Thursday, December 29, 2005

Why, and how, Bono matters

Since my last post about Bono and U2, the Irish singer and prophet who calls for ending extreme poverty in Africa has received wider acclaim. Time Magazine featured him on the year end cover with Bill and Melinda Gates as Time’s Persons of the Year.
All three are deserving! All three are making amazing contributions to better the lives of the poorest of the poor. Too bad for Bill Gates and Microsoft that Apple beat them to the punch in launching the IPod with Bono and U2!

So, at year’s end, Bono has been featured on the covers of three magazines: Time just recently, The New York Times Magazine cover in September with the title, “The Statesman: Why, and how, Bono matters,” and of course Rolling Stone in the November issue featuring an interview with editor Jann S. Wenner.

The Times Magazine story features Bono’s humanitarian work and the New York Times Magazine story focuses on Bono’s political skills in mobilizing aid to Africa. Strikingly,
Rolling Stone examines Bono’s spiritual life in some depth. Here are some of the Rolling Stone spiritual questions:
What role did religion play in your childhood? “I knew that we were different on our street, says Bono, because my mother was Protestant. And that she’d married a Catholic. At a time of strong sectarian feeling the country, I knew that was special.”
Did you feel religious when you went to church? “Even then I prayed more outside church than inside. It gets back to the songs I was listening to; to me, they were prayers.”
Your early songs are about being confused, about trying to find spirituality at an age when most anybody else your age would be writing about girls and trouble.
Yeah. We sorta did it the other way around….The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or away from God. Both recognize the pivot, that God is at the center of the jaunt.
What is your religious belief today? What is your concept of God?
Bono: “If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there’s a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in ‘straw poverty’; ie. the story of Christ makes sense to me.

Social and spiritual commentators like Leonard Sweet have been observing for some time now, that there’s a high tide of spirituality in the culture at large that largely seems to have by-passed the church. In some ways, Bono is an example of that. In church life it often feels like spirituality is about “niceness”, until someone like Bono comes along –and many others too- who find that “niceness” doesn’t do justice to God or to the path they feel they have to walk in finding the truth about life. I find Bono’s split religious parentage fascinating, an Irish Protestant mom and a Catholic father. I wonder if it speaks to his spiritual and political ability to bridge a lot of divides in the world, that keep people separated in their nice, safe, and often narrow points of view.

There’s a poem by Seamus Heaney, Irish poet, whose work influences Bono, especially in “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” that aptly describes Bono’s convictions:
“History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change”


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