Author Topic: Exit - even the hands of love?  (Read 807 times)

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Offline Chip

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #30 on: August 03, 2018, 08:56:45 PM »
Laoghaire, I also have always seen that reference to "the hands of love can also pull down, even the hands of love" to refer to God (or, better said, to both human beings and God). I think it's indicative of the protagonist's frame of mind: "He went deeper into black/Deeper into white" -- deeper into darkness, despair, evil, what have you, but also deeper into goodness, truth, and beauty. "He could see the stars shine like nails in the night/He felt the healing, healing, healing hands of love/Like the stars, shiny, shiny from above" -- the crucifixion reference seems pretty obvious, as does the source of the healing, but while both Christ and God are alluded to, the protagonist's frame of mind is such that he experiences both "black" ("like nails in the night" -- as if he himself is being crucified) and "white" ("shiny, shiny from above"). So the protagonist experiences God in both good and bad ways -- not necessarily objectively so, but in his perception. This helps make sense of the line you brought up for discussion: God both builds and pulls down in the protagonist's mind. Bono leaves the question of whether his perception is accurate to the listener.

But if the "hands" refer on one level to God, they also apply to human beings. You already rightly pointed out the continuation of the theme from "Streets" (and one thing I appreciate about "Streets" is the way it sets up TJT's major recurring themes and imagery), and I also call to mind the "shine like stars" coda to WOWY. "We'll [i.e., human beings] shine like stars in the summer night/We'll shine like stars in the winter sky/One heart, one hope, one love" -- an eschatalogical vision that corresponds to the Bible's declaration that those who know God will "shine like stars" in the times to come (an assertion that echoes God's promise to Abraham about his descendants in Genesis), and a view that everything will be under the reign of God, complete with a communion of saints vibe. But it's people who will shine like stars, so the star imagery in "Exit" also has applicability to human beings. In fact, "he found the hands that build could also pull down" follows the protagonist's "hand in his pocket, his finger on the steel," so the hands that build and pull down can be taken as his own (and I think that's pretty much indisputable from the context).

One more thought for consideration: Bono told journalist Terry Mattingly back in circa 1982 that one of the (or maybe even the) themes that he was most interested in exploring as a writer was how a human being can be a saint and a sinner at the same time. TJT features Bono's most detailed explorations of this theme to that point in time; it runs throughout the album in the majority of songs. "Exit" can be taken as an extreme study of a person fitting this bill, ultimately turning toward violence (at least toward himself, if no one else).  And as others have mentioned, the O'Connor influence is very strong.

Offline Tortuga

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Re: Exit - even the hands of love?
« Reply #31 on: August 04, 2018, 06:55:28 AM »
With regard to the “he went deeper into white, deeper into black” line.  That is a great line that can mean so many things.  In the context of the song I think it most obviously refers to the whole duality thing of love of self vs love of others.  Or how we all have the capability of going either way for good or evil.  I get a picture of the protagonist that is unstable and prone to extremes of passion that can go either way.  Image-wise too it fits the overall feel of the song along with shiny stars in a black sky, etc.

But the line also makes me think of the metaphor of the change Jesus brought to temper law and justice with grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  If anyone listens to Jars of Clay think of the song “Fade to Gray” with the line

“If you follow me you’ll see all the black, all the white, fade to gray”.

Sort of the opposite of going “deeper into black, deeper into white”.  Feeling forgiven and accepted can really help keep you from going to the dark side irreversibly.


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