photo & text by nacrowe
the impetus for his SURRENDER: 40 SONGS, ONE STORY (KNOPF, 2022) memoir may have been a SERIOUS HEALTH SCARE, but the story presented therein is far removed from TRADITIONAL ROCK N ROLL star fare. if anything, BONO's memoir is a deep exploration of the RELIGIOUS, MORAL and METAPHYSICAL themes that guided and informed his LIFE'S WORK, both within and without the confines of his FAMOUS band, U2. what is INTRIGUING is the level of which his ADVOCACY WORK is rooted in his CHRISTIAN FAITH and the MORAL OBLIGATION to BEAR WITNESS and BE OF SERVICE, to AFFECT CHANGE, and the INSEPARABLE interplay that dynamic bears fruit in the lyrical content of his band throughout their PARALLEL MUSICAL JOURNEY. that connection is further structurally expressed and reinforced by the very fact that the NARRATIVE is told one song at at time.
but before i get too ahead of myself, i should just state my bias upfront. talk of RELIGION in cultural matters always makes me UNCOMFORTABLE. just the appearance of potential PROSELYTIZING makes me CONCERNED and sometimes ANGRY for the sheer gall of that TRANSGRESSION. its why i was particularly nasty to CHRISTIAN missionaries during my times as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA, since they further conflated the already BLURRED line between CHRISTIANDOM and the UNITED STATES. made it seem like joining them made you somehow more AMERICAN. but the PIETY and GOOD WORKS of BONO seem more in keeping with the legacy of ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI in which one attempts to walk the walk of JESUS CHRIST and not so much talk about it. its about being of GENUINE SERVICE to the UNDERSERVED and UNDERREPRESENTED without want or need of recognition or influence. the act of GOOD WORKS done with HUMILITY is being a TRUE representative of the FAITH.
BONO fully and unequivocally admits to MISJUDGMENTS and MISSTEPS in his long ADVOCACY CAREER. things like early MISGUIDED EFFORTS where he worked on behalf of AFRICAN interests (debt relief, HIV/AIDS vaccine, etc) instead of in partnership with AFRICAN stakeholders, thus continuing a COLONIAL DYNAMIC of NAKED PATERNALISM into the new millennium. some of these MISTAKES cut deeper than others, but to his credit, BONO seemingly always LISTENED, LEARNED and ADJUSTED based on the EXPERIENCE and WISDOM of those in his ever broadening ring of allies. his life journey can be boiled down to his struggle to become a BETTER, more ACTIVE and EMPATHETIC LISTENER.
SURRENDER: 40 SONGS, ONE STORY throughout its 500+ pages goes deep into many topics worthy of mention related how one seeks to live a GOOD LIFE, even while in the midst of a particularly CHARMED one. the through-line seemingly is that of FAMILY and the TRUE NATURE of FRIENDSHIP and LOVE. his CREATIVE and ADVOCACY WORK seemingly is rooted in such at its core, and his CHRISTIAN FAITH an even more ELEMENTAL layer beneath the buttresses those FUNDAMENTAL structures. it is one thing though to use said FAITH as a BLUNT cudgel to separate one from those around them and another entirely to use such CONVICTIONS to attempt to widen that FAMILIAL RING through PERSONAL SACRIFICE (time away from family, money, etc.) and extend LOVE and FRIENDSHIP to an ever widening audience, even (and arguably especially) political enemies and those that categorically disagree with you. to me, that FORCE MULTIPLIER effect is what makes the ETHICAL CORE of U2's appeal UNIQUE, as well as that of its frontman.
even though from time to time i wish BONO would just focus on the next album and let someone else attempt to save the WORLD, im glad he's still at it, always pushing forward and trying and i know secretly he is very much an ongoing point of PRIDE and ADMIRATION for much of the greater IRISH DIASPORA, of which i am a part of.