“The city’s a flood, and our love turns to rust.
We’re beaten and blown by the wind
Trampled in dust.
I’ll show you a place
High on a desert plain
Where the streets have no name”
On an evening in April 8, 1987, I sat in the Summit in Houston overlooking the stage right corner for U2’s tour support of their latest album, The Joshua Tree. Thirty years later, last Friday night, on May 26, 2017, I sat in the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, overlooking the stage right corner for the 30th anniversary tour of The Joshua Tree.
It was an amazing night.
As a lover of artists, U2 stands the test of time. The same four guys, friends since their teens, began their journey in 1976. Over four decades, thirteen studio albums, and multiple tours later, they remain as committed to each other as the day they played their first paying gig at St. Fintan’s High School in Dublin.
As a business, U2 is a great example of a brand that understands they’re the guide and the audience is the hero. They invite us into the story of humankind at every turn and celebrate the heroic actions of people throughout history who have resisted the tendency toward self-interest and have given their lives to a bigger, bolder cause. Then they turn around and remind those of us in the seats that we are the heroes with the resources and potential to work for the common good.
As a fellow human being, U2 exemplifies what’s been all but lost in our culture today: that you can disagree with someone and still be kind. That it’s far better for our society to focus on our triumphs, rather than our defeats. They remind us that it’s infinitely more productive to look to those moments when left and right were able to set aside their differences and unite to bring about change in our world. There’s something motivating when you are reminded that every now and then the human species gets it right and does something good.
U2 has been an important band for me not just because I love their music, but also because they give me a model for what it means to hold strong to convictions without alienating those who may see the world through a different lens. They have shown me that you don’t have to sacrifice quality on the mantle of spirituality. They have shown me what it means to “fix my thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” and the value of “thinking about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
In the midst of a divided, angry, and often petty society, U2 reminds me there is still hope for us. We don’t have to give in to our worst ways. We can, as my friend Rhonda says, “be good humans.”
The story of U2 is the story of “you too.”
You too can do this.
You too can make a difference.
You too can change the world.