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City of the Blind

u2 city of blinding lights Continuing the series of posts on U2 songs, “City of Blinding Lights” is also a favorite.  It’s musically reminiscent of “Where the streets have no name” with a brilliant intro.

I think I heard Barack Obama use it as his entrance music a number of times during the campaign.

As with many u2 songs there are a number of conflicting images in the song.

A couple of simple repeated lines throughout the song, make me go hrm…

Oh you look so beautiful tonight
In the city of blinding lights

Can you see the beauty inside of me?
What happened to the beauty I had inside of me?

For some reason it makes me think of an old story I heard originally by H.G. Wells called Country of the Blind.  (Doing some research on it, I realize there’s several renditions of it, below is a summary strictly from my own twisted memory).

There once was a remote city struck with a disease that caused complete blindness of all it’s inhabitants and it’s descendants.

The people eventually adapted to life being blind.  It became so normal that the very concept of sight was all but forgotten after several generations had passed.

A man with perfect vision stumbles into the city.  His heart breaks because he realizes an entire people group have no idea of the colors and beauty that surround them as they feel their way through the dark.

He commits himself to sharing this wonderful gift of vision he has with the people of the city.

He befriends the people and begins describing to them textures, and tints, and things in the distance.  He points out beautiful features on their faces, the blues across the skies, and the yellowness of the sun.

But the people of the city think he’s gone mad as they are unable to comprehend what the man is passionately illustrating.

Having compassion, the people of the city take hold of the man, to help cure him of his illness.

And they gouge out his eyes.

I wonder if this man would be singing “Can you see the beauty inside of me?  What happened to the beauty I had inside of me? ”

Ever been there? Had a spark of hope that no one understood?  Saw something that was so overwhelmingly beautiful that you couldn’t put words to it, but you tried to share it anyways?  Only to then have them crush it and rip it from your soul?

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • stephen October 7, 2009, 11:55 pm

    on the 360 tour, bono has been bringing up a young boy from the audience to run around the outer stage ring with him during this song. i think it's a clue that he wrote this song as if speaking to/about himself as a child.

  • lon October 8, 2009, 6:48 pm

    Hey Stephen – yeah, the boy was at the toronto concert i was at as well… is it the same boy, or just some kid out of the audience? i can see the childhood allusions too..

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