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Small men with big ideas

u2_no_line_on_the_horizon-2009Since the U2 concert last week I’ve been revisiting my love of music in general.  I haven’t really listened to the radio in years, and have opted for books and talks during my winding down time. 

While I still find it hard to sit down and do nothing but listen to music, there’s still something beautiful about just catching a great riff or a powerful lyric.

I’ve decided I’m going to do a series of posts on some of my personal U2 highlights.  I know volumes of books and blogs have already been written on them, but amuse me, won’t you?  I’m not sure how long this will go for, or if I’ll move on to some other band/artist.  But they’ll do for now.

One lyric that’s stuck with me from the recent album is in the song Stand up Comedy.  A friend and I were having lunch a few months back and started talking about the album, and this one same line came to both of our minds.

“be careful Of small men with big ideas”

The interesting thing is we had completely different impressions of the verse. I shared about how it echoed one of my fears of being a person with great visions and weak in character. My buddy Zaya (who’s actually written a few guest posts here) shared about the hope of having powerful ideas even if you’re low on the ladder.

I wonder if the discrepancy had anything to do with our cultural narratives? Myself being Asian, known for mass-production and corner cutting. And Zaya being shaped by an African oppression narrative? I’m not sure, but like the Scriptures, there’s something mysterious when what you’re examining starts looking back at you.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Trish Baker September 22, 2009, 3:42 am

    Funny, I always thought it was referring to physically small men who over compensate to the detriment of others. Think Napoleon. Alexander the Great. George W. Bush… But maybe that's just me being blond!

  • lon September 22, 2009, 3:46 am

    Thanks for the comment Trish – I think you might be closest to what U2 were originally intending… they mention napoleon and josephine right before that lyric.

  • buddy May 3, 2010, 1:09 pm

    The great thing about the line is that it works on so many levels. First, the Napoleon reference seems absolutely right ( he says “Josephine,” and Napoleon was short); of course, it makes sense in a general way in terms of other small (literal or figurative) men with big ideas (Hitler? Stalin? Both short, funnily enough); but the FUNNIEST part is that I think Bono is also referencing himself: he always talks about how he has some “big ideas” (he even likes to say it explicitly, like in “Out Of Control” at the U2 concert at Slane) and he is a really small guy! Just hilarious, which fits rather nicely with the song title too, “Stand-up Comedy”

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