"No One Knows My Plan" as written by John Linnell and John Flansburgh....
In my prison cell I think these words
I was careless
I can see that now
I must be silent
Must contain my secret smile
I want to tell you
You my mirror
You my iron bars

When I made a shadow on my window shade
They called the police and testified
But they're like the people chained up in the cave
In the allegory of the people in the cave by the Greek guy

No one understands
No one knows my plan
Why the dancing, shouting
Why the shrieks of pain
The lovely music
Why the smell of burning autumn leaves

No one understands
No one knows my plan
Why the dancing, shouting
Why the shrieks of pain
The lovely music
Why the smell of burning autumn leaves

In my prison cell I bide my time
Always thinking
Always busy cooking up an angle
Working on the tiny blueprint of the angle
Sketching out the burning autumn leaves

No one understands
No one knows my plan
I must be silent, must contain my secret smile
I want to tell you
You my mirror
You my iron bars

No one understands
No one knows my plan


Lyrics submitted by windmills221b

"No One Knows My Plan" as written by John Linnell, John Flansburgh

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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No One Knows My Plan song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentMy interpretation of the song relies heavily on Plato's Allegory of the Cave, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… , referred to in the second verse.

    The narrator things of himself in the metaphorical position of a person who escaped the cave, and is the only one who knows that our world is nothing but an illusion. He was returned to the metaphorical cave as a consequence of an action he undertook - the line "When I made the shadows on my window shade" implies that, in his metaphor, he took the role of one of the puppeteers. He plans to escape again, but since the world outside the cave is unknown to everyone in the 'real world' he can only talk about his plan to his mirror and the bars locking him in the cave - the prison being another part of his metaphor for his situation.

    The burning autumn leaves he mentions could be responsible for the fire that feeds the cave - the prisoners can smell the fire, but don't know it exists, so can't tell where the smell comes from.
    patrick9241on September 17, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI like to take this song more literally - I think it is a man, sitting in prison, biding his time until he can get out and complete his secret plan. He's excited about the plan, and it's killing him not to be able to move on it, so he comes clean to the inanimate objects in his cell.

    He's in prision for something he was doing - something that was a part of his plan but not his plan in its entirety, but was still very much illegal. His neighbors (or whoever) saw him (making shadows on his window shade) and this lesser crime got him sent to jail. His neighbors then, really are like the people in Plato's Allegory, because they misinterpret the crime they saw as his plan, while it was only an aspect of the bigger picture.

    What his plan actually is - that's a mystery. No one knows. But if it involves dancing, shouting, shrieks of pain, and burning autumn leaves, it's probably for the best that he's in prision.
    pseudonymjoneson July 20, 2006   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThe cave by the creek allegory is about people who are chained up, heads forward, and made to watch shadows all day. The shadows would be cast by people walking past a fire behind them, each holding an object.

    The idea was that after a while they'd be incapable of recognizing the actual object, they'd be too used to the shadows and not make the connection.

    This song, to me, is about a man with social anxiety who spends his days watching others interact and thinks about the things he did in the past to alienate himself. He was used to seeing others interact (seeing the shadows) but got so used to watching others that he only knew how to pretend to be sociable.

    My 2 cents.
    NameGotTakenon January 04, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSurprisingly, this is one of the ONLY songs in the TMBG discography that makes any sense to me. It seems like a portrayal of someone who's carefully planning something from within the cold solitude of his own silence. For whatever twisted reason, he "must be silent", yet he longs to voice his plan. He similarly longs to be normal and enjoy the "dancing, shouting" and "the lovely music" (though his warped mind hears them as "shrieks of pain"), yet he's contained within the "iron bars" of his own sad mind.
    FireFox31on October 19, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentso, I have to ask, why the burning autumn leaves?
    windmills221bon October 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe speaker suffers from social anxiety and has retreated into obessively planning his revenge on people. Above all, he is lonely and confused - I love the garbled Plato reference.
    maddsurgeonon October 03, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI like to take this song more literally - I think it is a man, sitting in prison, biding his time until he can get out and complete his secret plan. He's excited about the plan, and it's killing him not to be able to move on it, so he comes clean to the inanimate objects in his cell.

    He's in prision for something he was doing - something that was a part of his plan but not his plan in its entirety, but was still very much illegal. His neighbors (or whoever) saw him (making shadows on his window shade) and this lesser crime got him sent to jail. His neighbors then, really are like the people in Plato's Allegory, because they misinterpret the crime they saw as his plan, while it was only an aspect of the bigger picture.

    What his plan actually is - that's a mystery. No one knows. But if it involves dancing, shouting, shrieks of pain, and burning autumn leaves, it's probably for the best that he's in prision.
    pseudonymjoneson July 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn theater class a few months ago, our teacher gave my group this song and told us to make a music video-ish thing out of it.


    I ended up dancing on a table. Oh, it was great.
    brightly_woundon June 24, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn the case of the burning autumn leaves, it may be a reference to marijuana. I know that this may sound crazy to some of you upon reading it, but while reading Stephen King's Christine, the character Dennis compares the smell of the kids smoking a joint over at the smokers' table as "similar to the smell of burning autumn leaves."
    alehron October 17, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a song about a guy sitting in a prison cell and planning to take over the world. He was "careless" and let the people around him know he was planning to overthrow the government, so they had him arrested.

    This guy's probably writing a book while he's locked up, and that is the "angle" and the "blueprint" he is working on. He's also an artist, because he's sketching autumn leaves. He thinks he's a great philosopher like Plato, but really he is just a crackpot.

    The dancing and shouting and lovely music and burning autumn leaves foreshadow something that the crackpot and his whackadoo friends will do when they get together in September for their big party day, and also because the crackpot who's planning stuff was arrested in November. The shrieks of pain foreshadow the effect the guy's plan will have on those around him.

    (The identity of the imprisoned egotistical artist and pseudo-philosopher who is planning something terrible is left to the reader's imagination, of course....)
    Tuckeron October 19, 2008   Link

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