I imagine Bono and C. S. Lewis as two peas in a pod.
I’ve been a U2 fan since the 80s. “The Joshua Tree” album (1987) resonated with me, especially “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I had never heard a song about being saved yet unsettled—finding Jesus but not fully finding what I was looking for.
Now Bono has a book coming out, “Surrender.” I haven’t read it yet, but I did read David Marchese’s interview of Bono in the New York Times. In it, Bono, now 62, recognizes “that with youth culture I am kind of tolerated hanging out at the back of the birthday party.” He concedes U2 hoped to connect with the pop charts with its last two albums but failed.
Those two albums are “Songs of Experience” and “Songs of Innocence.” They’re taken from the titles of a collection of poems by William Blake: “Songs of Innocence and of Experience.” Blake was a Christian mystic who opposed Enlightenment thinking by privileging imagination over reason, poetry and music over apologetics.
U2’s “Songs of Experience” and “Songs of Innocence” are in the same vein. Released after “Pop,” what Marchese calls a “conceptual dead end,” Bono says U2 “went to songwriting school” and the result was “Songs of Experience” and “Songs of Innocence,” two albums that Bono says are “great songwriting even if you don’t like the sound of it.” They’re examples of the kind of songs U2 is writing today. They likely won’t be hits, but they might be difference-makers because the band still wants to change the world.
Which leads me to Bono and C. S. Lewis as two peas in a pod. Bono is 62. Lewis passed away at the age of 64. Like Bono, Lewis went to “school” as he got older, a book-writing school in his case. Lewis described it in a letter to a friend: “It’s fun laying out all my books as a cathedral. Personally I’d make Miracles and the other ‘treatises’ the cathedral school: my children’s stories are the real side-chapels, each with its own little altar.”
Lewis wrote most of his “school” books later in life [here’s a complete list of his works]. They include “Studies in Words” (1960), “The Four Loves” (1960), “An Experiment in Criticism,” (1961), “Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer” (1963) and “The Discarded Image” (posthumously published in 1964). They’ve never been as popular as Lewis’ fiction, but my hunch is Lewis felt they might be difference-makers in changing the world.
Which brings to me one more pea—me. I’m no Lewis or Bono but I’m 68 and feel like a pea in their pod. I say this because for years I wrote “popular” stuff. Readers loved it. But as I’ve grown older I’ve begun to write for the “cathedral school” (in my case, study guides that give Christians a way forward in a post-Christian age). I doubt they’ll be as popular as my earlier writing, but they might be a difference-maker. Either way, to steal a line from Bono, I quite enjoy it. It’s part of being fully alive to the possibilities of the day.
Next week, I’ll tell you why Lewis and Iain McGilchrist are two peas in another pod.
 The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950 – 1963; ed. Walter Hooper, (HarperOne, First Edition, 2007), 304.