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-- Bono

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Like a Song: Staring at the Sun

@U2, May 20, 2010
By: Jennifer Tomooka


[Ed. note: This is the 46th 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.]

Like A SongI've got to admit, "Staring at the Sun" has never been very high on my U2 radar. Sure, I've sung along to it in my car (at least the chorus), on my iPod, or while watching U2 PopMart - Live from Mexico City, but connecting emotionally to the song the way I have with my favorite U2 songs was elusive. I liked the song just fine, but I couldn't really tell you what I liked about it or what it was about. That is until I had some very quiet moments to myself to think about big changes that were happening in my life. In that solitude, "Staring at the Sun" popped into my head out of nowhere.

It's been a long, hot summer
Let's get under cover

Don't try too hard to think

Don't think at all

For me, the core of "Staring at the Sun" is hope, although it's heavily swathed in apathy, intransigence (to use Bono's word) and a general unwillingness to deny reality. You've got to work for the payoff, but it comes at a price, and there are plenty of distractions around to convince you to stay put. Time is passing, aren't you exhausted? Climb into bed. Have sex. Indulge in something. Escape reality. Try not to think about the future. Strike that. Don't think. Go on autopilot. I've certainly been guilty of pulling the covers over my head, trying to shut the world out, or hiding from a reality that just felt too overwhelming to face. I got good at hiding, but I never got good at turning my brain off. I'm always thinking.

I'm not the only one starin' at the sun
Afraid of what you'd find
If you took a look inside

Not just deaf and dumb

I'm staring at the sun

Not the only one who's happy to go blind

When I was little, I used to look directly at the sun to test out the "looking at the sun will cause blindness" theory (don't worry, I didn't do any permanent damage to my eyesight). The world literally looked different after gazing upwards for several seconds. Even the sun looked different. So, you could say that I've always exhibited a genuine curiosity about the world around me, even if that meant challenging an absolute. I want to look at the world in a way that others aren't interested in or don't want to indulge in. That includes looking at myself and figuring out what I'm all about as a person. Not being able to "take a look inside" is far more frightening to me than turning away and avoiding it altogether.

There's an insect in your ear
If you scratch it won't disappear

It's gonna itch and burn and sting
You wanna see what the scratching brings

I believe that we all have an instinctual response to choices we have to make. The "insect in your ear" is the answer to the choice you have to make, but you might not be ready to hear it. So they lay in wait. Pestering you. Multiplying. I've swatted at these pesky reminders, mentally buried them and done just about anything to get away from the general annoyance of an inconvenient suggestion. But, that's the thing about "insects." They don't go away. They stick around, getting louder and louder until there's no way they can be ignored. I'm not a rash decision maker (I've been accused of taking too long to make up my mind about things from time to time), but just as I couldn't handle throwing the covers over my head and passively letting my life happen to me, I can't ignore my instincts. Once I've made peace with what I need to do, it doesn't take long to make the decision to move forward. Yes, the scratching brings pain, but it also brings awareness, courage and strength.

I'm nearly great but there's something missing
I left it in the duty free
But you never really belonged to me

Life's a journey and it's constantly moving forward whether we want it to or not, and whether or not we're totally prepared for the ride. I love Bono's reference of leaving something in the duty free. It makes me think of traveling, being in airports, being mobile, being on my way to somewhere else. This simple line gives me hope. This is my payoff. After all of the dodging, miscommunication, misunderstandings, complacency, frustration, anger, fear, resentment and pain, there's something bigger that will take the place of all of that. You just need to commit to the journey to make it happen. Don't worry if you think you forgot something, there will be a place for you to find it again. Stop in, grab what you need and off you go to the next adventure.

I'm not sucking on my thumb
I'm staring at the sun
Not the only one who's happy to go blind

© @U2/Tomooka, 2010.

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