Like a River

Over the weekend, lost in a playlist from my youth, I was reminded of “Miss Sarajevo,” a song U2 recorded with Luciano Pavarotti in ’95. In the band’s autobiography U2BYU2, Bono recalls writing the melody for the opera solo specifically for Pavarotti’s voice — by impersonating his own father, in the bath, impersonating Pavarotti.

The song (a celebration of female acts of defiance while under siege in Sarajevo with a fascinating backstory) captivates from start to finish, but these lines from the opera solo resonated most with me personally (I even had them engraved on my iPod, back when that was a thing):

Dici che il fiume

Trova la via al mare,

E como il fiume

Giungerai a me

(roughly translated by Bono as:

You say that like a river

Finds its way to the sea,

And like a river,

You’ll find your way back to me)

The idea that all rivers lead to the ocean, that whatever is meant for you will find you, is something I return to again and again as life twists and meanders, offering no predictions about the terrain ahead despite my constant urge to plan and anticipate.

Recently, a fellow novel-writing friend (who also happens to write beautiful song lyrics) offered me sage advice at the exact right moment in my professional journey. She said (I’m paraphrasing): you can keep banging your head against a particular door, but you can’t make it open. Or, you can keep walking through the doors that do open, and see if you don’t end up where you were going anyway.

Circling me back to the notion that sometimes, we have to let rivers flow. We do well to let them carry us along, without fussing too much over the route, knowing we’re making our way towards our destiny regardless.

“:Miss Sarajevo” was added to U2’s Vertigo Tour setlist in 2005 for shows in Milan, with Bono tackling the opera solo himself in tribute to his late father, who passed four years earlier (solo begins around 3:25).

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