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This song could easily apply to the final stretch of 2001, when Dave goes through the wormhole and stumbles onto (and possibly becomes) a future version of himself. He does indeed find himself sleeping, there are plenty of strange time jumps, and plenty of mysterious looks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:42, 18 July 2011

One full explanation of 2082[edit]

After discussing this song with a few friends (particularly BlueCanary, who first helped me begin to untangle the madness), I believe I've come upon a pretty thorough and solid explanation for the song's events. I'll break it down here as simply as possible with the song's lyrics.

Draw the curtain, look, you're only sleeping / Or is this only what the other you is dreaming? / Either way, hard to take.
Ashen features unmistakably your own / Familiar posture, recast in skin and bone / Person from today, here is you in 2082

We're introduced to our main character, who happens to be the only character in this song's story—he is a time traveler. In this verse, we learn that he has traveled through time from the present day to 2082. We're witnessing him peeking at his future self, through his future window of his future bedroom. He recognizes his own posture and features on his future self, also noting that he has aged considerably.

Remove your helmet, first equalize the pressure / No, but first, take readings to be sure the atmosphere is safe / Yes, it's safe

I believe that this verse isn't too relevant to the plot, but instead a glimpse at the technology of the future (a la "The World Before Later On") and fears of a time traveler (is the atmosphere still safe in 2082?). The "Yes, it's safe" line is perhaps meant to be ironic, given the events that happen later in the song to this individual (who is actually not safe).

As the ancient one cranes his neck to look / You see his hand's been replaced with a hook / But it's clear you're very much alive, it's 2105

Our time traveler jumps forward in time 23 years to 2105, perhaps just out of curiosity, but finds that his future self still happens to be alive—now with a hook for a hand, and more references in the lyrics to further aging. At this point, we begin to question whether or not this character is actually jumping through time exclusively for the purpose of learning when/how/if he is ever going to die.

No, it's 2240 / No, it's 3415 / How can you still be living? / What does this mean?

Our time traveler is getting worried about his future self's potential immortality, so he continues jumping forward in time, visiting over 1,000 years in the future only to find out that his future self is still somehow living. What does this mean, indeed?

You must honor and respect the older fellow / Even as you suffocate him with his pillow / Though you're strong, he was wise
There is much you can learn from the sage / And though you'll leave and travel back to your own age / You will meet again, you two, in 2082

The deed is done. After seeing that he apparently never dies, even far into the future, the time traveler decides to take corrective action. He revisits 2082 to end the life of his future self by suffocating him with his own pillow, thus preventing himself from living eternally by establishing a permanent date of death in 2082. He then travels back to today, having accomplished his mission. I'll explain the last line of this verse soon.

What was the look he gave intended to convey? / Was there something else he was trying to say? / It will all be revealed to you in 2082

Here our traveler of time meets a dillemma—while suffocating his future self, he happened to noticed a look on his future self's face that he couldn't quite place. The time traveler begins wondering if there was something he missed that his future self wanted to say moments before death. After all, "he was wise" and "there is much you can learn from the sage".

But it will all be revealed to him in 2082, when "you will meet again, you two". Why? Because when our time traveler returns to present day, he will live out his life and eventually live until 2082—at which point he will be murdered by his past self.

Mind-boggling, isn't it? -CapitalQtalk ♪ 18:23, 18 July 2011 (EDT)

An Addition To CapitalQ's interpretation[edit]

This is a wonderful reversal of a standard sci fi time travel paradox, as CapitalQ details in their analysis, but I have a little something to add. The eternally aging future self that the time traveler meets knows, a) where and when their past self will appear, and b) what their past self's reaction to seeing them will be. Therefore, the future self is complicit in the "murder" and is perhaps depending on their past self to carry it out, and has made certain they'd be present when past self shows up. So from the point of view of the time traveling self, it's an act of mercy, while at the other end of the life, it's an act of deliverance.

