Princess Strokenham (fiveandfour) wrote in u2,
Princess Strokenham

The U2 Philosophy

I find myself feeling the same emotions in this stage of U2's career as I did when The Joshua Tree exploded onto the scene: alternately proud and despairing. Back then, I was half thrilled that more people would finally pay some attention to them because they were good, damn it, and they deserved it. But I was also fearful and sad about the potential backlash and all the other downsides that larger fame can bring. (Not to mention selfishly concerned about the fact that there'd be no more chances to see them in small least for a long time to come.)

When I refer to "this stage" of their career, I mean this stage where they've been around a significant amount of time and still together, still doing quality work, still attracting an audience - and thus "worthy" of attention in the way that bands like the Rolling Stones are deemed "worthy". The band history is reviewed ad nauseum every time they do something new. The present work is constantly put into context of both the group's history and the larger music scene they are a part of. It never just "is" in the way that new work just "is" when it's released by most other artists.

But then there's this unique aspect that I've never seen with other bands: this thing of preaching their music in churches and examining their messages in books. I've been partly fascinated and proud that people are taking them seriously. And partly afraid that it'll calcify them or push them into a corner, or perhaps reduce them into something smaller than what they are, even when that's the opposite of what all those authors and preachers are attempting to do.

All of that was a lead up to say that today I came across U2 and Philosophy: How to Decipher an Atomic Band while browsing at the bookstore. I was wary. I thought, "Here we go again..." But I read part of the first essay anyway, comparing some of their early works to Plato and Platonic ideals, and it didn't seem to have much teeth, but at least it displayed a new perspective I hadn't seen examined before. Then I got into the second and third essays and found them right up my alley.

I've long thought of Bono as one of the great cultural synthesizers of our time. What I mean is, he has an ability to ingest complex thoughts and ideas, then speak (or sing) of them in a relatable way. It's a rare and valuable thing, I think, akin to what Joseph Campbell could do. So I find scholars comparing the original philosophies and ideas that inspired certain lyrics against the songs themselves interesting. I've seen several things recently that have spoken strictly on the Christian perspective of U2's work; I think I'm going to like seeing their words and actions put in context amidst the wider perspective of Western philosophy beyond Christianity.

Perhaps I'm worried too much and this attention is really like the kind of scholarly attention Buffy has received - which hasn't reduced Buffy in the eyes of the wider world in the least (or so it seems to me). Do you have any thoughts on this recent spate of attention U2 has been getting? Do you think it's been good or bad for the band, for the fans, for the previously unitiated - or has it had no true affect at all?

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