Bono's Lever

Bono. Super-nice guy.
The phone rattles and hums. It's like 2 am. I roll over and fumble for it.

It's Bono. Great. Gotta take this one.

I unlock the phone. "Hey, mate, what's up? You know it's like 2 am here?"

Bono is super-excited. He wants to play me some tracks from the upcoming album. Apparently he's been doing this a lot. He says "Check this out!". I guess he's holding his phone up to the stereo. I can't hear anything, it just sounds like white noise (which I suppose is a rather succinct, if harsh, review of U2's last couple of records).

Or maybe he's been listening to a lot of Jesus and The Mary Chain. I dunno.

After skipping around and playing bits of other things, I tell him it all sounds great, and that it's good that U2's trying to write their own songs again, instead of rewriting other people's. He laughs and says that's pretty rich coming from me.

Bono gets a bad rap. There's all the G_d jokes and the constant piss-taking in the media and elsewhere. But the fact is, he's a really nice guy in industry full of total jerks. He's still married to his girlfriend. He hasn't broken up with his band and/or made self-indulgent solo albums. He'll put you on the guest list.

Let me tell you a story.

This was a couple years back (like, 10), when The Pants were just about to start their comeback. I had been having kind of a rough time, problems with my voice and being in shape and life and love.

I ran into Bono in London. He drags me into a pub and we talk. He's actually a really good listener. He gives me some advice, and one of his private numbers and says "look, CALL ME if you need to talk." He meant it.

I asked him "Hey man, how do you put up with all the criticism? I mean, people are always trying to beat you down for, I dunno, everything. Your last album. Your glasses. Project RED. Your VC firm. Your good works. That's a lot to take, right?"

Bono chuckles. He looks down at the table for a few minutes. He gets kinda quiet and puts on his Serious Bono face. He looks at me and says, all with that charming accent:

Sid, everybody's got problems. Everybody. You just sat here and ran me through some of yours, and some of those seem pretty tough.  
The thing I realized a while back was that it's not what your problems are. What matters is how you deal with them. 
I don't mind people making fun of me. Where I come from, that's part of how people show they love you. Or what they do before they punch you. It's just part of life. If I was worried about what people said, I'd have never got on stage the first time. Or the second. Or in front of the 20,000 people that saw us play last week. 
As for why I do it, well, it's like Archimedes said about levers. We're all tryin' to move the world a little bit every day. Some people are moving it to make a bit more money or be a bit less sad. A few even try to make things better (as they define it) for other people. 
I've got a pretty big lever. Bigger than most other people's [and he winks at me]. And I believe I have an obligation to use it. Do good works and all that. I'm tryin' to make the world a better place. Tryin' to be a better person. Tryin' to make a good record. Tryin' to have a good time doin' it.
Now, the thing about that big lever is that yeah, I can move the world more than most can. But that also means if I make mistakes, they're bigger, too. Bigger fuck-ups, bigger problems. That's what I have to think about all the time. It's not easy, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 
What's my alternative? I could retire and do nothin', I guess. People would eventually leave me alone. But how could I live with myself, knowing I had that rare opportunity to try, to do something, and I let it pass? 
Besides, at some point I'll have to retire anyhow. God will take that lever away. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe if the new album flops. There's plenty of time for doin' nothin'.

I sat there for a minute or two, turning over what he had said. I was just getting ready to reply when his minder found him and he left. As he got up to leave, he gave me one of those winks of his.

"Thanks for the chat, Sid."

Thank YOU, Bono. Still thinking about it.