I don’t know why I’m thinking about this today, but that’s good enough reason to post this.
Years ago (2004), a nearly forgettable paperback re-re-re-release of the King James Version Book of Psalms came out. What was mostly memorable about it was that Bono wrote an introduction to it. Of course he did. Well, say what you will about Bono, but for the most part I’m a fan. I don’t look to him for theological direction, but he makes me think about what I believe. In that respect, so does Marilyn Manson.
Anyway, I really liked his introduction, comparing David to Elvis and many of his Psalms to blues music. It actually helped changed the way I read Psalms.
The actual introduction is a bit Irish-wordy but I’ll copy and paste my favorite bits. Just a little Thursday morning inspiration for you all. Enjoy
Explaining belief has always been difficult. How do you explain a love and logic at the heart of the universe when the world is so out of whack? How about the poetic versus the actual truth found in the scriptures? Has free will got us crucified? And what about the dodgy characters who inhabit the tome, known as the Bible, who claim to hear the voice of God?
You have to be interested, but is God?
Explaining faith is impossible. Vision over visibility. Instinct over intellect. A songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one in his head.
Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do, they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. Over art, literature, reason, the way in to my spirit was a combination of words and music. As a result the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, the book of John. My religion could not be fiction, but it had to transcend facts. It could be mystical, but not mythical and definitely not ritual.
My mother was Protestant, my father Catholic; anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable. The “Prods” at that time had the better tunes and the Catholics had the better stage gear. My mate Gavin Friday used to say: “Roman Catholicism is the Glamrock of religion” with its candles and psychedelic colours; Cardinal blues, scarlets and purples, smoke bombs of incense and the ring of the little bell. The Prods were better at the bigger bells; they could afford them. In Ireland wealth and Protestantism went together; to have either was to have collaborated with the enemy, i.e. Britain. This did not fly in our house.
Anyway, I stopped going to churches and got myself into a different kind of religion. Don’t laugh, that’s what being in a rock ‘n’ roll band is, not pseudo-religion either. . . . Show business is Shamanism: Music is Worship; whether it’s worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire. The smoke goes upwards…to God or something you replace God with, usually yourself.
Years ago, lost for words and 40 minutes of recording time left before the end of our studio time, we were still looking for a song to close our third album, “War.” We wanted to put something explicitly spiritual on the record to balance the politics and the romance of it, like Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye would. We thought about the psalms …”Psalm 40.” There was some squirming. We were a very “white” rock group, and such plundering of the scriptures was taboo for a white rock group unless it was in the “service of Satan.” Or worse, Goth.
“Psalm 40” is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma and love replace the very strict laws of Moses (i.e. fulfill them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me; now it is a source of great comfort.
“40” became the closing song at U2 shows and on hundreds of occasions, literally hundreds of thousands of people of every size and shape T-shirt have shouted back the refrain, pinched from “Psalm 6″: ” ‘How long’ (to sing this song).” I had thought of it as a nagging question–pulling at the hem of an invisible deity whose presence we glimpse only when we act in love. How long . . . hunger? How long . . . hatred?
How long until creation grows up and the chaos of its precocious, hell-bent adolescence has been discarded? I thought it odd that the vocalising of such questions could bring such comfort; to me too.