While some of us are still working on our family Christmas letters, Bono of U2 has won the season with his New Year’s Day rambling, lovely dispatch from his recovery room. A bad bike accident in New York City has sidelined his body since November, but apparently stimulated his mind. Here are the best parts.
1) Details About His Injury
Bono shows us he’s not immune to the pride that leads us to fight against old age, nor is he immune to the accompanying failures, but that injuries can be “punk rock.”
On the day of my 50th birthday I received an injury because I was over indulging in exercise boxing and cycling, which was itself an overcompensation for overindulging on alcohol coming up to the big birthday. I promised myself I would be more mindful of my limits, but just four years on, it happened again—a massive injury I can’t blame on anyone but myself, mainly because I blanked out on impact and have no memory of how I ended up in New York Presbyterian with my humerus bone sticking through my leather jacket. Very punk rock as injuries go.
2) The Part Where He Blatantly Loves His Wife
Actually lots of parts. Odes to Ali are scattered throughout. She’s clearly woven deeply into his life and heart. (Note: These are three separate quotes from different sections of the note.)
A is for Ali. If her name were Zena I’d start the alphabet with her anyway; everything for me starts with her.
[Adam Clayton] bought Ali a snowflake pendant that she hardly ever takes off despite all my attempts to ply her with things that shine. Truth is Ali is too modest and old-school frugal to wear anything showy. Yet another lesson there. (Note to self. Look up ‘frugal.’)
Marriage is a grand madness. It’s like jumping off a very tall building and discovering you can fly. I was at some special weddings this year that reminded me and my missus why we jumped.
3) Bono Brags on His Kids
Bono makes us feel like we know them and they’re our kids too. And there is a lovely photo of the kids in the letter.
On daughter Jordan: “When she was born she was only five pounds… the midwife said it would be comforting for her to sleep on my chest where she would hear my heartbeat like when she is breastfeeding with her mother. She is still there.”
On daughter Eve: “Eve has discipline and mischief, real depth that she chooses to float above, until it’s necessary to take that dive.”
On son John: “He broke his nose in a match this year. His mother and I were badly shaken. He rolled his eyes, and explained that greatest living Irishman Brian O’Driscoll broke his nose 13 times. So that’s a dozen more to go.”
On son Eli, apparently the only one to follow in dad’s footsteps: “Elijah Bob, or Eli as he’s known, is 15 and already a guitar shredder…Our boy Eli won’t be a student for long.”
4) On Internet Comments and Bathroom Walls
Bono compares Internet comments to bathroom walls and makes them both sound like poetry.
If you’re in an old pub here in Dublin, in fact most places, walk into the gents and further into the stalls; close the door and study the walls… nothing there… clean as a whistle. Where has all the graffiti gone? The bile and spleen, the grotesque drawing, the sexual meandering, the threats of violence to minorities? Where has it gone? It’s on the blessed Internet.
5) Bono on Capitalism
Bono simultaneously defends capitalism and challenges it, then includes capitalism as a part of what he must understand to be an effective artist.
[The Pope’s] message: ‘I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it’.
Capitalism is not immoral, but it is amoral. It gets its instructions from us. It’s an indiscriminate engine, and our obligation is to see that it provides forward movement to everyone, not just to those whose hands are on the levers of the machine.
And in a separate quote:
I’ve never had a job – I worked part time in a petrol station, a warehouse, and I spent a summer selling cowboy boots …so that makes me an expert in what? High heels ?!!
Artists chase the zeitgeist like dogs chase cars… often we don’t really want to catch up to the speeding wheels, we just want to bark at them. I could spend my entire life in a bubble of songwriting, I’d love that, but I’ve realised that it’s the artist in me that won’t let me. I’ve to accept it’s not just culture that informs the zeitgeist. I want to understand commerce, I want to understand politics. I want to understand the digital revolution as others before us grappled with the industrial revolution. And if I want to learn about something I have to do it, it doesn’t work just to read about it.
And here’s a third section:
That Apple remains a music company is the best news for any one who wakes up with a melody in their head or wanting to hear one. Apple is unique in big tech in trying to get artists paid. That they would agree to pay Universal for SONGS of INNOCENCE, and then gift it to all the people who still believe music is worth paying for, both makes sense and is a beautiful thing.
6) Of Course, Bono Defends the F-Word
F IS FOR THE F-WORD
Let this be said. But not on live television.
I know this out of order, but there are some things you shouldn’t get completely under control. Expletives, for example.
7) Bono Explains His Sunglasses Fetish
The reason that I wear tinted glasses is that I have been diagnosed as having glaucoma for the last seven years, but that I’ve probably had the disease as long as I’ve been wearing these kinds of glasses, which is 23 years!!!!
… it certainly surprised the band that I’d gone public, but maybe it is time to be honest about such things.
8) He Teases the Next U2 Song, ‘Invisible’
9) An Unambiguous, Unapologetic, Yet Deeply Challenging Shout-out to Jesus
At this time of year some people are reminded of the poetic as well as the historic truth that is the birth of Jesus. The Christmas story has a crazy good plot with an even crazier premise – the idea goes, if there is a force of love and logic behind the universe, then how amazing would it be if that incomprehensible power chose to express itself as a child born in shit and straw poverty.
Who could conceive of such a story? If you believe it was the protagonist, as I do, then we should try to be really respectful of people who think the whole thing is a bit nutty or worse… Religious people are the best and worst of us…handle us with scepticism…
In a separate quote:
But back to the Christmas story that still brings me to my knees—which is a good place for me lest I harm myself or others. Christmas is not a time for me to overthink about this child, so vulnerable, who would grow so strong… to teach us all how vulnerability is the route to strength and, by example, show us how to love and serve.
To me this is not a fairy tale but a challenge. I preach what I need to hear…
10) Gratitude to America for Fighting AIDS
Bono thanks America for the greatest humanitarian mission no one ever talks about: Conquering the scourge of AIDS across the poorer parts of the world.
I was watching the giant TV screens of Times Square turn crimson… the ultra vivid advertising morphed from advertising products to advertising Hope… And Gratitude …. Mothers and their kids, nurses and farmers from Accra, Colombo, Phnom Penh holding up signs saying… Thank you New York… Thank you Boise… Thank you Chicago… For those AIDS drugs that mean we are alive… About 8 million people are on anti retroviral drugs paid for by the USA
Thank You America.
11) The Guitar Question
Bono says his punk rock injury may cost him one thing he loves dearly.
Recovery has been more difficult than I thought… As I write this, it is not clear that I will ever play guitar again. The band have reminded me that neither they nor Western civilization are depending on this.
Here’s hoping he’s wrong and dialing it up to 11 soon!
There is a lot more good stuff in the letter: tributes to band members and friends, talk about his activism, clips from Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, more on faith. Read the rest here.