This post is about my musical journey with one of my favorite U2 songs – God Part II
My interpretation of the song may not be what was intended or accurate, but it is my interpretation – and it has gone through changes. It’s sort of a – a musical journey, really, you know?
Here is the song God Part II
Growing up in a conservative Christian home, secular music generally was not allowed. However when I was fifteen, I had my first seizure, while in a study group for my Calculus class (I went to college young)
A result of having a seizure, I had to have an EEG and I was suppose to stay up all night the night before. I guess feeling sorry for me, my mom let me buy the VHS tape of Rattle and Hum to watch, and the cassette tape too.
I watched that film several times that night, that was actually my introduction to the Rolling Stones song “Ruby Tuesday” which I had never heard before but now is one of my favorites of all time.
Anyway from the Rattle and Hum album, I fell in love with the song “God Part II” – at the time, I thought the title was Bono’s way of pointing out that Christians were missing a major part of what God was suppose to be, it wasn’t until the late 90s that I found out John Lennon had written a song called “God”.
Anyway – here’s my interpretation of God Part II – the song that means more to me than I can possibly put in a blog. And if it seems chaotic, well, this is the Chaos of Alice Wonder.
What the Lyrics mean to Me
Don’t believe the devil
I don’t believe his book
But the truth is not the same
Without the lies he made up
From the first time I heard this, and to this day, I interpreted that to mean the Bible was the Devil’s book. Not that the Bible was an evil work, but rather, that it was being using for evil purposes.
Keep in mind I highly valued the Bible and at the time believed it to be the key to salvation. But I saw how much evil was being justified with the Bible, and it hurt me deeply, and I thought that is what Bono was pointing out. Whether that’s the case or not, I still hear those lyrics that way.
Don’t believe in excess
Success is to give
Don’t believe in riches
But you should see where I live
I, I believe in love
That verse I initially interpreted as expressing their own hypocrisy, hypocrisy being a trait that all humans have. Yes, we are all fucking hypocrites.
U2 has always very much into philanthropy and not because it made them look good, but because it was where their heart was, yet as rock stars that really are in the same class as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, they have a lot of the same personal wealth that they almost certainly frowned upon when they were younger and without wealth.
I have no doubt it causes them conflict.
Once I knew this song was a response to “God” for awhile I thought maybe that verse was meant for John Lennon – in response to his “imagine” lyrics –
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
John Lennon wrote Imagine, sang it with passion, yet had quite a bit of wealth and possessions himself.
Now the way I see the lyrics in God, I see the lyrics as a call to socialism.
Wealth is an addictive disease, the more we have the more we want even more, and that is why capitalism always ultimately fails with either economic crash or a bloody revolution. Individual people may want to help individual poor people to feel good about themselves, but they want to keep their wealth too. They believe the poor and needy should be helped but it is hard to let go of what you have, your personal desire to live in luxury precludes your empathy for what is happening to the poor. A socialist society where the cost of helping the poor becomes part of the cost of gaining wealth is the only solution that actually has a chance of working, otherwise we may say that we don’t believe in riches – because riches are always more than we have, we always want more, even when how where we are living is in considerable excess from the perspective of the poor.
Don’t believe in forced entry
Don’t believe in rape
But every time she passes by
Wild thoughts escape
Don’t believe in death row
Skid row or the gangs
Don’t believe in the Uzi
Just went off in my hand
It’s possible U2 was referencing some song I don’t recognize, but I think they are references the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus.
“You have heard ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’ but I say to you, if you look at a woman with lust in your eye, you have committed adultery with her in your heart. You have have heard ‘Thou shall not commit murder’ but I say to you, if you hate your brother, you have committed murder in your heart”
That’s a paraphrase, I’m too lazy to copypasta the real thing, but that’s what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that is eerily close to what Bono sang there.
Sermon on the mount is in my opinion one of the most mis-interpreted passages from what Jesus spoke. The verse on lust is used to justify preaching that masturbation is evil, that women have to dress a certain way or they may cause men to lust and sin, etc.
What Jesus was saying is don’t think yourself more righteous just because you haven’t committed adultry or killed someone etc. – thoughts of lust and hate etc. are emotions virtually everyone feels, no one can claim to be righteous, moral superiority is a flawed egotistical concept that results in dangerous pride and self-righteousness. But that point does not seem to be obvious to most Christians.
Jesus is saying you can’t be “pure” yet those verses are twisted into creating oppressive rules on how to be “pure” – the exact opposite of what Jesus was trying to say. In my opinion.
I think U2 gets it.
Don’t believe in cocaine
Got a speedball in my head
I could cut and crack you open
Do you hear what I said?
I have never been quite sure what that meant, but a speedball (a cocktail drug always involving cocaine, usually mixed with heroin or morphine) like much of the song is a paradox, a stimulant mixed with a depressant, a paradox that often leads to violence, like many of our paradoxes do.
Don’t believe it when they tell me
There ain’t no cure
The rich stay healthy
The sick stay poor
That is the verse in the song that always meant the most to me.
It speaks volumes of the social injustice and classism that is very much a part of our society.
A lot of poverty is caused directly by illness that either can be prevented or kept in check if you are wealthy.
The lifespan of the average American is in decline, while the lifespan of the top 1% is on the rise. The rich are literally killing off the poor and it angers me so much sometimes I rage and want to go into rich communities and burn their mother fucking houses to the ground.
Commit a crime against the wealthy though and you are fast to be prosecuted. Commit a crime against the poor and no one gives a fuck.
That’s why Martin Shkreli was left alone and even admired by many for radically raising the price of Daraprim – something that radically hurt the poor – and he and wasn’t prosecuted until they found out he had run a ponzi scheme that was stealing from the wealthy who would still be wealthy despite what Shkreli was doing.
The rich stay healthy, the sick stay poor.
Don’t believe in Goldman
His type like a curse
Instant karma’s gonna get him
If I don’t get him first
I did not know about John Lennon’s song “Instant Karma” until a few days ago.
I had heard the song before, many times, the “We all shine on” part was very familiar to me. But I never knew what it was called. Things like buying John Lennon boxed sets etc. is something I just have never really been in the right financial class to afford, and I don’t like to pirate music – piracy is something middle and upper class people do to keep more of their money, poor folks like me, well some of us, we are tired of being taken advantage and not being paid what we are worth, so we don’t like to take advantage of others.
I feel dirty even putting the YouTube videos in this post.
Anyway what I thought it meant – I thought it reference to Goldman Sachs, an investment company where all that matters is money and people hurt in how money is earned isn’t really a concern. That’s what that verse meant to me for years.
But then I found out about this –
With those lyrics as an obvious reference to that John Lennon song, I looked up Goldman John Lennon and found out there was an author named Goldman who wrote a very controversial book about John Lennon, portraying him in a very bad light.
Obvious to me now, that is what U2 was talking about.
Don’t believe in rock ‘n’ roll
Can really change the world,
As it spins in revolution, baby
Spirals and turns
My suspicion is this also is a reference to a John Lennon song but what always comes to my mind is this song by Ten Years After:
Everywhere is freaks and hairies
Dykes and fairies, tell me where is sanity
Tax the rich, feed the poor
‘Til there are no rich no more
I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you
In the 60s and 70s there was a lot of momentum within the hippie movement for social change, but as always seems to happen, entropy has its way and the class division keeps growing with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and rock and roll can’t fix the problem.
Rock and Roll can give us the emotional high we need but itself does not bring about the social justice we so desparately need. Well, the social justice people like me need, those who are rich don’t need it and they have all the power. Men go and come, but earth abides. Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. Rock revolutions follow the same cycle, they come and go, but nothing changes.
Don’t believe in the 60’s
The golden age of pop
You glorify the past
When the future dries up
There U2 speaks the truth. That’s the biggest problem with so-called “conservative” movements. They look at history forgetting ignoring the evils and want to take us back in time, rather than learning from the evils so we can look forward to a brighter future.
A classic example – Roy Moore’s statement on values before the civil war – “I think it was great at the time when families were united – even though we had slavery – they cared for one another . . . . Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”
He’s glorifying the past, and his claim about families is an absurdly white statement. White slave owners intentionally broke up families so that they couldn’t be strong – e.g. Frederick Douglass never got to even know his mother.
“My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant…. It [was] common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. … I do not recollect ever seeing my mother by the light of day. … She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.”
That’s the past Conservatives glorify instead of learning from, because they don’t have a future to look forward to. Rather than learn from the past to make a better future, they try to pretend the past was better than it was and recreate it.
Heard a singer on the radio
late last night
Says he’s gonna kick the darkness
‘Til it bleeds daylight
I, I believe in love
That is a reference to a Bruce Cockburn song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”
And I think the title to that song is what U2 was reference. They clearly are lovers, but we are definitely in a dangerous time.
I, I believe in love.
Feel I’m falling,
I’m spinning on a wheel
It always stops besides a name,
A presence I can feel
I–I believe in love
That’s the sensation I feel when I have a seizure, I can feel them before they come (so-called Experiential aura)
I know the sensations I am experiencing aren’t real but they still feel real, depth and time perception get way out of wack, things happen out of order – meaning I perceive time in an incorrect order, I see things happen before the things that cause them to happen so it feels like a psychic experience but of course it isn’t, though one time I am sure it was because I saw something happen, reacted to it, and my reaction became the cause. or at least it seemed that way but there is no other explanation. I heard someone yell at me “Are you okay?” causing me to twist and ask them to help me, but according to them, I asked them to help me before they yelled “Are you okay?”
One time, I had a seizure at around three in the morning on the sidewalk of Lake Boulevard. I went to the store to get a snack because I was feeling off and that sometimes helps, I didn’t make it home. I woke up on the sidewalk, I could see the dried blood on the sidewalk and feel the blood on my face. I had been there quite some time, but no one driving by had bothered to call for help.
However a friend of mine Cooper was there. I knew I was Hallucinating her, but at the same time I knew she was real. A paradox like much of this song. I was disoriented and did not know how to get home. Cooper helped me to get home, telling me which way to go, encouraging me to keep going even though I felt like I wanted to crumple up in the bushes and sleep some more until I got my orientation back. When I got home, my hallucination of her said goodbye left and I went to sleep.
I know it wasn’t just a hallucination, her spirit came to help me.
It always stops besides a name, a presence I can feel.
I believe in love.
Step with it.
Thank you for bearing through my tangled neurotic mess,