Where the streets have no name
“Where the Streets Have No Name" as written by Dave Evans Paul Hewson, 1993
These hauntingly beautiful lyrics, made famous by U2, were playing on a continual loop in my head this morning. I’ve often wondered at their meaning, believing this piece of art to have many layers.
I think one layer comes from the idea that in Belfast (where U2 is from), by the street someone lives on, one can tell not only their religion, but how much money they’re making. Another hint at this can be drawn from the fact that U2 staged the original video on the streets of downtown LA, in an “unsafe” neighborhood, shortly after the LA riots.
Another layer to this song is the idea of heaven. This interpretation gains particular credence with the extended ending that Bono sometimes adds,
"Then there will be no time for sorrow, then there will be no time for shame"
This alludes to Revelations 21 describing heaven.
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:4
Whatever the songwriter’s intended meaning, these are the two main ideas that I take away from the song. So it’s no surprise to me, when I think about the reason why this song is stuck in my head. I want this, too. Those walls that we build between each other, whether economic, social, religious, racial, cultural, etc.- they’re vile, and my discomfort with those walls has been growing. I don’t think I’m alone here. You too?
The national news events of this summer, the shootings, the church burnings, have all served to put a spotlight on the very big walls that still exist between us.
On a personal level, I feel the pull between wanting to live in a safe neighborhood and send my kids to good schools, while also being disgusted at the level of entitlement that exists within such a community. Not everyone has a choice. My son’s involvement in track this year has taken us to some new (to me) communities and schools, opening my eyes to the stark inequalities that exist within the public school system. I think about how I avoided those communities, until now, based on nothing more than their name. Once you start getting to know people on the other side of the walls, the walls start to crumble.
I know I’m not alone in wanting these walls to crumble. There is a deep desire within us to live, as the song says, “Where the streets have no name”.
Is that possible this side of heaven? I don’t know. I’m not aware of a time when these walls didn’t exist. But I do know that it brings God glory, when, with His help, we do our best to break down those walls. We do this by loving our neighbors. As Christians, this is our purpose.
“The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”