2 performing Every Breaking Wave on BBC2:

U2 Every Breaking Wave

U2 Every Breaking Wave

A stunning version – Bono’s voice arguably at its best ever.

I am still getting my head around the meaning – it reminds me of Pop’s Staring At The Sun – people chasing after what looks like it matters but it doesn’t really matter and thereby missing the point.
With Every Breaking Wave this line stands out for me… “I thought I heard the captain’s voice, it’s hard to listen while you preach, like every broken wave on the shore, this is as far as I could reach.”

I hear this as a call to humility for those who preach or wander around with their lists of certitudes about God.
One, we only think we hear The Captain’s voice, we still have to take care that we offer caution when we think we hear things clearly – the voice is not often clear – if it was we would become tyrants!  I think that God and God alone is able to bear such power and remain healthy – the technique being dying to self!

Two, it is hard to listen when you are doing the talking and have centre stage… be careful if a community has given you authority to speak.  I figure this has been Bono’s hardest lesson given who he cavorts with!  There’s a great story of Bono meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu and suggesting that ‘Arch’ must have his prayer time squeezed with all he does… Tutu’s reply was that he has to pray longer given what responsibility he carries – in other words – if you are preaching you have to double the listening. ‘One mouth, two ears’ is one of my personal mottoes that I generally fail to keep!

Three: whatever we think we know about God is incredibly limited.  We cannot reach further than what the breaking wave can up the shoreline… we have to live with that and reckon with that – but it is enough.  Another of my mottoes is – ‘I don’t know much but I know enough to know’ – but I admit it is barely enough – thus before those limits I am called to be humble and careful; to listen and to know my limitations.

Great song!

Songs of Innocence 2: The Troubles


Apparently U2 are working on another album called Songs of Experience – it seems as if they have prepared listeners for this with the bittersweet tone of the last group of Songs of Innocence.  The album starts buoyantly but ends with some haunting themes – one (in Sleep Like A Baby Tonight) is clergy abuse – two (in The Troubles) is domestic violence. The haunting chant sung by Swedish singer Lykke Li says it all…’Somebody stepped inside your soul, little by little they robbed and stole till someone else was in control.’  It is so utterly sad and the musicality provides the perfect platform for this haunting.  Yet it is also hopeful – Bono wrestles hope from the chant – ‘I have a will for survival’ – ‘God knows it’s not easy taking on the shape of someone else’s pain, God now you can see me, I’m naked and I’m not afraid, my body’s sacred and I’m not ashamed.’  Beautiful hope!  I guess that the strange album cover with Larry protecting his son indicates why the band have embarked on this theme – when U2 were young they were aware of being surrounded by various forms of violence. Maybe they are bringing the past into the light in the hope of a better day for their children’s generation.  I wonder how Songs of Experience will deal with the difference between hope and reality – especially in an Ireland that is economically hard-hit in a similar way to when they were young.