Earlier this month I attended my first U2 concert at New Era stadium. With three of my children and great seats, the stadium filled with fans of the 40-year-old popular Irish rock music group.
An opening “prelude” came from a newer group named “Beck,” after it’s writer/singer/guitarist named Beck Hanson. After rocking and reverberating through the stadium for a couple hours, the 4 member U2 group appeared led by lead singer, writer, guitarist “Bono.” Tons of powerful black speakers hovered around and over the stadium on large cranes. Although never a fan of hard rock music, the experience was unforgettable. My body often rumbled with loud pulsating music enhanced by booming base strings and pounding percussion. Wearing earplugs to help save my aging hearing, it still thundered loud! My son-in-law, a few miles away, felt the beating throbs floating over his home as if played next door!
As I sat through the 5-hour event, I felt reminded of Shamanic experiences I once experienced. In 2006, I attended a 10-day experience at the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, NY. There, Stanislav Grof, a well-known psychiatrist from the Czech Republic, and Buddhist spiritual teacher, Jack Kornfield, led us in daily drumming and chants they called “holotropic breathwork.” Grof had sought healing techniques for years for people struggling with trauma. He experienced recognized success working with Viet Nam veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. First using LSD as a healing agent, before it was banned, Grof then studied with Shamans in South America. There he discovered similar healing results with Shamanic breath work, akin to healing experience I have read from Native Americans.
So, there I was, among mesmerized, swaying, clapping, and dancing fans of U2, and experiencing some of same lift with Grof and Kornfield. As I became tired of standing and swaying, (most never sat in their $165 seats!) I dropped down into my seat. I opened from my iPhone the stored lyrics from the songs of “Joshua Tree.” One of the most famous U2 recordings, they were singing all the album’s songs! Somehow, the beating drums, flashing lights, screaming vocals and twanging guitars didn’t quite seem to match the words, words I had been unable to follow surrounded by thunderous music. Surprisingly, the words seemed sad and hopeless.
“I want to run, I want to hide, I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside…Where the streets have no name, …the cities a flood and our love turns to rust…
Or another, “I Still haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I’ve climbed the highest mountains, I have run through the fields, …crawled, scaled these city walls …run through the fields, only to be with you…. But, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for….
I have kissed honey lips, Felt the healing in her fingertips, Burning like a fire, this burning desire…. I have spoke the tongue of angels, …held the hand of a devil,
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for….
And from “Running to Stand Still.” “She walks through the streets, With her eyes painted red Under black belly of cloud in the rain. ….She is ragin’ She is ragin’ And the storm blows up in her eyes. She will suffer the needle chill, She’s running to stand still.” Not exactly uplifting lyrics.
In “Red Hill Mining Town:” “I am hanging on, You’re all that’s left to hold on to,” “Love, slowly stripped away, Love, has seen its better day, Hangin’ on, Let’s go out on Red Hill, Let’s go down on Red Hill….”
Yet, I was impressed with the sincerity expressed by Bono and company giving recognition to the forgotten and oppressed. His tribute to Martin Luther King, showing on a large screen his “I Have a Dream” speech, brought tears to my eyes. The parade of 20 feet high pictured women who worked and sweat to bring liberating life to millions, was moving and appropriate. Yet, there remained the belief, actually quite appropriate, that in this life, in this world and the whole visible universe, there is not a lot of hope! And with that awareness, I agreed with the lyrics.
In the early teachings of the church there was a group, later banned, which taught the world as an ultimately hopeless place. They were called “Gnostics,” heretics and God-deniers. There were many other similar groups throughout history from Eastern religions and even Plato’s writings. Their teachings were banned in the 4th Century by the Roman government as the official Church was recognized with its exclusive creeds. Yet, the teachings survived over the centuries, despite attempts to frequently stamp them out. These “heretics” taught the ephemeral world of time, form and matter is hopeless. Even verses in the Bible state such as, “If in this life we only have hope in the physical Christ, we are most miserable….” It means without a “spiritual Christ,” the meaning of a risen one, there is no hope. This Christ, however, is within us all, it’s our Higher Self, what Jesus taught as the kingdom within all. This vision can actually see everything in the world as pure because it sees beyond mortality. Everything we see and touch physically is mortal, time bound, passing with its aging, sickness, rust, disease and death! We are like sprouts of grass: born, shoot up, thrive awhile, and then no more. For, “All flesh is like grass…. The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever….” 1 Peter1:24.
Or as Shakespeare expressed it in Macbeth:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
The message and music of U2 certainly rings true with many, even among those who live and die to make this world a more equal and perfect place. But the answer many long for and can discover, is ultimately found within ourselves, our “Higher Selves.” In the mystical view, the world was actually created as an attack on God. Sometimes the losses, carnage, destruction and violent unfairness overwhelms us all. The good die young, people live in deployable conditions their whole lives, and so little ever seems to change. We take two steps forward and then fall back three! Even the rich and famous experience the same end. We can never find Home or permanence in this dimension. Yet, it’s within us, in our Higher, Spirit Self. Yet, even after horrific experiences in war, swamped with senseless, loss of buddies, and unbearable pain, an induced trance can help. It can take us to another dimension, help lift us out and above it, and bring some healing to the unending and unbearable pain of loneliness and disappointments of life. Many have rediscovered this “new world” in Shamanic trances, and some may experience it in moments of U2 or “rock” concerts, moments which lift us above words and a world which at times feels so hopeless. However, as another option, we can find it in simple silence and remembering that Love is within, and That is Who we truly are!