This is my second October as a U2 fan and my last October before I turn 21.
This is my last month as a twenty-year-old, and even though I find that idea exciting, for some reason, I also find it a little scary.
Maybe it’s because I’m realizing that adulthood is catching up with me. Or maybe that feeling comes from other factors in my life completely unrelated to the impending age that my culture has deemed to be a milestone…the milestone that decrees that I shall legally be able to enter a bar, enter a casino, and get a full unrestricted “grown-up” driver’s license.
Or, you know, maybe I could just blame U2 for my odd pre-milestone culture shock. After all, our four favorite musicians had formed a world-renowned, successful rock group by the time they were 21. In fact, they released October when they were 21 (or almost 21, in Larry’s case).
I’m almost the exact same age they were when they created one of my favorite albums. What have I done with my life?
Well… I may not be a successful musician, but I guess I do have this one thing I do: I write. I write a lot.
And today, I’m writing about October. Not the month; not the album; not the tour. The song.
It’s a short song, when you look at the word count. Just a few quiet lines:
“October and the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care?
October and kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
The image of trees being stripped bare could have several different interpretations. The changing of the seasons can reflect a change in life. Being stripped bare makes me think of exposing the truth behind a situation, or revealing one’s true feelings. Kingdoms rising and falling show us more transitions. Civilization and society don’t stay the same; they change as the years go by.
I would be remiss to not include a quote from Bono, and this one came from U2 By U2: “It was a colder time, materialism without any idealism, the sun without any heat, winter. It was after the fall, after harvest…Edge at the piano coming up with these beautiful ice notes, and this picture of loss of innocence, the fall, the leaves falling from the trees, and you’re left exposed.”
The loss of innocence, the feeling of growing up, the technology-enhanced world moving ever faster, personal issues continuing to progress as we go through life… Change surrounds us on all sides, and it’s easy to be discouraged, to face a lack of idealism and spirit, and to feel like the good things in life are gone for good.
But in the end, that isn’t true. There will always be another good sunny day, another harvest, and another time to grow. We’re not finished yet, and the year isn’t through.
In the end, the changes don’t matter. Life always finds a way. The world moves on, one season at a time, with a spring for every fall and a summer for every winter. The seasons don’t stop no matter how many different things we face.
So despite whatever the future holds, we’ve got to carry on and keep going. When the leaves fall, we rake them up, prepare ourselves for winter, and look for signs of the spring to come.
And, no matter what the future holds, God has a plan. The “you” in this song could mean a lot of things. It could be the friends and family who support us in our times of growth or need. But I think that this line is about someone more eternal.
God goes on, forever and without end. The Earth He created continues to move, and so do we, but He guides us always. Whatever the upcoming winter brings, whatever happens when the trees are stripped bare, we can take it—because He will never give us more than we can handle.
It’s comforting to me personally to think that, no matter how scary it might seem to reflect on the notion of truly growing up, finishing college, getting a career, and having a real adult life, I am not alone. No matter what scary things I may face in the seasons ahead, God is with me. And He’s with everybody else, too.
I think that’s what a lot of October is about—both the song and the album. Written at a particularly spiritually-oriented time in the lives of the band members, this song and its namesake album capture a lot of ideas about God.
And the big idea is that He is with us, always, and in Him we have nothing to fear. He goes on and on, and so will we.
“Haven’t I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed, for The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” —Joshua 1:9
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