Author Topic: Exit - even the hands of love?  (Read 632 times)

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Offline laoghaire

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Exit - even the hands of love?
« on: July 25, 2018, 06:02:38 AM »
We all know what "the hands of love" are in Bono's language.

I can't think of another reference he makes to God being destructive. It would be typical of Bono to say that loving (human) hands can also tear down, but out of character to say that of God.

So was Exit originally sung in a twisted voice, of one who did not understand (or one who sought to lie about) the nature of God? I know Shadowman is twisted, but was the voice who sang this song in 1987 known (by Bono) to be twisted, or was it originally sincere (albiet dark, obviously)? What was he originally trying to say with the song?



Online Tortuga

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Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2018, 09:24:00 AM »
I have thought of that song as being a reflection of how love has two faces.  If you have ever read CS Lewis, you probably are familiar with his construct that there is only one force in the world...Love.  Evil is love of self over others.  Good is love of others over self.  Satan represents love of self.  God represents love of others.

The character in Exit is battling within himself and no matter which one wins, it is still the hands of love either way.  The hands that build can also pull down.

That is my own interpretation, not based on anything I read or interviews.  I pretty much prefer not to hear Bono’s interpretation of his own songs.  Artists should be like magicians and not give away their secrets.  It is, however, possible that I got this idea from Bono’s reference to The Screwtape Letters with regard to Mac Phisto.

(I doubt if this concept is original to Lewis but I don’t do that much reading so that is where I know it from.) 


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« Last Edit: July 25, 2018, 09:44:12 AM by Tortuga »

Offline laoghaire

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2018, 10:13:08 AM »
That's an amazing interpretation, thank you for sharing it. That gives me something to chew on.

I did read The Screwtape Letters, but I seem to have missed that concept. (Only read it once). The concept makes sense logically but I'm not sure if it's the same love, just being applied to self vs. others. The sense I got from Lewis was that you could love yourself, and be your true self, and enjoy the pleasures of the world. For example, enjoy a morning stroll and breathe the fresh air. The "pleasures" of, say, being drunk, or having a sexual encounter where one person just uses the other, I understood Lewis as describing as false, empty, lies. So loving yourself in that particular way seems also not actually love, whereas one could in fact love themselves in a Christian way, being truly themselves.

Most of the song is a narrator describing the actions, feelings, and beliefs of the man who went astray. So that man could have been misled. But at the end, the narrator himself makes that pronouncement, and that's what seemed, well, off to me.

But Shadowman solves that, because he becomes the narrator. And Shadowman is not speaking for God.

Speaking of Shadowman, can I just ask: how can a man sing Eeny Meeny Miny Moe in a way that sends chills right down my spine? How is that possible?

Online Tortuga

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2018, 10:18:43 AM »
That concept wasn’t really brought into Screwtape Letters.  It was in some essay he wrote.  Pretty sure it was included in Mere Christianity.

Of course its a pretty obvious concept just from human observation.  Its probably been reflected in every religion.  Even Star Wars dark side/light side of the force.  Ha ha.


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Offline laoghaire

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2018, 10:32:11 AM »
That's a great point - and yes, I can talk Star Wars, too. It's all the same force, in that universe, you're right. So it's a great point that that force could be described as Love. It just can be tapped into in different ways - for power or for peace, self or others. And so the Force that builds can also tear down.

Buuuuut. I don't know if that fits what Bono says.

Offline Vox

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2018, 10:42:16 AM »
I always had the belief that if you substitute the word “love” for “God” throughout the entirety of No Line on the Horizon, it flips that entire album on its head.  The code for that theory is during “Stand Up Comedy” when (I always thought it was The Edge singing this line) “God is love… “  I’ve always thought Bono uses this template, more on the 21st century albums.  Whereas perhaps he was substituting the feminine for God in the ‘90s.  Or perhaps Bono is being quite literal, and he’s singing about love as an emotion, or women…   Whatever the case, symbolism and the many-interpretations theory is what I admire most about Bono’s lyrics.   

But personally, I never thought Bono was using this formula on most of The Joshua Tree or on “Exit.”  I always interpreted it quite literally – love can build, but it can also pull down.  Love may be the greatest thing of all, but it’s also quite possibly, the most dangerous thing, if it’s a selfish love.  I think “Exit” and “The Wanderer” shared the same DNA -- the narrator of that song has a Bible and gun, and the word of God lay heavy in his heart.  He wandered around a wasteland with the capacity to do great good, or to do great evil.  The dichotomy of the sword or the word. 

I also think it’s why Bono, on the The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, played the role of a grifter or snake oil salesman during “Exit.”   You see a lot of people who use God and/or love for their own selfish power, or to strike fear in others.  I’m no theologian, but a lot of prominent Evangelicals seem to evoke Jesus for what seems to be very un-Jesus type things (by saying, for example, Jesus would be against refugees crossing a border illegally because it’s a crime).  Or from Catholic pedophile priests, using religious power to abuse the innocent.  Or even Muslims, flying planes into buildings in the name of their god. 

God, or love, should be a very unifying thing.  But in the wrong hands, it can also pull down.

Just my opinion and my thoughts, as someone who has absolutely no idea.  Just my coffee-fueled interpretation for today.

Online Tortuga

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2018, 10:49:52 AM »
Love is Blindness...similar theme.  A terrorist with an idea that “almost makes sense.”  Religion can be so twisted when people get in so deep they lose all perspective and crazy things like flying airplanes into buildings or lack of sympathy for people looking for a better life because they are “criminals” seem to make sense.  Not to equivocate terrorism with border policy.


