U2 – October (1981, October)

A little over two minutes long and only twenty six words.  A contrasting difference from my last entry, but this is the gift of music.  It is capable to offering both a saga and a snapshot at the same time.

It is the fall season, and I always enjoy this time of year.  The colors are brilliant and the weather refreshes both body and soul.  There are many songs that recount the season and create audio pictures of its stories.  The symbolism and poetry in a tree losing its leaves is simply too irresistible for the songwriter, I suppose.  But for twenty years now, there has only been one song that rings the anthem of this time of year for me.

U2 has a long and complicated story.  They have been together for over thirty years and put out more music than I wish to count.  They are not model Christian musicians, but then again who is?  Nevertheless, I have ebbed and flowed in my “loyalty” to their music.  I was deeply swooned in the late Eighties with the arrival of Joshua Tree (perhaps many of us were?).  I was in junior high at the time and I backtracked through their earlier music like any good U2 enthusiast-wannabe would.  October was an early album (second official release) that didn’t get much attention or praise, but it has long been one my favorite albums.

The band reached its most transparent phase, spiritually speaking, through this album, which is perhaps why I like it so much.  But the song that lingers with me after all of these years is the title track, “October.”  A little more context would help here.  As the story goes, Bono and the Edge had both lost their mothers recently and they both had also struggled between the typical rock-star lifestyle and their Christian faith.  This song is so brief, but that is partially because Bono had written many more verses and had stored them in a briefcase only to have it stolen while on tour in Oregon.  He could never recreate the lost lyrics and decided to release the song as is.

The point of the song is pretty simple and clear.  Here are all twenty six words:

And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care

And Kingdoms rise
And Kingdoms fall
But you go on…

The piano arrangement (which is really not U2’s signature sound) is gorgeous and captures the essence of the message beautifully.  Fall comes and signals change, death, and the hope of new life, perhaps.  It happens every year, for those of us who live in temperate climates with deciduous trees.  Now pan out and look at history.  Kingdoms rise and fall like seasons.  Over and over again: change, death, and new life cycle through this space called Earth in this thing called Time.

Now, pan out a little more, and look at the God of the universe.  God is God.  Always.  Outside of time and space.  Outside of kingdoms and seasons.  God is God.  He goes on…and on.

Read Psalm 136 today, and see how tremendously wonderful this truth is.  Then listen to this song again (It’s pretty short, so maybe listen to it twice) and watch the leaves fall quietly to the ground around you.  And always remember that God’s “leaves” will never change nor fall.  His kingdom will never falter.  He goes on and on.

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