Everyone has heard of Bono the rock star or Bono the political agitator. Everyone has some idea of what Bono does. But what’s particularly interesting is why Bono does it.
A few years ago I read a book called Bono on Bono and it provided a rare glimpse into the man’s heart. The story so far goes like this. Three Christian boys started a band called U2. Because they played rock and roll they got kicked out of the church community they loved. Organized religion rejected them but they did not reject God. Bono once said, “Great music is written by people who are either running toward or away from God.” You can decide from the quotes below which direction Bono is running.
I’m a big fan, not merely because of what he does, but because what he says and how he says it. Bono is the greatest poet of my generation. It wasn’t hard to find some classic quotes. He’s Irish after all, and he loves to talk. He once said “I`m the Fidel Castro of speechifying.”
He’s also pretty darn funny. Look at what he said after one visit to the White House:
I’d like to think that I`ve always left the White House with more than I arrived. Not only budget commitments – cutlery, silverware, candelabras, one or two Bush family photos… OK, one Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington – it was in the bathroom, nobody could see. I’ll give it back.
One more thing you should know. Back in the early 1990s when U2 did Zooropa, I missed the point about it being self-parody. I thought U2 had suddenly, and unexpectedly, become full of themselves. Only later did I get the joke. Although he’s the most famous rock star on the planet, Bono doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Look, I`m sick of Bono and I AM Bono.
So now you know that he’s outspoken, funny, and self-deprecating. With that introduction, here are my all-time top 20 Bono quotes:
1. “I’m not in a position to be seen as a spokesman for a generation. I mean, how can you be a spokesman of a generation if you’ve nothing to say, other than ‘Help!’”
2. “As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that would make me a Christian. Although I don’t use the label, because it is so very hard to live up to. I feel like I’m the worst example of it, so just kinda keep my mouth shut.”
3. “Celebrity is currency, so I wanted to use mine effectively.”
4. “Rock ‘n’ roll is ridiculous. It’s absurd. In the past, U2 was trying to duck that. Now we’re wrapping our arms around it and giving it a great big kiss.”
5. “It’s stasis that kills you off in the end, not ambition.”
6. “My heroes are the ones who survived doing it wrong, who made mistakes, but recovered from them.”
7. “Religion can be the enemy of God. It`s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship.”
8. “We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.”
9. “And this wise man asked me to stop. He said, Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing – because it’s already blessed.”
11. “Every era has its defining struggle and the fate of Africa is one of ours. It’s not the only one, but in the history books it’s easily going to make the top five, what we did or what we did not do. It’s a proving ground, as I said earlier, for the idea of equality. But whether it’s this or something else, I hope you’ll pick a fight and get in it.”
12. “There are potentially another 10 Afghanistans in Africa, and it is cheaper by a factor of 100 to prevent the fires from happening than to put them out.”
13. “Books! I dunno if I ever told you this, but books are the greatest gift one person can give another.”
14. “Even then I prayed more outside of the church than inside. It gets back to the songs I was listening to; to me, they were prayers. ‘How many roads must a man walk down?’ That wasn’t a rhetorical question to me. It was addressed to God. It’s a question I wanted to know the answer to, and I’m wondering, who do I ask that to? I’m not gonna ask a schoolteacher. When John Lennon sings, ‘Oh, my love/For the first time in my life/My eyes are wide open’ – these songs have an intimacy for me that’s not just between people, I realize now, not just sexual intimacy. A spiritual intimacy.”
15. “I believe in the kingdom come. Then all the colors will bleed into one.”
16. “It’s not enough to rage against the lie. You’ve got to replace it with the truth.”
17. “My heroes are all alive. I never have worshipped at that altar of burnt-out youth.”
18. “Yes, I sometimes fail, but at least I’m willing to experiment.”
19. “You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that as you sow, so you will reap” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”
20. “But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace.”