Bono played around a lot with writing about different characters for the No Line on the Horizon album. One of these characters was a reporter, stationed in Lebanon. I always thought that he was a newspaper reporter, mainly because he references the importance of headlines, but I suppose that he could be writing for the internet also. In the song, this character seems to be missing his home and avoiding it at the same time. I say that he is missing home because he talks about little else throughout the song–home is clearly on his mind. Yet, despite the fact that home is ever-present in his thoughts, it feels almost like he has escaped into his job to get away from his home. Perhaps his relationship with his partner has crumbled. In the first verse, the reporter reminisces about the day he took a photograph of her then goes on to detail how the thought of this woman has kept him from getting involved in any other relationships. He recalls her tears, which tells us that something happened to make her unhappy…probably the divorce or separation or whatever happened between the two lovers to cause them to no longer be together. He then compares the relationship to a rose, which starts out as a thing of beauty, filling the room with a lovely scent, but which eventually withers and dies. It seems that the character in this song has come to believe the old adage which states that nothing good lasts forever.
The last part of the song focuses on what I believe to be the reporter’s relationship with God. The politics in the part of the world where Lebanon is situated are extremely complicated, and a lot of that has to do with religion. War and general unrest seem to be never-ending, and if there is a God, it appears and must seem even to a believer, that God has forsaken those poor people. Bono pointedly asks “where are you in the cedars of Lebanon?” just after he makes the observation that God is “higher than everyone.” I feel like Bono is thinking of God as sequestered away from all the ugliness of this world in God’s mansion in the sky, and Bono is wishing that God would come down and fix all of the ills–war, hunger, disease, all of the things that Bono himself works against through his charitable causes.
“Cedars of Lebanon” has never been performed live, and I have to say that I think that that is a sound decision by the band. It is a slow, thoughtful song that asks some hard questions, and the song would not fit in with the feelings of joy and one-ness that the band tries to develop at their concerts. What’s more, as it was never released as a single, it might be unknown to many of the more casual fans in attendance. “Cedars of Lebanon” is more suited to quiet contemplation at one’s home or in one’s car, wheverer people listen to music and think about it as they listen. It is a dense song with lots of meaning to unpack, which is next to impossible to do at a live concert where one is surrounded by distractions.