Interpretations:By The Time You Get This

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Time capsule[edit | edit source]

By the time you get this note / A millenium from now / We'll have all gone up in smoke

Pretty clearly about a time capsule. The narrator seems to be rather pessimistic about his own future. Dets65 (talk) 16:39, 12 January 2018 (EST)

I think this narrator's extremely optimistic about the future! It's a real triumphant sounding, World's Fair futurism "the world of tomorrow" anthem. Lofty goals. Interesting contrast to When The Light Comes On, which suggests a more dire present but the implication that things will improve marginally in the narrator's lifetime And if you wanna get real conspiratorial, the exiting of the cave in Let's Get This Over With is the first step towards building the future. Who'd ever thought there'd be cohesion on a TMBG record?? -j2 12:30, January 13, 2018
I'm putty sure this is about the anticipated death of the human race. So no, it's knot optimistic. Unless you count the shazlye as being optimiistc.--WhatTheHeckLinnell (talk) 12:20, 18 January 2018 (EST)
Yeah, seems to me that when he says "1937" he's referring to the next year-numbering system that some future civilization uses after rebuilding following our apocalypse. There is a lot of pessimism on this record. I love it to death. -Themightysun 10:57, 19 January 2018 (PST)
I'd call it an optimistic view of the end of all humanity. We're all gonna die, but that's good for everything else. - Pak-Man 13:23, January 22, 2018
I'm pretty sure that 1937 is the actual 1937, in which a whole lot of horrible was ongoing and about to get much worse. --mishuga (talk) 12:40, 23 February 2018 (EST)

There's Never an End[edit | edit source]

1937 was the year Martin Niemöller was arrested in Nazi Germany, and it was the eve of World War II, which is the worst war humans have ever fought, even if you don't account for the horror of the Holocaust. I think what they're saying is the Utopian ideal of a future where humans solve all our problems is a daydream -- humans are gonna human, and as long as we're people we're never going to transcend evil. In every era, we're going to have to fight against the current of hatred that runs through our history -- we can't ever assume we've "made it," or that the badness is behind us. In the end, I think this is about today, an era when nativism and neo-fascism seems to be on the rise worldwide. Many of us who are between my age and the Johns' age sort of thought that the worst of our impulses were buried in the past with Hitler and Stalin and George Wallace. But they aren't. They're always there, waiting for someone to stoke the flame. If we think we've reached the perfect future, well, we haven't -- we never will. There is only ever eternal vigilance. --Mrfeek (talk) 01:45, 3 September 2018 (EDT)

They're being sarcastic[edit | edit source]

The way I interpret it, the narrator is confident that all of the ills in the word will be overcome and forgotten in the future, but the bitter joke is that obviously hasn't happened. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kaylum (talkcontribs) 13:01, January 13, 2018

Not everything has been overcome -- but things are better. Things improve over time, despite appearances. Crime goes down, life expectancy goes up, diversity increases, standards of living keep improving. It would be especially hard to argue that 1937AD was worse than 937AD, or that 2018 is worse than 1937. What I think this song gets across nimbly is the constant failure humans exhibit to predict exactly how things will improve. The narrator expects to see the lower classes swept away or silenced, and for that to bring about a single-voiced unanimous harmony -- predictions which I expect most people today would call a dystopia rather than a utopia. Atrus

A whole millennium later...[edit | edit source]

What was going on in the year 937? Political transitions galore across Europe and Asia. Poverty and subsistence farming was a way of life for a majority of people. Very few people were literate, which means the only folks who could have written this note were the elite nobles. Think about it--a time capsule is a fun idea when you have plenty of leisure time and are looking to establish some strange kind of legacy. When your life consists of plowing a field for a living, you don't have time for such lofty thoughts. That being said, even these elites realized there were problems aplenty in their time, and they naturally assumed that after a thousand years, those problems would be reduced, if not completely resolved. However, it's the typical pie-in-the-sky ideals you might associate with such people: no more dissent, pollution, hatred; even barking dogs and crying babies would have seen the error of their ways.

Meanwhile, what actually happened in the year 1937? Peace, harmony, "rejoicing in the present"? Nah. You had civil wars, strikes, mass killings, aerial disasters, and of course, mounting tensions toward a second world war. What a time to be alive! --MisterMe (talk) 13:22, 22 January 2018 (EST)