Head In Heaven / Fingers In The Mire

What would you do if, in the middle of a perfectly normal day, your hero walked into the room?

I’ve read some 1182 pages about the man in the last three months alone.

I watched “Live From Sydney,” “Live From Chicago,” “Rattle & Hum,” “Classic Albums: Joshua Tree,” and “Under Review: Achtung Baby,” all in the last three weeks.

I’ve listened to his music since I was a teenager. In the last few months, though, I’ve listened to little else.

His band is undisputedly the biggest and best of my generation.

And just last week, I was moved to tears while covering one of his songs.

Yeah, him.

Imagine. The company for which you work brought punk rock sensibility to television. It evolved with the times, riding the zeitgeist and capturing lightning in a bottle. And then, one day, it jumped the shark, missed the boat, and lost the beat. A few years on, after a fair dose of Khrushcheving on your and other colleagues’ part, the company begins to realize it’s hit an iceberg, and is listing. It begins off-siting, recalibrating, rebooting.

Such was the place MTV Networks found itself today.

A thousand or so of us had gathered downstairs in the Nokia Theatre for what was ostensibly a corporate revival meeting. A keynote from our the president of the network, Van Toffler, was followed by presentations from numerous brand stakeholders. The theme was reinvention.

Towards the end of the f-bomb laden, multimedia, boxed lunch affair, my supervisor inquired, “Do you know who the surprise guest is?”

You know me. I’m not down with the water cooler. I’m the last to know such things.

“No,” I whispered.

“You, of all people,” he said, “Should stick around.”

A few minutes later, Van introduced John Norris. I turned to my boss.

“No!” I said, knowing full well that the network had tapped the MTV News correspondent best suited to interview…


“Ladies and gentleman, it’s an honor to introduce Bono.”

You know that scene in “Men In Black” where they hold that pen-shaped gizmo in front of the dude’s eyes and it flashes white and he forgets everything? That was me at about 2:38 p.m. this afternoon.

Fucking A. Bono. My hero.

Articulate, intelligent, passionate, informed, concerned, engaged, poetic, gifted, blessed…

Bono. In the house.

John asked him about reinvention in the context of the network’s woes, but Bono didn’t take the bait. He talked about zeitgeist. He talked about building stone cathedrals around religion when the whole thing was about the “anarchy of the Spirit.” He quoted scripture, for God’s sake, in front of a thousand corporate wankers.

The entire experience — all twenty-six or so minutes of it — were oddly ecstatic, and disappointing. I smiled when he quoted The Bible (how punk rock!), but cringed that he agreed to the appearance at all. I was moved by his eloquence (“People who think the world is malleable,” he said. “Those are the ones for me.”), but frustrated that he was so close, yet so far away.

For weeks — since getting engaged — I have been listening to nothing but U2. I have read three books: “Bono In Conversation,” “U2 At The End Of The World,” and “”Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2.” Plus all the aforementioned DVDs.

But why?

At first I thought that the rock ‘n roll decadence the band represents appealed to me. Then I thought it was their use of big beats and synth sounds mashed up with traditional guitar, bass, and drums.

Lately, though, U2 — and Bono’s lyrics in particular — has been all about the triumph of substance over style. Specifically resonant for me of late has been the band’s unwavering — or, moreover, unwaveringly wavering — faith. With U2, the battle between Heaven and Earth, God and the Devil, shallow and deep, is real, and worthy.

Afterwards, I returned — shell shocked — to my desk, before heading off to a steady stream of meetings. It was as if it hadn’t really happened at all.

Tonight, some eight hours later, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. And I’m not sure I’m going to anytime soon. One thing I do know: if you wanna’ kiss the sky you’d better learn how to kneel.

On your knees, boy.

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