the farmer drove his tractor
where the soil had been tilled
planting corn in rank and file
from the silo to the lumber mill
he rode along in silence
as looked out past the honeysuckle field
watched the water turn
turn the water wheel
started thinking about his daughter's affection
her reaction of disdain
the day he replaced the blue hydrangea
with the climbing grain
while her disappointed sister
looked on quiet as the snow
knowing well that those that know don't talk
and those that talk don't know

but she couldn't help but sing

the tortoise in the wheelchair
wrapped his forehead in a bandage
with a cast they made from plaster
for his phony broken leg
so he'd get pushed around the sidewalk
by the zookeeper's assistant
with the hummingbird obeserving
from behind the yellow flower
and he flapped his tiny wings
they moved so fast you couldn't see them
with resentment for the tortoise
which was clear by his expression
but the tortoise turned and smiled
with a peacefulness which proved
that there's a movement in our stillness
and however much we move

we're bound to stand completely still

come tortoise, standing still
go hummingbird, my will
come tortoise, stumbling blind
go hummingbird, my eyes
come tortoise, empty hand
go hummingbird, my plan
come tortoise, undefined
go hummingbird, my mind
come tortoise, letting go
go hummingbird, i know
come tortoise, come and die
go hummingbird, my I
goodbye, I
goodbye, I
bye, bye, bye


Lyrics submitted by shadowami

Goodbye, I! song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentThe theme of the song seems to be fruitless effort vs. productive stillness/resignation, with the moral being that total surrender to God is better than trying to get by on one's own understanding and volition. The song has uses a couple images to communicate this point.

    First we have the two daughters, one loudly voicing her disapproval (without getting what she wants, apparently) and the other standing silent (but still "disappointed"). I suppose the idea is that the quiet sister knows that the best way to accomplish your goals (in this case) is to grin and bear it.

    And then there's the tortoise and the hummingbird, one that gets moved around by making itself appear immobile (fake cast, etc.) and the other flapping furiously but staying in the same spot in the air.

    (also, a water "wheel" spinning but not actually going anywhere, and perhaps the father completing his work while just sitting silently)

    Great stuff, I'd say.
    JustPlainNJon April 17, 2009   Link
  • +3
    My OpinionI apologize in advance for this ridiculously long post. I thought someone would have mentioned this already, but I think this song has some hints of Freudian Psychology to it. I'm not sure if this should be categorized as a "meaning" or "opinion" post, but I'm going with "opinion" since others might disagree and because it reads more into the lyrics than are probably necessary. It seems to me like I've either said too much or not enough, sorry about that. There's a lot of psyhobabble in the next couple paragraphs, but it will have to do with the song, I promise.

    When Freud wrote about the "id, ego, and super-ego", he originally wrote them in a way that could be translated into English as the "It, I, and over-I". The id being our basic needs, desires, drives, etc. The ego is what gives us self-consciousness towards reality. It basically helps us figure out what to do in "the real world" and figure out what is the right and wrong course of action in terms of human thought, not just by instincts. The ego pretty much helps us provide the id with what it needs without giving it anything that super-ego rejects. Since the id can have perverse drives, we need the super-ego in order to counteract them. The super-ego goes a step further and openly criticizes the actions of the ego because it has a sense of right and wrong.

    Taken for what they are, the id and super-ego are not bad. They give us the desire to live, and the desire to live well, respectively. The ego isn't bad either. But the conflict that arises between the id and the super-ego causes great anxiety and guilt to the ego. The name of the song, "Goodbye, I!" seems to me to be another way of saying goodbye to the ego.

    Sometimes the id and super-ego makes silly, pointless demands. It's only human. One daughter is extremely upset that the essentially useless "blue hydrangea" has been replaced because her super-ego sees beauty as ideal and convinces her it is wrong to destroy it. She cannot see the need to plant "climbing grain" for it's usefulness, and ability to feed the (in this case) more responsible needs of the id. Being human, and having such a strong moral super-ego, "she couldn't help but sing", or in other words, her ego gave in to demands even though they were flawed. She couldn't, in "good conscience", be silent about what she was witnessing.

    On the other hand, the hummingbird is a perfect example of the flaws in both the id and the super-ego, but mostly the id. He criticizes the turtle because secretly the hummingbird's super-ego strongly criticizes himself. He doesn't want to stop living and moving in the "real world" with all of its money, jobs, reputations, and other self-centered actions. In the end, his super-ego actually works in conjunction with his already self-centered id by criticizing him when he isn't serving himself. He sees disconnecting himself from these things like the turtle is a waste of time, and can't see that his id and super-ego is living too quickly and his ego is letting this quick death happen. I see the line "they moved so fast you couldn't see them" as talking about how unsatisfying it really is to live only to serve physical needs and wants, and how quickly this leads us to an empty and motionless life that leads us into meaninglessness.

    The "singing" daughter and the hummingbird both have egos (I's) which gave in to harmful demands. Some say that getting rid of the junk that takes up space in the ego is the only way to enlightenment. Many people, when in a trance or hallucination and feel they have reached god, feel their egos dissolve. As humans, we do need some ego to promote the helpful parts of our ids and super-egos, like eating, loving, helping others even when we don't have to, and having a sense of what's right. However, to reach enlightenment, it seems that it's necessary to say "Goodbye, I!" to whatever gives in to the harmful parts of our minds, like over-indulging, ignoring others feelings, feeling the world is unfair even when it is, and working ourselves to the point of either neurotic self-doubt or self-aggrandizing narcissism.

