I used to feel sorry for Bono. Poor guy never seems to have found what he’s looking for. When The Joshua Tree came out, I was glad for U2 that they were finally becoming popular, though I was a bit concerned I would stop liking their music. For the record, my first U2 albums are all on vinyl; I bought October as soon as it was released, and promptly went out and purchased Boy. I bought each of the next releases, upon their release, re-purchasing the older ones on CD as the vinyl era ended. My last U2 album purchase, however, was Rattle & Hum.

I know I’m approaching sacriledge to many readers, but I haven’t bought a U2 album since… I don’t know if they got too popular for my taste or if I genuinely stopped liking the music, or if I just ran out of money. Probably some combination of those. I’m thinking about their latest one though. I have a weird stance toward music that’s popular… back in the early 80’s it seemed I always used to listen to things that weren’t popular yet and stop when they got popular. Somebody once criticized the music I was listening to on a European import EP one time, and I said, “A year from now, you’ll be listening to this.” A year later it was in the top 40 & not just the band, but the very song we had been listening to. For me, it had already grown old by then and I was onto something else, but I felt vindicated to this person. This was the same person who, though I was not particularly close to God at the time, told me that she could see me being a pastor. I thought she was nuts. Back in 1981 I was reading a review of October in a music magazine, and a friend looked over my shoulder and said, “U2? who listens to U2?” …which I thought at the time was surprising for him to say because nobody had even heard of them yet. And I am musically vindicated once more. I say all this just to try and demonstrate a kind of U2 fandom pedigree so I don’t get lynched or flamed for not buying their last seven albums. Anyhow, they got real popular and I stopped listening, at least for a while (it was the same with me for a host of others, including INXS and Simple Minds, for whom The Breakfast Club soundtrack was a terrible tradgedy of popularity).

Ah, but once again I commit the digressance of reminiscence… back to the point.

The other day I had to visit one of our new remote sites, which necessitated about 2 hours travel time round-trip. I had just installed a new CD/MP3 player in the car (Boxing Day special), finally ditching the cassette. So naturally I was listening to an FM station (??), and they were playing Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For off of Joshua Tree. And I got to thinking. When this first came out, I felt sorry for Bono. I thought at the time maybe he was giving up on Christianity, saying it didn’t work and he needed something else. If he only knew what I knew, if he could just know Christianity the way that I did, he’d be okay, I thought. As I became more charismatic, I thought this even more strongly.

At this point, the FM station started fading in and out and I was losing the song. No problem, I just reached into the console and pulled out Rattle & Hum on CD, cued up the other version of the tune, and continued my thoughts. What was Bono saying at the time? To say the song has Christian overtones (or undercurrents?) is a bit of an understatement. Why is religion unfulfilling? How can pursuit of God come up so dry? Naturally, this is just more deconstruction on my part… sometimes it takes a while to realize that what we’ve found isn’t what we’re looking for. Sometimes where you are is so close, or it’s so much better than where you’ve been, that you want to stop there instead of pressing on for the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. This is the temptation of the oasis to remain in the desert. It used to be that when I encountered people who were frustrated with the church and wanted to leave it, I thought that I knew something about church that they did not. Now I realize the reverse was true.

I remembered how Bono can really turn a phrase. When I graduated college, Rattle & Hum was freshly-released. It was a time when the Vineyard was also fresh and new, and John Wimber was still writing some of the songs, which impacted us significantly at the time (I still have a couple of early Vineyard albums of Vinyl, too). So it was that my senior yearbook writeup read:

I am a wounded soldier…
      I was there when they crucified my Lord;
      I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword.
      I threw the dice when they pierced his side,
      but I’ve seen love conquer the great divide.
…and I will not leave the fight.

So Bono has always been able to turn a phrase, and in ways that have had deep significance for me, so I too can say things like,

I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

And then I realized, I don’t feel sorry for Bono anymore. I think I’ve realized now that while feeling sympathy for the poor bloke who didn’t “get it”, all along, the poor bloke was me. So now I guess I can empathize instead. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for either… but thankfully, I’m back on the trail.

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I’m still running.

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I [believe] it

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…