Life, the Universe and a U2 Song

Life, the Universe and a U2 Song November 19, 2007

What sort of universe do we live in? We live in a universe that has U2. And I don’t think there will ever be a universal explanation in terms of the laws of physics that allows one to account for the existence of this band. It is a combination of law and chance, which if we wound the clock back, would never arise again in precisely the same way.

More importantly, I don’t really think that I’m looking for explanations any more. Not that explanations don’t interest me – they do, very much – but they aren’t what is of ultimate interest. I have a rough sense of what sort of universe I live in now, and the best I can do is keep up to date on the trickle of information coming in that offers explanations of how things work, and how the current state of things came about.

We live in a universe where people can try to make a difference, and sometimes succeed. I lived for a while with a family in Dublin, one member of which went to school with the members of U2. The claim to fame of the mother in the family was that she once saw the person now known as The Edge as a child, messing around on top of a skip/dumpster with a guitar, and asked ‘Who does he think he’s supposed to be?’ I doubt even The Edge guessed the answer to that question at the time, in the way it can be viewed with the benefit of hindsight.

We live in a universe that had given rise to people who make music. And a universe in which people like me hear U2 play a song like “Bad” and are moved somewhere deep down in that part of us traditionally called the “soul”.

I admit, I’m interested in understanding what this part of me is, that is almost certainly not a separate spiritual substance inserted into my physical being. Understanding has its place. It is not at all unimportant.

But I want to focus my attention on living in a meaningful way in the sort of universe I experience this to be. I cannot live in the future aboard a starship exploring strange new worlds. I cannot live in the past and inhabit the sort of world the Biblical authors perceived themselves to live in. I live in a different world, an in-between world. It is a world that is fully of joy and sorrow. And it is full of music. And there may be explanations of why certain music moves us the way it does. But it is not enough to take the car apart and understand how it works. I want to be driven somewhere. I don’t just want to understand the process of composition that led to the song, to analyze the chord progressions. I want to let myself be inspired.


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