My Moment of Surrender

There is so much interesting stuff going on, spiritually, on the new U2 C.D.  “Moment of Surrender” might be my favorite song on it, and most of the major themes of the whole C.D. seem to be present on that particular song.  I figured I’d give a shot to unpacking what I think maybe Bono meant.  The whole song is posted, uninterrupted, at the bottom of this post.

(I’m assuming 2 things, here.  The first is that these views aren’t necessarily Bono’s views; it’s a mistake to assume the speaker in a poem or a song is the same person as the writer of the poem or the song.  The second is that these lyrics do in fact mean something.)

Verse 1:

The only change is that 2nd line.  It leaves me thinking that it must be important: Vision over visibility.  After thinking about it, I’ve decided it must be another double-meaning kind-of thing.

On the one hand, vision over visibility means we’re no longer wanting everybody to notice us; (visibility) we’re wanting to see things the way they are (vision.)  On the other hand, it also means we’d rather be graced with religious visions rather than mere visibility, or seeing.

In addition to the relationship between sexuality and spirituality, the themes that seem to be wrestled with through out the C.D. is finding God in the every day, and even in the middle of pain and loss and despair, and trying to work out just how community connects to God.

If you just want to see Bono’s amazing lyrics uninterrupted by my feeble attempts at thinking too hard, they are below:

Moment Of Surrender

I tied myself with wire
To let the horses run free
Playing with the fire
Until the fire played with me

The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too cool to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

We set ourselves on fire
Oh God, do not deny her
It’s not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me
Oh, believe in me

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection
A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down ’til the pentecost

At the moment of surrender
Of vision of over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I tied myself with wire
To let the horses run free
Playing with the fire
Until the fire played with me

Is the idea here that the guy in the son was looking for freedom but found himself enslaved?  Are the horses and fire about our animlastic urges?

When we let these things free, when we live our way, we tie ourselves up, we get burned by the fire, even though we thought we playing with them.  That first verse gives me this idea that there was a guy who just lived the way he wanted to live.  Maybe not a bad guy, just a guy who does what he wants to do when he wants to do it.

Verse 2:
The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too cool to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

And so the guy gets married.  He doesn’t fully understand what he’s doing.  He’s not even sure that marriage is an absolute.  But it seems like the thing to do.

(A caveat: the guy that I’m imagining is basically me.  So maybe I’m just projecting.  Maybe this isn’t in the song at all.)

Verse 3:
We set ourselves on fire
Oh God, do not deny her
It’s not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me
Oh, believe in me

Interesting that fire comes up again.  In general, fire is a thing which is necessary but quickly gets out of control.  Biblically, fire is often used for purifying, but is also a symbol of God, as in the burning bush.

And so in this verse, it seems like there’s some realization.  The world is bigger than it seems, perhaps.  Marriage isn’t some casual thing.  Perhaps the idea is that through our animal instincts  is the way that this can come. 

(This is a trait that cuts across many of U2 songs: the idea that we can get  a glimpse of God in sex.  Sometimes, the idea almost seems like we get a sort-of redemption through this.  While I wouldn’t want to make that claim– which was very much held by the Romantics of centuries past, which also gets manifested in lots of works by folks like Nine Inch Nails– I also am unsure whether Bono would agree with this claim or would simply get that it’s a tempting thing to believe.)

At any rate, it seems like the person in this song is confronted with a new reality.   There’s so very much in those last couple lines:  

It’s not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me
Oh, believe in me

Again, perhaps this is all just projection.  But once, I thought the important question was: Do I believe in Love?  And what this really meant was, Is there more than just the rush of hormones associated with chasing after sex?

When I began to see that we are bigger than our chemical highs, when I began to suspect that there was something greater at work in the creation of sex, it became a radically different question.

The question was: If something bigger– way bigger– than natural forces was at work, what does this force think about me?

And perhaps it’s that way for the guy in the song: through a marriage he stumbled into, he begins to see that there is a God.  The question of how this God feels about him is quite an important one.

Next Verse:
At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

And so suddently he is pulled out of the world he has always inhabited.  He realizes that there is something bigger than what people think of him.  He realizes that if this thing is as big as it seems, submitting to it is the only appropirate response.

Firsr Half of the Next Verse:
I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back

Before that moment of surrender, the guy was dwarfed by the hugeness of the universe, by the insignificance of our humanity if scientific explanations are the full story.

Verse continues:
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

Deep inside, he always knew that those explanations, they weren’t right.  That way of living was wrong.  Partially because that way of living meant being in charge and we are made to surrender.

Next verse:
I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection
A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

And so in the mundane realities of every day life, the guy continues to see this whole other world, a more important one.

 

Next Verse:
I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down ’til the pentecost

I struggled with this verse for a while.  Because at first, it seemed like the last line applied to every body.  But if the guy on the subway is the one counting down to the pentecost, it makes a lot more sense.

Nearly everybody else doesn’t see the world as he does.  Nearly everybody else in the world doesn’t recognize that we’re all supposed to be traveling through the stations of the cross.  (I love the play on words: Subway stations/stations of the cross)  Even in this transformed life, it’s not easy.  But we can look to a time where we are transformed, just as the disciples were at the first pentecost.

Next moment:
At the moment of surrender
Of vision of over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

2 responses to “My Moment of Surrender

  1. Nice interpretation! Have been trying to figure out the meaning of the Moment of Surrender and Unknown Caller lyrics too. If only they came out with an addendum to “U2 By U2″ to explain the new songs…

  2. The subway is remarkably similar imagery to lines in Zoo Station, that somehow we are all on a journey and some of us know that there is a journey and some of us don’t. That kind of awareness is often lonely and scary, yet what can you do but surrender to it?

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