A Subtraction from CapitalQ's interpretation[edit]

If Young You suffocates The Old Guy in 2082, why do you seem very much alive in 3415, etc.? No need to wrap the lyrics to fit the title. Murder is mentioned after 3415 and before leaving to go back and slowly forward again to 2082; let the death happen later, and let the encounter between Old You and The Young Guy be more about filling in holes and understanding than suffocation hijinks. It's just very important to me that Mr. Linnell not be the kind of guy who just goes around recklessly writing songs with no regard to whether his time traveling rules check out. ~ magbatz

Response: There are no strict rules to time travel - it is up to the writer about how they want to handle the ripple effect in future time. His time travel rules check out just fine if you've ever seen the "Back to the Future" trilogy of films, in which multiple timelines are an integral part of the narrative.
The character is still alive in 3415 because he hasn't been killed yet in the timeline of the time-traveler, but if the time-traveler were to travel forward again to 3415 after killing himself in 2082, he'd see that he no longer exists. Your theory removes and nullifies the pay-off at the end of the song - nothing will be revealed to him in 2082 because nothing happens in 2082 in your interpretation of the song. The song would be called 3415 if everything was going to be revealed to him in 3415. -CapitalQtalk ♪ 20:32, 19 July 2011 (EDT)
Addendum: Not this this carries any particular weight that I know of, but Reuters seems to agree with my interpretation: "2082" is a science-fiction short story in just under two minutes, with a protagonist who travels into the future, finds himself hobbled but still unhappily alive all the way into the next millennium, and travels back to the title year to smother himself with a pillow in a mercy killing. [1] -CapitalQtalk ♪ 21:42, 19 July 2011 (EDT)

A Multiplication of CapitalQ's Interpretation[edit]

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the actual murder happens in 3145. Then he goes back to his own time (2011, I guess, or whenever time travel gets invented in the song) and the part about meeting again in 2082 is a sort of ominous epilogue. The adventure is over, but when 2082 rolls around it'll begin anew, this time with the protagonist on the other side of it. It's a time loop in reverse, without a paradox. Love it. ~extarbags

Yeah, that's how I saw it, too. It makes me think of La Jetee, a film in which the main character is disturbed by his memories of a murder he witnessed as a child, though the situation is somewhat inverted. Perspixx 21:30, 10 September 2011 (EDT)

An Addition to the Multiplication[edit]

I think the point is that the meaning of the look will be revealed to him in 2082, because then he will be the old man giving the look. Thus, he was murdered in 2082. I suppose it could be taken other ways, though.

A division something something math blah[edit]

I just thought I'd point out that 2082 would be the 100th anniversary of TMBG's founding. This is surely not what the song is about, but it could be where they got the date from.--Mandaliet 21:54, 19 July 2011 (EDT)

Response: I actually think that might kind of be what it's about. TMBG has lasted a long time in band years. I remember some interview where Flansburgh was kind of amazed that he and Linnell had managed to stay together for so long without falling out or breaking up. The song could be a subtle reference to TMBG lurching on long past when they should naturally have died, imbued with preternatural endurance. Kind of reminds me of The Mesopotamians, actually, with it's thinly veiled self-mocking —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 17:46, 7 February 2013

New math[edit]

I doubt anything here will overturn CapQ's general framework, but I've never figured out what might have prompted Linnell to write the song. For a while, I've been wondering whether the idea of someone living for hundreds of years was inspired by the concepts (trendy in silicon valley) of biohacking, super-longevity, transhumanism, "the singularity", and indefinitely extended health-time as exemplified (he hopes) by Ray Kurzweil. If that has anything to do with it, perhaps you'd want to murder your future self because you started hating the idea of being immortal?

Something else I found out today is that there was 2009 art film called 2081. Nothing in the film (a non-time-travel science fiction story) overlaps with the song at all, but I wonder whether Linnell heard the film's title and got his imagination going. --Nehushtan (talk) 14:49, 7 December 2020 (EST)

my take on it.[edit]

i was thinking about it and noticed somehting. at the end it says "It will all be revealed to you In 2082"

If your past self went to kill your future self..... AND that was indeed a endless loop...You yourself would be killed by your past self in the future.