    The purpose of enlightenment is to become closer to the truth. In the context of this song, this symbol of truth is God. Saying goodbye to the bad parts of our egos would bring us closer to god. In the song, I believe that the silent daughter and turtle are symbols of people who are at least closer to god.

    The silent daughter can accept the sacrifice of the ideal necessary in order for her family to support itself. Because she is human, though, she is still disappointed. But she can suppress this part of her ego, because she knows that while one hand "taketh away", the other "giveth". Ironically, she knows to be silent in the face of this fateful trade because of a Taoist quote from the Tao te Ching, which is pretty much quoted word for word in the line "knowing well that those that know don't talk and those that talk don't know".

    The turtle can accept that in order to live a long, peaceful life it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice physical "needs" that are, in the end, unnecessary. He willingly places himself in this position because he sees the virtue in standing still. Interestingly enough, the line referring to standing completely still no matter how much we move coincides with yet another Taoist quote, this time from Chapter 45 of the Tao Te Ching, probably not translated perfectly: "Movement overcomes cold; but staying still overcomes heat. So he by his limpid calm puts right everything under heaven." The quote seems to agree that although movement and stillness end up in the same place, stillness is somehow preferable.

    In the end of the song, where the singer says "come turtle" and "go hummingbird", it seems to me that with each line he is sending away parts of his ego that are harmful (attached to the hummingbird) while ushering in parts of his ego that are helpful (attached to the turtle) in order to become closer to enlightenment. The lines at the very end of the song are so simple and almost whimsical compared to the rest of the song that we assume the singer has at least partially succeeded in this quest.

    Again, sorry for the long post. It's my first.
    greyoakon May 27, 2009   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI'm a little surprised no one has mentioned the parallels between the lyrics here and what is taught in Buddhism and Taoism. It could just be a case of only hearing what I want to hear, but the resemblance seems too coincidental to be unintentional.

    For example, "Those who know don't talk, those who talk don't know," is a line from the Tao Te Ching. So given this information, my interpretation of the song is a little different. I do believe it's still a song about God, but I think that it incorporates broader principles than are made obvious in the Bible.

    The idea of being freed from the possession of an individual "self" could be considered the primary focus of Buddhist teaching. "Goodbye I" could easily be taken to be the seeking of liberation from that illusory "self", because in fact we are all a part of that unknowable thing which can be variously called God, the Tao, Allah, Buddha, the Void, etc. Again this is my interpretation. Aaron Weiss would say it is God, but "God" is different things to different people whether there is one Absolute or not.

    Returning to the thought of "Those that talk don't know..." Said briefly the meaning of this in Taoist or Buddhist terms would be that the Truth cannot be said because it is more than can be contained in words. Expressions of speech are mere descriptions and not the actual thing, and so are rendered incapable of portraying the Truth. This same Taoist thinking is hinted at in another song, "The King Beetle on a Coconut Estate," when it is the king says, "We didn't ask what it seems like, we asked what it is!" But our words will always fall short. The first line of the Tao Te Ching reads "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao, the name that can be named is not the eternal Name."

    Also meditation is the act of sitting just to sit, because doing is not necessarily better than not doing. "Let's all stand completely still," and "There's a movement in our stillness," to me is reminiscent of this idea. There is the hummingbird, fruitlessly beating his wings, contrasted to the tortoise who is moved by his surroundings - very similar to the idea of wu-wei (action through inaction).

    So these are just some comments I wanted to add. Again I do not think the similarities are coincidence, but I also don't think that Aaron Weiss is a Taoist or Buddhist. Elements of truth can be found in many places, and he seems to be one who understands this well. God is love.
    adharmabumon July 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNow that I know the lyrics, that last part made me almost cry for some strange reason. I can listen to some of the most emotional/personal songs and not get that emotional. I think knowing that at a deep level we have to have God's Spirit in us to truly live at all, and knowing we can't move except by Him (without Me you can do nothing) just affects me in a very profound way.
    heartrocketblaston April 30, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commentcorrect me if i am wrong, but THIS IS THEIR LONGEST (possibly their first) INSTRUMENTAL SOLO.....and it's good
    dynomite3on May 04, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt seems to me that this whole entire song is about total and complete submission to a higher authority. The farmer uproots the hydrangea out of nessesity because he needs the wheat. The daughter who complains doesn't understand this, while the one who is quiet is upset about it, but understand that it is needed.
    He is saying that whatever things come and go in our lives God knows what He is doing and it is in our best intrest to trust Him and not complain about anything. He further establishes this point in the part about the turtle and the humming bird. The turtle does not move, but rather, is moved by the zoo keeper's assistant, while the humming bird exerts all of its energy just to stand still. Aaron is saying that it is better to be moved by a higher power than to try moving on our own. At the end of the song he welcomes the turtle, the submission to authority, and dismisses the pride that wants to do it all on its own. This seems to be a theme throughout the whole album. Good stuff.
    Zdayon May 21, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI agree with JustPlainNJ about the interpretation of the song. It's seems to be very similar to 'Paper Hanger', in terms of meaning.
    walkingthecow3on August 04, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was just listening to this song, and while I don't have an interpretation yet, the missing word in the first verse in 'affection'. So,

    "started thinking about his daughter
    affection her reaction of disdain"
    L.C.Marstonon April 18, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah, that's what it sounded like to me too, but I didn't put that in the lyrics because it doesn't make sense. It still could be though.
    shadowamion April 19, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit's definitely "affection." and it makes sense, a father thinking of his daughter with affection.
    porterjaon April 20, 2009   Link

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