U2’s Songs of Experience: A Liturgy for Existentialists

By Tim Neufeld, @U2

It’s been a long time since a U2 album has had this kind of staying power in my soul. Songs Of Experience taps something primal in me. While I appreciate it as a great collection of singable, feel-good lyrics and tunes, it’s the depth of the album as a concept project, and the collective synergy of its songs about fear, doubt, insecurity, death, life and love, that entices me.

Existentialists ask the kind of big questions about our existence that are addressed on U2’s latest. Questions such as, “Why am I here?” “What is the meaning of life?” and “What is my place in the universe?” The architects of existentialism, including Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Sartre and Nietzsche, were dissatisfied with rationalism and reacted against a “science will save us” attitude that dominated the Age of Enlightenment. Rationalists ask, “How does this work?” In contrast, existentialists ask, “Why do we exist?”

Bono has quoted Nietzsche numerous times over the years. On the Vertigo tour we heard a paraphrase of the philosopher’s famous aphorism, “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” Nietzsche also said, “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering,” and “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who suffered in Auschwitz and Dachau, wrote his famous book, Man’s Search For Meaning, after he was rescued. He concluded that people are capable of finding meaning even in the most horrendous conditions of death, despair and darkness. He wrote, “What is to give light must endure burning.” Existentialists argue that meaning can only be found by authentically experiencing life itself, especially in the darkest of hours.

Songs Of Experience could have easily been titled Songs Of Existence. The search for purpose is seen throughout. Undoubtedly, Bono’s “brush with mortality” colored his own experience. In the liner notes for SOE, he says it left him “clinging on to my own life like a raft.” He continues, “…it would feel dishonest not to admit the turbulence I was feeling at the time of writing.” This kind of here-and-now honesty about mortality is paramount for existentialists.

The flow of U2’s latest album is rhythmic chaos, like a liturgy exploring existence, moving through experiences of doubt, anger, confession and ultimately resolving in hope. Here’s a look at SOE through the lens of existentialism.

Read Dr. Neufeld’s entire analysis HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Robert Williams Lives the Dream as Big Sandy

Photo by John Gilhooley

By Taylor Hamby, OC Weekly

“I never imagined in a million years where the music would take me to or the places it did,” confides Robert Williams, dressed to the nines in a crisp, black, 1950s suit with a subtly rainbow-flecked vintage shirt he picked up from Elsewhere Vintage in the Orange Circle. His hair is neatly combed and slicked-back, and the sharp lines of his attire and hairdo contrast with his soft face and gentle smile. “But man, what a ride.”

We’re tucked into the far-right corner booth of the Fling, the legendary old-school lounge, not unlike how the dive bar itself is tucked into the far corner of a blue-collar strip mall in a working-class neighborhood of Santa Ana. A few shots of Patron tequila in, and Williams is getting sentimental. He can’t help it—he was practically born nostalgic. And he’s a romantic at heart. As much as hopeless romantics are compelled to put on a good show, it always comes back to matters of the heart in the end.

“The band has been my romance,” Williams confides. “And it’s cost me a few romances, too.”

Read Taylor Hamby’s complete article, HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gospel Americana and That Old-Time Religion

By Easy Ed, No Depression

It’s hard to escape the influence that gospel music has had on almost every form of American roots and popular music. It’s always fascinated me that some of the greatest spirituals have been performed by pill-poppin’ and bottle drinkin’ fornicators and sinners, and there is a long list of those who have easily crossed that highway. Little Richard and Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Sam Cooke quickly come to mind.

Which brings me back to the aforementioned Jimmy Lee Swaggart.

In February 1988 Swaggart admitted to his audience that he had sinned, and was suspended by the Assemblies of God for sexual immorality. Because they felt he wasn’t repentant enough, he was defrocked. Two years later, now an independent Pentacostal preacher, he was found in the company of a prostitute for the second time. Instead of offering yet another public apology, he stood on the pulpit and declared “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.”

On my own spiritual path, somewhere along the way I’ve moved from atheism to becoming a reluctant agnostic. Ceremonial trappings, century-old traditions, preachers on television with toll-free numbers on the screen, and the hypocrisy of those who espouse family values yet embrace politicians who ritually lie, cheat, and steal will not cause me to repent nor accept a savior. But to each their own. Nature, emotion, art, and music in all its glorious forms are my higher power. And I say amen to that.

Read entire column HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lava in Paradise

USGS

More than awestruck with the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. Anyone who has been to the Big Island knows that volcanos are part of the living arrangement with your surroundings. Nevertheless, the recent earthquakes, lava flow, and toxic gas erupting out of fissures are still both magnetically fascinating and traumatic. According to the US Geological Society, lava was shooting 230 feet in the air out of some of these fissures. While the risks were known, it remains heartbreaking for families to lose their homes to waves of molten lava in paradise.