Yeah, this is mentioned above in my interpretation: "...when our time traveler returns to present day, he will live out his life and eventually live until 2082—at which point he will be murdered by his past self." -CapitalQtalk ♪ 20:12, 25 July 2011 (EDT)
I kinda agree and there again, I don't, but I don't dispute the metaphysics. I think Mr Linnell has those dead on. If he killed his future self in 2082, as the lyrics suggest he does, he wouldn't be alive in 2105, 2240 or 3415. Whether he traveled ahead to that time and then back again is irrelevant - if the murder/mercy killing happens in 2082 then his future self would not be there later. He cant be, he's dead.
And that's where the narrator's confusion stems from.
"How can you still be living?"
"What does this mean?"
I don't think the narrator is wondering how he can still be living at his age. Instead I think the narrator thinks he killed his future self in 2082, which is why he's so shocked that he's alive in 3415 and cant get his head around it. What really happened is what will be revealed in 2082. --Chiasmus 21:00 29 September 2011 (AEST)

A Linnell Joke about a modern day Methuselah[edit]

As above posters have analysed (to death - ho ho) this is a joke song by Linnell. They Might Be Giants songs are often preoccupied with mortality and we live in a society obssessed with staying forever young. Linnell flips this and has his character murder himself rather than continue living a more decrepit existence. The date 2082 is perhaps a more subtle gag - 1982 is the year band began. Production style it's similiar to State Songs and more recent intimate songs that have obviously been worked on almost exclusively by Linnell in his private studio. Similiar in feel to Cast your Pod to the wind or Vestibule the inclusion of 2082 on Join Us, also shows a change of emphasis since the last grown up release (The Else), as such left field material was pushed onto to the bonus disc rather than the main album. Given that some of the stronger material was left of the main album I am glad they have sorted this out to some extent. Beautifully produced, like the whole album, this a clever and beautifully sung song. (Mr Tuck)

Time travel to an unintended time[edit]

Alright, I think most interpretations are close to what I think as well. In short: a time traveller goes forward in time and kills his older self, knowing that when he grows old, his younger self will come to kill him. The biggest wrench in the works is the part : "No, it's 2240; No, it's 3415". This confuses the story, since in the end of the song Linnell once again claims: "It will all be revealed to you In 2082". So when did the killing occur? 3415 or 2082? My theory is that it occurred in 3415.

I'll lay out the timeline to explain:

First, the traveler arrives and looks at his "chronometer" and sees that it says 2082. He then takes off his helmet and looks at his older self, noting the older man's appearance. Looking down at his chronometer again, the time traveler is alarmed to see that it now says 2105. He continues to watch as the years keep ticking up, finally stopping at 3415. Something apparently went wrong, perhaps a miscalculation, nonetheless, here he is looking at his older self.

Next is the important part that is not explicitly stated, but is implied: From the line "he was wise", we can surmise that a conversation occurred between the time traveler and his future self. If a conversation did not occur, how else would the traveler know that the man was wise?

Now here's my assumption; I think that the old man asks his younger self to kill him, as may be implied by "You must honor and respect the older fellow" as in "respecting his wishes to die". As the traveler is killing his older self, he can't help but think that maybe the older man is trying to say something, perhaps he changed his mind about wanting to die? But then the time traveler realizes that one day he will know, because he will be the one being killed. I think that the line "It will all be revealed to you In 2082" uses 2082 to refer to the entire episode the time traveler experienced, but in truth it will only be revealed to him in 3415.

2 important addendums.

1. The time traveler should not be surprised that he is still alive in 3415. Because he is capable of forward time travel, he could have merely travelled to 3415 as an old man.

