"It's a record about looking for some kind of transcendence as well as trash."
-- Bono, on Pop
Like a Song: Running to Stand Still
September 29, 2008
[Ed. note: This is the 25th 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.]
No one ever said it was going to be like this. Certainly you don't expect maturing and growing up to be an easy process; but unexpectedly so, growing up internally from a crazed teenager who liked "the good life" to a responsible and respectable young adult has been a bumpy run, in which it turns out the key is to stop running.
"Running to Stand Still" has always had some of Bono's best written work; the song speaks of drug use and the impact it has on a person's emotional state. My personal connection to this song is totally different, yet equally deep.
The song, like my life today, is a journey of self-discovery of what truly is important and real in life.
A lot of fast change has happened and still is happening at this point in my life. It seems like ever so slowly, and in spite of myself, I am becoming an adult. (I am 23 years old finishing up my college degree.)
Transitioning from drinking and having fun at South Beach parties to working at a world-class communications company has me running in a new direction. Both lifestyles have aspects that are difficult to navigate, and each provide its own form of gratification.
Although some of you might scoff at the self-perception because I am only 23, I have already lived a lot. Growing up in Colombia, I have traveled the world, started drinking at 14, partying in clubs at 15, and girls were never a problem for me. Life has been extremely easy -- my family's money was always there to cushion my falls. I had nothing to complain or rage about. Something was always missing though, some sense of fulfillment or gratification. I couldn't point the finger at directly what it was, but something was missing.
Although I always had everything, I had nothing.
What on the outside seemed like a privileged life, in the inside was actually filled with chaos: chaos of ego, immature, and lack of real fulfillment. Something had to eventually give.
Finally, it did. During the early part of 2008, it seemed like everything came apart. My relationship with my now ex-girlfriend, my relationship with my family, even struggling in school. The situation reached a breaking point; it was time to wake up from the point where I was.
And so she woke up, woke up from where she was, lying still
I had to do something about my life or I was to end up in chaos.
Said we got to do something about where were going
As bad as this period was, it was also an incredible opportunity: An obstacle that if used properly, could be a stepping stone. It was once said, "Greatness is not how much we achieve, but how much we overcome."
The first thing that this situation taught me was that I had "garbage" that I had to face. There were fundamental errors of judgment that were manifested in different ways. I needed to understand the fact that ultimately, if one lives an ethical and mature life of rectitude and truth, light and fulfillment will always be shining on us.
Listening to the song, it is difficult to ignore the fact that I was living a life based on nothing but girls, parties, and excess. I was running through the streets "with my eyes painted red," and everyone could see this but myself.
She runs through the streets With her eyes painted red Under black belly Of cloud in the rain
The interesting thing about this process is finding out that the journey of self-discovery and change is not an easy one. Indeed, standing still is not easy at all. It's not easy because you have to face your "garbage" head on. If I was to use this opportunity to do a REAL change from the inside out, then I could not afford to overlook the core issues I had to deal with. It was not supposed to be easy, and so far it's not. If it was easy, then I would not have been heading in the right direction. Real change takes effort.
But how was I to convert this knowledge into lasting fulfillment? The key lies in the CHOICES we make, when life hands out the opportunity to act a certain way. A lot of times (my case included), people seek to change or "take the next step" when their life has been shattered; when we are living as an effect and wonder about our life's purpose. When we choose, we step out of the program we are born into, and start to become the cause.
It's a message that always is underlined in U2's songs whether directly or indirectly. The notion of growing as a person from the inside out.
The person in the song is living in deep chaos. Drugs and all kinds of excess are going in her life, but it is her who is making these choices at the end. She is being reactive as opposed to proactive.
I see seven towers But I only see one way out
Will you BLAME your circumstances or will you CAUSE your circumstances to change? Without a doubt, I could have sat down, talked about my "bad luck," pointed the finger, and never really looked at myself in the mirror just like the female person in this song.
Something similar or worse could happen in the future, unless I took control and became the CAUSE of what will happen in. If I didn't cut to the core, then chaos would eventually reappear, even if I got away with it this time. It is a realization that this is the "rage" that the song talks about.
Chaos happens when we are so caught up in reacting to our lives, that we lose track of what is real. Until you heal the root, the cause of your challenge will always be there. Listening to "Running to Stand Still" during this difficult period helped me understand that our lives no matter how chaotic they may appear have order hiding within them. In this case, I had the power to change this cycle. Or, I could stick to my story if I wanted to. The important thing is realizing that it would have been me either way that is creating it.
Unfortunately, the song ends and we do not know if the female comes to this process of stopping the chaos in her life. The ending is open, yet likely that it's headed towards a bad path with no end in sight. It's a shame too because there is light at the end of the tunnel. This song showed me that light is at the end of the tunnel.