USGS

“During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control,” wisely states the National Park Service. “As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption.” All you have to do is clean up after a hurricane, typhoon, blizzard, earthquake, or flood, and you learn to respect the power of the forces in our natural world and zeal of Mother Nature. The Hawaiians show deference to Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess said to live inside Kilauea, when asked about the fate of their homes. “What can you do? You have no control over it,” one man told the AP while at an evacuation shelter. “Pele’s the boss, you know.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Evangelical group teaches farming, provides hospitality to refugees, and watches local salmon

Children learning to care for the environment through A Rocha Canada. Photo by Brooke Mcallister.

A Rocha Canada is a Christian community based on a farm in Surrey, British Columbia, that teaches people about the environmental, protects the local watershed, and tries to live in harmony with each other and the land.

By Jason Byassee

The roots of A Rocha lie in the evangelical Christian world. The Kostamos studied at evangelical Regent College in Vancouver. Markku is a child of Finnish missionaries to Nepal; Leah worked for Campus Crusade for Christ in Washington and Idaho. While church groups have been mostly open to A Rocha’s message of creation care, there have been some that have been wary. Leah tells of a summer family camp that invited her to speak and then received emails of concern from people who said they were interested in learning about Jesus, not about the environment. Nevertheless, some evangelical zeal seems necessary in the face of ecocatastrophe. As Atwood comments, “You cannot save what you don’t love.”
***
When I visited the farm, Leah explained to me the way salmon spawn: The male lies on his side and digs a hole. The female lays eggs in the hole, and the male fertilizes them. Then both of them die. It’s not a very efficient way to reproduce, but as Harris says in Under the Bright Wings, birdwatching is not very efficient either. And neither is the God who saves humans by taking flesh among an oppressed people in an obscure part of the world. There may be more efficient ways of doing conservation than through a Christian community. But A Rocha seeks to match its work to the patient ways of a God who counts the sparrows and hairs on people’s heads.
***
The genius of A Rocha is that it’s a conservation organization built on Christian hope. Strident warnings about the looming ecocatastrophe are often tinged with doom. People feel outgunned by corporations and unheeded by governments. It seems the end is coming whatever we do. In contrast, the work of A Rocha is marked by joy. Its members go about their work of studying species, reporting results, guarding the watershed, and selling shares in community-supported agriculture. Whether others join them or ignore them, these Christians are happy in their own skin. They are “convinced that matter matters to God, who created the stuff and even became the stuff and calls us to steward the stuff on his behalf,” Leah writes.

To read Jason Byassee’s entire Christian Century article, click HERE.

To find out more about A Roche, click HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wayfinding Home: Circumnavigating the globe without a compass

By Steve Beard

For three years, they were ultimately voyaging back home. Along the way, they circumnavigated the globe – without so much as a compass. The crew of the Hokule’a, a 62-foot-long Polynesian sailing canoe, traversed more than 40,000 nautical miles in its epic journey with no engine or modern navigational instruments. Having set sail in 2014, the crew returned to Hawaii in July 2017. Guided only by their assessment of the sun, moon, stars, wind, swells, and sea life patterns, the Polynesian Voyaging Society accomplished a global trek that most people thought was impossible.

In an era enamored by technological pinnacles, chalk this extraordinary triumph up to the ancient South Pacific ways.

In order to grab hold of the wow-factor behind this feat, forget about touristy ocean cruising. On the Hokule’a (ho-koo-lay-ah, “Star of Gladness” in Hawaiian), there was no midnight buffet, ice sculptures, or cocktails on the lido deck. There was no refrigeration, restroom stalls, or internet café on the catamaran-style vessel. The showers were buckets of seawater and the canvas-covered sleeping quarters were 6 foot segments marked out in the hulls where the 12-member crew slept head-to-foot. Spartan conditions. Spectacular adventure.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Hawaii, being nice is the law

‘Aloha’ is a legal concept that grew out of the necessity for Hawaiians to live in peace and work together, in harmony with the land and their spiritual beliefs.

By Brenna Kerr

Hawaii now hosts almost nine million visitors a year, and ‘Aloha’ is a word that most of those tourists will hear during their time on the islands. The word is used in place of hello and goodbye, but it means much more than that. It’s also a shorthand for the spirit of the islands – the people and the land – and what makes this place so unique.