2.An important line I was ignoring: "Or is this only what the other you is dreaming?". It is possible that it is all simply a dream the old man is having. Perhaps he is imagining what his young self would do if he were to see himself in his current elderly state. —Preceding unsigned comment added by ForestDweller (talkcontribs) 04:42, 29 September 2011

But if that was true how would the younger version (the one who committed the murder) have known that the older version of himself was wise? I believe that they did in fact have a conversation and it was his wishes to die but regrets the idea as he is being suffocated.
Then again the line Draw the curtain look you're only sleeping. Or is this what the other you is dreaming' Could mean that the young time traveler isn't exactly real. What if the older version of himself is only dreaming this because he wishes to die after living for so long. Or the young version of himself could be dreaming and looking into the future through the dream?
It will all be revealed to you in 2082 Means that the traveler went and watched his life and saw that he has spent his life in a bed and had a conversation with himself in 3400 and the older version of himself told the time traveler to travel back and kill himself in 2082 to prevent a life of immortality in a bed? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 15:01, 30 November 2011


That last comment brings to mind an even more horrifying possibility: Suppose the old version of the time traveler was just accidentally catapulted forward with him to 3415 by his own time-travel device? That's what he's trying to say: he hasn't spent more than 1300 years in that bed, it was all just a big misunderstanding! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 15:46, 5 October 2011

I realize this certainly isn't what was intended[edit]

But I like to think of this as the second half of "When Will You Die?" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 08:42, 7 October 2011

Was there something else he was trying to say?[edit]

This is pure conjecture, but what I imagine to be going through the old man's mind is: "I remember this." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 04:46, 12 July 2012

Made to sync with 2001 edit...?[edit]

Some years ago I made this edit of 2001 a space odyssey to the song "Older".

I find it far too coincidental, that matched up from the beginning, it syncs with 2082 perfectly. here's the link to the new video the password is 'tmbg'

-Jon H

Has anyone else noticed[edit]

That 2082 is a hundred years after 1982? And 1982 is when They Might Be Giants started, so 2082 must be when the world ends, when They Might Be Giants reach their 100th anniversary! Any thoughts?

The time traveler and his companion[edit]

You people re genius. I completely agree with the time traveler kills future self theory, and the theory that says the song is a joke about how long tombs has lived. However, I have to say that the way the song is worded seems to hint at the idea that the murderer is an average joe from our time, accompanied by a future time traveler (our narrator). The future man seems to not know very much about time travel and is therefore scared by the seeming immortality of his companion.

TMBG's Interpretation of James Ensor's 1888 "My portrait in 1960" ...[edit]

It seems plausible to me that "2082" is John Flansburgh's TMBG interpretation of the 1888 self-portrait by James Ensor called "My Portrait in 1960".

From Meet James Ensor, we know that TMBG are fans of that Belgian painter. In his November 1, 1994 interview on, John Flansburg wrote:

In my art history class, while in college, we were bored and all of a sudden his works came up and we were surprised at how exciting it was. He was an expressionist, like other 20th century expressionist painters, who was ahead of his time and was very eccentric. The line "Dig him up and shake his hand" is actually very specific - a parallel idea to a lot of his paintings which involve resurrections, skeletons and puppets being animated. It's not an accident that the language of the song reflects his work. He did a painting - titled something like "Self Portrait in 1970". It's a skeleton, wearing his clothes. He became a phenomenon right before the turn of the century. With the song, I'm trying to encapsulate the issues of his life - an eccentric guy who became celebrated and was soon left behind as his ideas were taken into the culture and other people became expressionists.

I'm willing to bet that "2082" is either an explicit reference to James Ensor's 1888 self-portrait, or a loving wink at it.

There are lots of great TMBG-esque scenes and imagery in James Ensor's work. I highly recommend reading these articles for more: DailyArt Magazine's "Fighting Skeletons of James Ensor" and The Guardian's "Behind the facade: how James Ensor mastered the art of the macabre".

Hoarybat (talk) 16:22, 12 January 2022 (EST)