Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, March 6, 2009

moment of surrender

I was walking to work this morning (in more pleasant weather than I’ve been afforded in quite some time) and decided to listen to some music. I don't usually do this: I like to reserve that fifteen minutes for prayer or just silence. But I hadn't had a chance to give a thorough listen to the new U2 record, No Line on the Horizon, so I decided to put on a song. What the shuffle yielded first was “Moment of Surrender,” which strikes me as the one certifiably transcendent song on the record and sure to be a fixture in all future U2charists.

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passersby
And they did not notice me

As the iPod rose to world dominance earlier in this decade, the most common complaint we heard was that they isolated their users from humanity; they locked listeners up in their inner worlds and made them heedless of others. Now that the iPod has become simply furniture, the minds of the anxious have shifted to sites like Facebook and Twitter, which immerse us in a tingling sphere of constant connectivity. Technology can't win, can it?

I don't want to deny that either of these concerns has substance. I’ve been annoyed by podheads crashing into me on the street, and I’ve experienced first-hand the buzz, and then the diminishing returns, of social networking. But I just want to say that I’m going to remember this morning’s walk to work for a long time.

At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passersby
And they did not notice me

Where does the power come from, the power that music has to connect you to yourself? It's something very different than the power of the social. I didn't crash into any passersby, but I didn't notice them either. And when I got to work I had to stop in the men’s room for a moment to wipe away a tear.


  • Tony Comstock said...


    Have you noticed that so much of what constitutes art needs to be explained to be understood? That the tag next to the piece listing the materials, or the artist's statement is actually more fascinating than the work itself? And that art criticism can be quite entertaining to read, even if you're utterly unfamiliar with the work in question.

    Music criticism, on the other hand, is mostly useless, and most especially if you don't know the music in question. Music offers us the chance to experience another person's idea and emotions without them first being passed through language. The connection is more direct.

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