Surrender is an idea that has become debased.

So says Brian Eno who, in addition to being one of Britain’s most creative artists, has been a record producer to the likes of Coldplay, David Bowie and U2 (my favorite band).

As a society we tend to reward control. Control is what we think successful people are all about.

But surrender? That’s what we do when we just cave in to something, defer to someone with more talent or authority than us, or treat as a luxury at the end of our career when we retire and kick back, right?

Eno thinks that’s all wrong and makes the case for surrender as an active verb:

Control and surrender have to be kept in balance.That’s what surfers do – take control of the situation, then be carried, then take control.

In the last few thousand years, we’ve become incredibly adept technically. We’ve treasured the controlling part of ourselves and neglected the surrendering part. I want to rethink surrender as an active verb. It’s not just you being escapist; it’s an active choice.”

Because Eno produced U2’s most recent album, No Line on the Horizon, and because that album has a song called Moment of Surrender, I couldn’t help but revisit that song to see if there are clues there in how to make surrender an active verb.

Vision Over Visibility

“Vision over visibility” has been U2 singer Bono’s motto for a long time. That phrase makes its debut in the Moment of Surrender song: “At the moment of surrender/vision over visibility.” He also sings about the desire “to be released from control.”

Vision over visibility is the moment when you see the place but can’t see yet how to get there.

It’s an insistence on looking past what you can see in favor of what could be. That’s surrender as an active choice.

Pack Your Suitcase

OK, so I couldn’t help but wrap this up by quoting from another U2 song, Walk On:

“We are packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been; A place that has to be believed to be seen.”

That’s active surrender too.

Walk on. Might as well rock on, too, while you’re at it.


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