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Offline laoghaire

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2018, 11:21:19 AM »
In a parked car, in a crowded street
You see your love made complete

Yeah, it's there too, but I always heard it as an irony, and it wasn't applied by the narrator as being the nature of God (but of humans in our blindness/passion).

I don't know if I'm making any sense here, but those specific lines in Exit feel different to me.

I have assumed God = Love = God throughout the canon, but let me reconsider.

This Love lasts forever.
Sounds like God to me.

Burned by the fire of Love.
Seems like Satan/his followers (sons of Cain, who slew his brother), who cannot bear God's love.

Still building then burning down Love.
That's different, but sounds more like its use in LIB - humans burning down love, not God.

Love, slowly stripped away.
Same - the work of humans.

In the name of Love
Humans, again, in the name of God.

I only considered JT and previous here.

Offline laoghaire

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2018, 11:26:40 AM »
I'm doing a lousy job of explaining myself. In the above quotes, even if destruction was done in the name of Love/God (and that's a common theme), it's always humans committing that destruction, and Bono criticizes in (perhaps in an ironic voice).

"Even the hands of love," sounds to me like it's God, and if that is so, God commits destruction here.

So that's weird to me, based on my understanding of all the other lyrics.

Offline popsadie

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2018, 02:09:47 PM »
Well, God can 'tear down' so to speak. I'm going through the book of Jeremiah currently and there is a lot of talk about 'tearing down' due to the judgement placed on wayward Israel and Judah. Of course, the song takes on an ironic bent in my mind. The speaker of the song seems to see himself as a prophet of sorts, speaking and acting upon the God in his head.

Offline laoghaire

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2018, 02:47:45 PM »
So you see the narrator as another character, in addition to The Man Who Went Astray? (Again, I realize that last year this was in fact made clear with Shadowman, but I'm asking about Exit in its original time).

Also, another good thought about God the detroyer, and definitely something I've wondered about. I am NO Biblical scholar (not even Christian actually) but there is a ... Change? Conflict? ... between the Old and New Testaments, as I understand it.

God sent the Flood in the Old Testament. If I understand correctly, he may have regretted it. I recall he said he would never do it again.

A God that would send the Flood - wiling out even children and babies - seems in conflict with the New Testament God as I understand him. That God made a new covenent, and that was the law of love. This was not in conflict with the Ten Commandments, but perhaps a clarification, as people maybe took those commandments as an order to police each other rather than working on their own hearts.

If God is Absolute Love, how could he have sent the Flood? The God I understand is waiting patiently for all of us, even Satan, much less the innocent who were destroyed in the Flood.

Why did he destroy cities and support armies?

Maybe we misunderstood him.

Or maybe he changed after he sent Jesus, and understood our suffering.

I notice Bono stays away from the hellfire and damnation stuff. Take 40. He skipped the "many will FEAR" and stuck with "many will see and hear."

"I have cursed thy rod and staff, they no longer comfort me. Love, rescue me." He doesn't curse God, but his rod and staff, and calls for God's Love to rescue him.

For him, everything seems to be God is Love. Not a tyrant, but the biggest love that could ever be (bigger than anything in his way). And I don't think it's a new interpretation of his; he seems to have been believing that the entire time. (imho)

Online Tortuga

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2018, 04:31:15 PM »
With regard to burned by the fire of love, I have heard Christians compare God’s love to a fire, because of its intensity.  For example, to stick with Lewis, from “The Great Divorce”...

Would you like me to make him quiet?’ said the flaming Spirit – an angel, as I now understood.
‘Of course I would,’ said the Ghost.
‘Then I will kill him,’ said the Angel, taking a step forward.
‘Oh – ah – look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,’ said the Ghost, retreating. ‘Don’t you want him killed?’
‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you
with anything so drastic as that.’
‘It’s the only way,’ said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to
the Lizard. ‘Shall I kill it?’

(By the way, the lizard is the ego/sin of the ghost the angel is talking to.)

TBH, I think Exit is not that complicated.  Its about a messed up guy that is wants to let love heal him but is struggling in a way that he might destroy the very love that could heal him.  Coincidentally, kind of like the passage above.

If you want to get JT-era lyrics, read Flannery O’Conner and Lewis.  Bono was big into them at that time.  I’ve often thought that the ironic era of mocking the devil that followed JT/RH may have been inspired by O’Conner’s approach to writing.  She believed Christianity had been dumbed down to mock piety and that Christian art had to be shocking and outrageous to get the attention of people who already considered themselves as Christians and make them realize how far they were missing the mark.  U2 found a way to throw off critics who saw them as overly pious and still communicate their spiritual yearnings in an even more attention getting way, somewhat the way O’connor did.



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Offline laoghaire

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2018, 04:49:22 PM »
All right, what Flannery O'Conner shall I read? I think I only read one short story, looooong time ago.

Online Tortuga

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2018, 07:03:53 PM »
The Habit of Being really lets you get inside her head but would probably boring if you aren’t into religion or haven’t read any of her writing.  You might have read A Good Man is Hard to Find or Revelation.  Good Man is really representative of her “thing”.  If you want to read one of her two novels probably Wise Blood.  Read her wikipedia entry.


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Offline laoghaire

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2018, 07:28:22 PM »
Yeah, it was Good Man that I read. I think the nature of this thread shows I'm not averse to reading/thinking about religion :) Read a couple CS Lewis too. Will check O'Conner.