Acrobat (Songs for Amanda #5)


. . . don’t let the bastards grind you down.

~ U2, “Acrobat” – 1991

A Facebook comment, if we are open and willing to receive, can be a tiny epiphany, a “sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.”  To some, an epiphany is “a revelatory manifestation of a divine being.”  Or, to put less of a spiritual twist on it, “a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization.”

Pick whichever definition you prefer, for all are applicable depending on your chosen perspective.

I choose All of the Above.

Let’s begin with Amanda.  We recently crossed paths on the wall of a fellow friend who is contemplating giving up cigarettes.  Again.  Long-time readers know I can relate to that repetitive and infuriating grind.  She wrote, “Not smoking won’t ever limit what you can do, it will simply give you something that you can regress to in a weakened state.”  Wise and holy counsel, that.

Since giving up Camel Turkish Silvers 428 days ago, I’ve treaded where weakness lurks.  Felt that tightening in my neck and heard the accompanying sirens.

One won’t kill you.

I sat in my car.  Smacked the pack with a series of satisfying slaps sharply against the center of my steering wheel and unwrapped the packaging.  Even pulled one out and smelled it.  Deeply.  My fingers never even trembled.  And then, though I’ve never heard it before, I listened to Amanda’s voice.  Quiet, yet laced with grit and fire.


I didn’t.

She sent me a video recently.  Amanda, keeping her end of the bargain that began this series.  I watched it and wept.  And laughed.  And contemplated what it really means to go to the ends of the earth for a friend.

Or, the end of the blogosphere.  That’s where my friend Mark went.  After I asked on Facebook, with tongue tentatively planted in my cheek, whether I should continue to blog, he wrote the following on my wall:


And then he wrote a post about me: “He’s helped me learn that there are people out there who have lived entirely different lives than I have, yet we are all connected in our desire to love and be loved. He’s forced me to stop settling for gimicky rhetoric and fill everything I write with soul.”

My wife had to give me a hand off the roof after that.

True friends call bullshit.  They also call you on the phone.  Mark has done both.  And so here I am.  Blogging.  Maybe that in and of itself is a beautiful thing.

I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating: I have been smoke-free for 428 days.

The other night, as I wondered numb and sleepy out to my car, a friend called my name.  She’s a smoker.  So was the person she stood chatting with.  They were puffing away, and I didn’t even notice.  An epiphany of sorts . . .

This November marks the 20th anniversary of U2’s Achtung Baby.  All that chopping down of the Joshua Tree made me believe again.  And the song that resonated with me then, and perhaps does so even more today, is “Acrobat.”  Ironically, it’s the one song from the album that U2 have seldom performed live, perhaps because, as Edge writes, it is “slightly snarling and cynical . . . I don’t think that is what people come to U2 for.”  Bono admits it is “a song about your own spleen, your own hypocrisy, your own ability to change shape and take on the colours of whatever environment you’re in, like a chameleon.” Amidst songs brimming with “dark romance,” this song slithered straight into my heart and buried its mischievous teeth.  As Edge sums up, “We were always suspicious of irony, hiding behind a wink, clever-clever lyrics at the expense of soul . . . But, in retrospect, I think we followed that idea through to the end and actually discovered that irony is not necessarily the enemy of the soul.”


I spent many years, in myriad arenas of life, pretending to be something I wasn’t.  Among “friends.” In church after church after church.  In school and at work.  And I am not proud to admit that I sometimes still do.  It’s easy, after all.  To appear to have it all together, damn the cost.  To perform as one who has performed forever and with little effort, and yet to cringe somewhere deep inside with every pantomimed movement or every parroted word.  Living this way is hard.  Sometimes necessary.  Seldom rewarding.  Always an end-run around the truth.

The remedy?  Not letting the bastards grind you down . . .

Don’t believe what you hear
Don’t believe what you see
If you just close your eyes
You can feel the enemy

When I first met you girl
You had fire in your soul
What happened your face
Of melting snow?
Now it looks like this!

And you can swallow
Or you can spit
You can throw it up
Or choke on it
And you can dream
So dream out loud
You know that your time is coming ’round
. . . don’t let the bastards grind you down

No nothing makes sense
Nothing seems to fit
I know you’d hit out
If you only knew who to hit

And I’d join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I’d break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in
‘Cos I need it now

To take the cup
To fill it up
To drink it slow
I can’t let you go

And I must be
An acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that
And you can dream
So dream out loud
. . . don’t let the bastards grind you down

What are we going to do now it’s all been said?
No new ideas in the house, and every book has been read

And I must be
An acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that
And you can dream
So dream out loud
And you can find
Your own way out
And you can build
And I can will
And you can call
I can’t wait until
You can stash
And you can seize
In dreams begin
And I can love
And I can love
I know that the tide is turning ’round
. . . don’t let the bastards grind you down

This post marks the end of the “Songs for Amanda” series and the beginning of new things yet conceived, so I want to mark this occasion with a giveaway.  As has become obvious during this series, I am a big fan of U2.  They have influenced me in ways innumerable, informing my heart and soul at nearly every turn.  To enter, just leave a comment telling me who/what/where/when has had that kind of impact on you.

Who “moves” you?

What touches your soul?

Whose voice do you hear cheering you on when you feel weak?

Where are you when you feel like you can conquer the world?

Which book is dog-eared and highlighted with hope?

Think about it.  Then take a moment or two and share with me what helps you keep it real.  I’ll appreciate and honor this glimpse into your soul.

Next Monday, September 5th, at 6:00PM Eastern, I will randomly pick one winner who will receive a stud (don’t laugh) tape (actually, a CD, since tape is, well, obsolete) of some of my favorite songs.  Not just U2, but a wide variety of songs spanning the decades.  I’ll also include a personalized set of liner notes, detailing how each song has influenced me.  The cool thing?  I haven’t even made the CD yet, so it will be tailored to you, Dear Reader.  I could just make a playlist and post it somewhere like Spotify.  But I roll old school.  And it’s a gift for a friend.  You’re worth it.

I’m looking forward to hearing your heart.  And I’m sort of looking forward to blogging again.  So there’s that . . .

Winking smile

[Flickr photo is by Vinoth Chander and is protected]

Ultraviolet (Songs for Amanda #2)

There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it’s the price of love
I know it’s not cheap

~ U2, “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”, 1991

Fourteen days, fifteen hours, eleven minutes, three seconds.

A pile of moments without a cigarette.

Moments I am now even more grateful for, having just read Amanda’s latest post.

I had planned to come here and write about how this week’s selection in the Songs for Amanda series has seen me through some very long, dark nights of the soul. How when one takes the leap and sees, even if only in the recesses of the imagination, what the naked eye cannot, then that thing becomes more real than anything we may ever experience. It is a mysterious and slippery thing that has many faces, and speaks in myriad voices, but is intensionally one.

But I will spare you my ramblings. Instead, I ask that you go, hear her bleed, and love on her.

Please . . .

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know
Sometimes I feel like checkin’ out
I wanna get it wrong
Can’t always be strong
And love it won’t be long

Oh, Sugar, don’t you cry
Oh, Child, wipe the tears from your eyes
You know I need you to be strong
And the day is as dark as the night is long
Feel like trash, you make me feel clean
I’m in the black, can’t see or be seen

Baby, baby, baby…light my way

You bury your treasure
Where it can’t be found
But your love is like a secret
That’s been passed around
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it’s the price of love
I know it’s not cheap

I remember
When we could sleep on stones
Now we lie together
In whispers and moans
When I was all messed up
And I had opera in my head
Your love was a light bulb
Hanging over my bed

[Flickr photo is by NASA Goddard Photo and Video and is protected]