Alo means ‘face to face’ and Ha means ‘breath of life’,” according to Davianna Pōmaikaʻi McGregor, a Hawaii historian and founding member of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. But McGregor also noted that there are several less literal, but equally valid, interpretations of the word.
***
It makes sense. Hawaii is the most isolated population centre in the world: the California coast is around 2,400 miles away; Japan is more than 4,000 miles. The islands are small – most (like Maui, where I live) can be driven around in a single day. Then, as now, there are no bridges connecting the islands, and even inter-island travel is a challenge. With nowhere to go, the only option, it would seem, is to get along.

“Being isolated, historically, our ancestors needed to treat each other and the land, which has limited resources, with respect,” McGregor said. “For Hawaiians, the main source of labour was human. So there was a need for collective work among extended families and a high value placed on having loving and respectful relationships.”
***
“Visitors to Hawaii often talk about how Hawaii is a beautiful place, but the most special part of their experience has been the people, and how nice people are,” said Hawaii State Representative Tulsi Gabbard. “People across the United States and around the world ultimately want peace… By truly living Aloha – having respect and love for others – we can be empowered to overcome those differences and find solutions that best serve the wellbeing of people and our planet.”

Read her entire BBC article HERE

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Barbara Bush’s Subversive Secret to Happiness

Former First Lady Barbara Bush photographed on August 23, 2001 in Houston, TX. (Photo by Pam Francis/Getty Images)

“Whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: Fathers and mothers, if you have children—they must come first.” Barbara Bush, Wellesley College, 1990

Andrew Ferguson, The Weekly Standard: “These seemingly anodyne, Hallmark-y words, when taken seriously, are the most subversive words that could be uttered, then or now, on a college campus—a place where subversive words are supposed to be prized and protected but often aren’t. Mrs. Bush’s subversion wasn’t a matter of left or right, or even of feminism or traditionalism. She cut much deeper, into an American faith that transcends political categories.

“This is the faith of careerism. For generations, career had been the guiding light of the bourgeois American male. Work came before family, even if work was done in service of family, as many men told themselves it was. The result was that fathers and mothers of the broad middle class lived separate lives: men at work, women at home to attend to

domestic matters, kids above all.

“Mrs. Bush understood that this division of labor, enforced through countless social customs and economic arrangements, was manifestly unfair to women who wanted something different, and no decent person could object to dismantling the barriers that stood in the way of their ambitions. But in this otherwise admirable goal, Mrs. Bush suggested, the advocates of women’s equality overshot. They went beyond making materialism an option to making it an expectation, perhaps even mandatory. They fell for the great lie at the heart of American business and professional life as men had lived it: that a single-minded pursuit of professional success was the surest source of personal fulfillment.”

Read his complete column HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bono Awarded George W. Bush Medal for Distinguished Leadership for AIDS Work

Rolling Stone

Bono was awarded the inaugural George W. Bush Medal for Distinguished Leadership Thursday, with the former president honoring the U2 singer for his work in combatting the HIV/AIDS crisis and poverty in Africa.

In 2002, during a visit to the White House, Bono lobbied the president to lend financial support to a series to humanitarian organizations that would provide financial assistance and help stem the AIDS crisis in poor countries.

“That’s what I’m not sure people understand,” Bono told Bush Thursday in a conversation that was live-streamed from the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, “13 million from PEPFAR [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief], and if you add the Global Relief Fund, it’s probably been 21 million lives have been saved by this work that you began and led and I’m here to honor that.”

To read entire article, click HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Congratulations Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Photo by Theo Wargo (Cleveland.com). Musicians Brittany Howard, Questlove and Felicia Collins pay tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

In a world filled with travesties, let-downs, and injustice, it is nice to see an occasional gamma ray of hope emerge. Finally, after years of narcissistic rock industry navel-gazing, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) was rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight. Ignored and neglected for decades, Sister Rosetta was a finger-picking, gospel-rocking madhatter on the electric guitar long before there was a Jimi Hendrix or Chuck Berry or Eric Clapton on the scene – all fans, along with Elvis and Johnny Cash. She recorded music that “Billboard” dubbed “rock-and-roll spiritual singing” clear back in 1942. My rockabilly buddies turned me on to her righteous tunes back in the 1980s. Stoked for Sister! In the old days, we used to say that somebody was “big time” and it meant something special. Well, Sister Rosetta was always “big time.” Tonight, however, the Hall of Fame made that distinction official. 

Brittany Howard inducted Sister Rosetta into the Hall. “It is a huge honor to induct Sister Rosetta Tharpe to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” she told Rolling Stone prior to the event. “She has been such an inspiration. I hope this spotlight helps people discover what so many of us already know. She is one of the greatest artists of all time.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment