There was a story going around in the 60's that a group of California university students were so high on LSD that they were staring at the sun while laying on a grassy hill for several hours that it didn't bother them but in fact burnt part of their retina and could not see anything closely. They also held religious conversations with god while under the influence.This story has never been proven and actual names were never given.
Bono is probably relating his own trip with the students who were sprawled out on the grass for hours. His description is almost identical to the mythical articles on the California university students. I would take the the song quite literally. "Those who can't do" are the teachers or the people who set our morals in society who create these myths to scare people out of using drugs or to be introspective and question what is accepted as truth or right. Are they afraid of what they find when they look inside of themselves? Bono says these people (government/military state) is still in town or in control. Its not so obvious as they are disguised in suits and ties. Daddy (government) won't leave you alone. "I'm nearly great but there's something missing" = Grandiosity is a symptom of such trips. "I left it in the Duty free" = [airplane] "trips" may be taken literally. Its not really him as its an effect of the drug. He's not sucking on his thumb. He's not a baby he can do what he wants and if that means destroying his retina so be it. Could this be an anti-drug message?
Plato then relates truth and the search for enlightenment to the analogy of the cave and how humans are easily deceived and persuaded to believe in what the perceive and are not open to new ideas if they are offered outright. But knowledge can be taught in degrees to gradually allow the soul to become accustomed to the "light" of truth from the Sun. Staring at the Sun captures this idea of Plato's teaching.
~don't try to hard to think dont think at all~
Humans are not willing to think to reach their conclusions, they believe only what they see.
~there's an insect in your ear/if you scratch it won't disappear~
In the cave analogy there are voices that the people hear that they can't understand where they come from. They don't go away.
~I'm not the only one Staring at the sun~
There are actually other people that are teaching this person about the truth of the Sun.
~Afraid of what you'll find, if you step back inside~
The thought of going back in the cave to teach the people about the light of truth is frightening and afraid that they will be killed if they go back inside.
~Not just deaf and dumb, staring at the sun, Not the only one who's happy to go blind~
This is happiness due to the discovery of what real truth is. The brightness of the sun is blinding at first but soon they see the good of the light (truth) and are happy to go blind, staring at the truth.
Summer streching on the grass... summer dresses pass
in the shade of a willow tree creeps a crawling over me
over me and over you stuck together with God's glue
it's going to get stickier too...
it's been a long hot summer
let's get undercover
don't try too hard to think... don't think at all
I'm not the only one starin' at the sun
afraid of what you'd find if you took a look inside
not just deaf and dumb I'm staring at the sun
not the only one who's happy to go blind
there's an insect in your ear if you scratch it won't disappear
it's gonna itch and burn and sting
do you want to see what the scratching brings
waves that leave me out of reach
breaking on your back like a beach
will we ever live in peace?
'cause those that can't do often have to
those that can't do often have to... preach.
to the ones staring at the sun...
afraid of what you'll find if you took a look inside
not just deaf and dumb... staring at the sun
I'm not the only one who'd rather go blind.
intransigence is all around... military still in town
armour plated suits and ties... daddy just won't say goodbye
referee won't flow the whistle God is good but will HE listen
I'm nearly great
but there's something I'm missing I left in the duty free
though you never really belonged to me
you're not the only one starin' at the sun
afraid of what you'd find if you stepped back inside
I'm not sucking my thumb I'm staring at the sun
not the only one who's happy to go blind...