Tempo, Bono, and Breaking Waves

I missed the memo about tempo, Bono, and breaking waves.


Like most Gen-Xers, I have a pretty deep and abiding love for U2.  I remember seeing this video back in the early 80s….hearing Bono’s voice for the first time made my heart race, and no one on the planet plays the guitar quite like The Edge.  It was love at first listen.

My love has remained true and unwavering over all these years.  I don’t do iTunes, so I wasn’t forced to listen to the latest U2 album against my will, I listened to it voluntarily. And it’s freakin’ amazing.  I had heard the single “Every Breaking Wave” on the radio and thought it was pretty good.  But then I heard the acoustic version….and I cried.  I cried because this slowed-down, stripped-down version lets Bono’s voice stand nearly alone. After all the years and all the cigarettes, man, he’s still got it.

After watching the acoustic performance, I cried some more.  Just looking at Bono’s face, with all the creases and crags that weren’t there in 1981, but still seeing him as gorgeous as ever, made me really mark the passage of time.  Bono is one of my cultural touchstones, I suppose.  Watching him age gives me a pang of something that’s hard to describe…it’s not nostalgia exactly, but maybe it’s some kind of growing pain that comes from realizing that as my idols have aged, so have I.  There’s a weird sort of comfort in knowing that we are growing older together.

And maybe it was something about the slower tempo of the song that really got my attention…I’ve written before about how slowing things down can make all the difference, and of my own need to just slow down.  And with that slowed down tempo, I could really hear the lyrics, and this one really got me…

Baby, every dog on the street knows that we’re in love with defeat.

Ouch.  Bono seems to know a thing or two about human folly. We’re in love with defeat, and we’re chasing every breaking wave…that pretty much sums up the silliness to which we often subject ourselves.   In all of life’s endeavors, it seems like we can just keep chasing, keep aspiring, never feeling satisfied.  I think that’s the “in love with defeat” part.  But I love the lyrical alternative that’s proposed…

Are we ready to be swept off our feet?  And stop chasing every breaking wave.

Swept off our feet…that works on so many levels.  It suggests a bit of resignation, of being overwhelmed by something powerful, but that there’s some sweetness in the surrender of control.  I think that’s what getting older is starting to feel like…I’m ready to be swept off my feet by the fullness of the life I have, so that means, at least most of the time, that I don’t need to pursue every little unsatisfied ambition. Instead of chasing every breaking wave, sometimes it’s nice just take a relaxing stroll on the beach.  Toes in the sand and memo received.

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