A city lit by....?

Ian Ryan, the lyrics guru at @U2, has an interesting post up about "Surrender" in which he links it with "City of Blinding Lights." "Surrender" has long been a favorite U2 track of mine, one which I tend to pair in presentations with "Discotheque" as essentially treating the topic of true versus false surrender (in Bono's words, the fact that "there are two roads out of town.")  I've also viewed "New York" as a close relative of "Surrender," with all the allurements of the big city treated in perhaps a less stereotypically puritanical way than "Surrender" sees them, but still ceding the field at the end to that still small voice that comes walking by in the cool of the evening, quoting Song of Solomon.

We don't read Sadie's story the same way (I think she triumphantly renounced the hollow superficiality of ordinary being-good life in the classic "there's got to be more than this" narrative, went in search of that something more, tragically ended up on the streets instead, and is now either literally or metaphorically calling the bluff of God/Death on the 48th floor: "Show me reality or I jump.") But who cares.... it really could mean anything; 1983 Bono couldn't write a lyrical story with a logical progression and consistent characters to save his life.

If I am reading correctly it seems to me that Ian hears "it's in the street/ getting under my feet/ it's in the air/ it's everywhere I look for you" as a fairly straightforward statement about looking for God many places (i.e. "I look for you in the street, in the air....") and deciding God can only be found within. I'd be interested to hear if the song sounds that way to others; I'd always assumed that this was a lament about the persistent opposition to the search posed by everything in oneself that blocks one's own yearning for God -- misdirected desire, idols; ultimately, the self-love that has to be died to in a line or two -- and also assumed that the "someday" of that dying to self was a bitter jab at the narrator's own apathy. (Like Augustine: Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.)

Anyway, the notion of taking "Surrender" and "City of Blinding Lights" together to see how U2's view of the city has become more open and subtle is a great idea. I also like how the different kinds of light imagery Ian quotes in his piece, but doesn't discuss, contribute to this contrast. Worth a read, however you interpret "Surrender."

No comments: