"This is the stuff that in the end makes us what we are. It's the stuff that you can't leave behind, the personality of the band, the way we interact with each other."
-- Edge, on All That You Can't Leave Behind
Like A Song: Ordinary Love
June 14, 2014
[Ed. note: This is the 85th in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]
The sea wants to kiss the golden shore
the sunlight warms your skin
All the beauty that's been lost before
wants to find us again.
We all come to music with our own experiences and backgrounds, and perhaps that primes us to draw particular interpretations from a song. For me, when "Ordinary Love" first came out, I knew it was for a movie about Nelson Mandela. However, that didn't stop my initial reaction to its lyrics. I thought, "This could be a great gay anthem."
Birds fly high in the summer sky
and rest on the breeze
The same wind will take care of you and I
We'll build our house in the trees.
The timing of such an anthem is appropriate. Worldwide, acceptance of gay people is increasing, and great legal strides have been made for equality, particularly in marriage. In Canada, same-sex marriage will have been legal for a decade in 2015, so it's almost old news at this point. In the U.S., however, state after state is striking down legal prohibitions against same-sex marriage. Laws prohibiting discrimination against gay people in employment, housing and more have been implemented.
To me, the chorus of "Ordinary Love" speaks to society's evolution on the issue.
We can't fall any further
if we can't feel ordinary love
and we cannot reach any higher
if we can't deal with ordinary love.
Make no mistake, to me and other gay people, our love is ordinary. It's how we are. I certainly don't think there's anything radical or deviant about me. So those words hit me like a truck when I first heard them.
Love is an important part of being human. Not just romantic love, but platonic love for each other. If we can't empathize with and co-exist with each other, how can we reach any higher as a species? It drags us all down when we don't get along, and those who can't deal with the existence of those different from them only drive us further apart. We really can't fall any further or reach any higher if we can't deal with those who are unlike us.
Other lines stand out to me.
I can't fight you anymore
it's you I'm fighting for.
Coming to terms with one's own sexuality can be difficult and slow. I know it was for me. It took me years to stop fighting how I was feeling. I think it's the same for many. The idea of stopping the fight against ourselves, and then fighting for our right to exist peacefully, is a powerful one.
There is still a long way to go. Marriage equality is all well and good, but it's cold comfort when there's still so much violence and hatred against LGBT people across the globe. From African and Middle Eastern countries that still decree homosexuality (especially between males) illegal and even punishable by death, to disheartening reports of hate crimes in industrialized nations such as the U.K., Canada and the U.S., it's clear more needs to change. We need to find a way to "deal" with ordinary love, and I hope society will reach a point where people stop feeling so threatened by the existence of gay people that they resort to violence.
The sea throws rocks together
but time leaves us polished stones.
Fortunately, we are resilient, and the growing number of straight allies gives us strength. Things improve with each passing year, and safely living an open and honest life is easier than it has ever been. The going may be rough sometimes, but the struggle only makes us better in the end, I think.
Your heart is on my sleeve
did you put it there with a magic marker?
For years I would believe that the world couldn't wash it away.
So far, for me, it hasn't.
Are we tough enough for ordinary love?
Yes, I think we are.
(c) @U2/Rogers, 2014.