The only baggage you can bring

Writing yesterday’s post got me thinking about all of the stuff currently living rent-free in my head. At the risk of extending the metaphor beyond its limits, a big part of what I am doing right now is unpacking emotional baggage. One song, in particular, is on heavy rotation in my head. It’s Walk On, the fourth track on the Irish rock band U2’s 2001 release, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, from which also comes the album’s title.*

And love is not the easy thing

The only baggage you can bring

Is all that you can’t leave behind

Although I’m hardly the U2 authority my friend Seth is, I’ve always enjoyed learning about the inspiration behind their songs, which are often spiritually and/or politically themed. Bono, the band’s lead singer and primary lyricist, had this to say about the meaning behind Walk On in the band’s autobiography (which, if you haven’t read, I highly recommend):

It’s a song about nobility and personal sacrifice, about doing what’s right even when your heart says otherwise. The spoken intro gave us the title for the new album. … Love, in the highest sense of the word, is the only thing you can always take with you, in your heart. At some point you’re going to have to lose everything else anyway. There’s a passage in Corinthians that uses the image of a house going through a fire, and it seems to suggest that when, in death, we eventually face judgement…all that is made of straw and wood will be burned away, only the eternal things will survive. … It is a mantra, really, a bonfire of vanities, and you can throw anything you want on the fire. Whatever it is that you want more than love, it has to go. That’s a really interesting question to ask: What are the things you want more than love?

As I play the song over in my mind, I find myself asking why I am holding onto so many fears, anxieties, slights, grudges, frustrations, failures, embarrassments, judgments… I’ve started working on what I can best describe as a reverse packing list, putting down on paper those things in my head that have been sitting for too long in inventory. It feels overwhelming to try and tackle them all at once, so (in classic Liz style), I am prioritizing and approaching the pile systematically. (Rereading that last line, I realize that I sound significantly more put together than I am.).

All that you fashion

All that you make

All that you build

All that you break

All that you measure

All that you steal

All this you can leave behind

What I love most about this song is its hope. The focus is not on the past, but rather on moving toward a better future. It’s a messy process but, one item at a time, I’m learning how much I can leave behind.


Want to hear the song? Click here.


*Originally written to honor pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, following her recent denials of genocide against the Rohingya people, the band has retracted the dedication and Bono has called for her to step down as State Counsellor of Myanmar.

2 Comments

  1. Interesting that Bono should quote Paul. And even more interesting that he and his colleagues should imitate Beethoven, with an appropriate gender shift. Beethoven dedicated “Eroica“ to Napoleon: “Composta per festeggiare il sowenire dl un grand uomo.” But when Napoleon started invading other countries, Beethoven struck out the dedication. I think we saw the original manuscript on display in the Lobkowitz Palace in Prague.

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  2. Nice thoughts, you know you can always hang out with Betty and I and unpack some “baggage” then we can collectively try to “have some deep thoughts with Jack Handy”… hope you know of Jack Handy. We hope for you Tracy

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