Here is a scale, weigh it out
And you will find, easily
More than sufficient doubt
That these colors you see

Were picked in advance
By some careful hand
With an absolute concept of beauty
They are smeared and these blurs

Come in random order
And color the eyes of your former lovers
Hers were green like July
Except when she cried

They were red
Now I know a disease
That these doctors can't treat
You contract on the day

You accept all you see
Is a mirror and a mirror is all it can be
A reflection of something we're missing
And language just happened

It was never planned
And it's inadequate to describe where I am
In the room of my house

Where the light has never been
Waiting for this day to end
And these clocks keep unwinding

And completely ignore
Everything that we hate or adore
Once the page of a calendar is turned it's no more
So tell me, then, what was it for?
Oh, tell me, what was it for?


Lyrics submitted by PLANES, edited by pixelcreme

A Scale, a Mirror, and Those Indifferent Clocks Lyrics as written by Conor Oberst

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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A Scale, a Mirror, and Those Indifferent Clocks song meanings
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  • +3
    General Comment

    this was the first song i heard by bright eyes as well...its clear to me though that its an atheistic song...maybe the green eyed girl disagreed with him about the existence of a god?

    fuk3ron March 05, 2003   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning

    I think that this song is about an eating disorder.

    Consider these lyrics: "With an absolute concept of beauty" ^^ people suffering from eating disorders have a twisted concept of beauty "Now I know a disease that these doctors can't treat" ^^ though you can improve through therapy, eating disorders are essentially untreatable

    I personally don't see how this song could be about rape

    c0ll33n524on July 24, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    In English class this year we've been studying poetry analysis, and one of my favourite poems that we've looked at thus far (by one of my all time favourite poets and writers) is "Mirrors" by Sylvia Plath.

    Reading it, I couldn't help being reminded of this song and all of "Fevers and Mirrors" in general.

    The concept of a mirror reflecting everything accurately and without personal bias, distortion, judgement or emotion, etc. but not truly reflecting who you truly are. Sort of. Or something.

    Anyway, here's the poem (which I think is beautifully haunting, btw, as is this song):

    Mirror By Sylvia Plath

    Whatever I see I swallow immediately Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike. I am not cruel, only truthful- The eye of god, four-cornered Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall. It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers. Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

    Now I am a lake. A women bends over me, Searching my reaches for what she really is. Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. I see her back, and reflect it faithfully. She rewards me with tears and agitation of hands. I am important to her. She comes and goes. Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness. In me she has drowned a young girl, and me an old woman Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

    sundayykindagirlon September 25, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    grrr, I'm such a spaz. Somehow missed the first line of the poem when copying and pasting (which is actually one of my favourite parts, as the language is so precise, and devoid of emotion. It reflects and establishes the theme of the poem quite well.) I wish songmeanings.net let you edit or delete your posts.

    ANYWAY, here is the whole poem. Let's hope I get it right this time :P :

    Mirror By Sylvia Plath

    I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike. I am not cruel, only truthful- The eye of god, four-cornered Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall. It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers. Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

    Now I am a lake. A women bends over me, Searching my reaches for what she really is. Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. I see her back, and reflect it faithfully. She rewards me with tears and agitation of hands. I am important to her. She comes and goes. Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness. In me she has drowned a young girl, and me an old woman Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

    sundayykindagirlon October 11, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    To me, this song is about anorexia. I hear "here's a scale, weigh it out and you'll find that he's way more than sufficient" Even if this isn't what he meant, it can bring me to my knees. Very few things can make me go back to how I felt, and this song is incredible in it's rawness. This isn't just a song for me, it's an ingrained memory. Of "the disease these doctors can't treat" that I used to have, and occasionally fall back into within lapses of judgement and medications

    Can anyone else here the starving conor here?

    hxcnuggetson October 21, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This is one of my favorites from Conor (And therefor my favorites ever).

    I'm gonna put my long and pointless interpretation now (Its unfinished, I have to add a few things, especially about the mirror):

    “Here is a scale, weigh it out And you will find, easily More than sufficient doubt That these colors you see Were picked in advance By some careful hand With an absolute concept of beauty”

    I see this as the doubt of a god (“Some careful hand with an absolute concept of beauty”). When you take the reasons for his existence and the reasons for non existence on a scale, he says you’ll see easily that the reasons for doubt make more sense to him. He’s trying to make logical sense and figure out if god exists. And maybe alongside fate, as well (“We’re picked in advance”). The doubt of fate and god, I guess. The concept of beauty is the views of the god, picking out people to be chosen by what he thinks is right, I suppose (For instance, a god picking people to go to Heaven based on things out of the bible and such).

    “They are smeared and these blurs Come in random order To color the eyes of your former lovers Hers were green like July Except when she cried They were red”

    I think the smeared and blur might be referring to the last part, “An absolute concept of beauty” Saying that the absolute concept of beauty (The view of our ‘god’, and what he thinks is right/beautiful) is actually quite vague and random, maybe. And then he makes the metaphor to the beauty of his former lovers eyes, and saying that the color (Or, beauty/view of our god) changes depending on how she was feeling (Or how humans were feeling in that point in history).

    “Now I know a disease That these doctors can’t treat You contract it the day You accept all you see It is a mirror and a mirror is all it can be A reflection of something we’re missing”

    This part seems to me that it’s about seeing the world through your own perception and not seeing it any other way, and accepting it that way as the truth (Which is what people tend to do). But the very last line makes it seem like he’s also describing the idea that his perception of the world is different, which explains the first two lines. He’s saying that everyone sees the world through their own perception, and his (Or to be accurate, whoever is supposed to be singing) perception is different, so they’re not understanding what he’s saying, and he may view that as a bad thing (“A disease”?). When you look out into the world all you can see is a mirror, because all you can see is your own perception. And that’s something no one else can change (“These doctors can’t cure”).

    “And language just happened It was never planned And it’s inadequate to describe where I am In the room of my house Where the light has never been Waiting for this day to end”

    Again he’s describing having a slightly different mind that thinks a bit different, maybe. He’s trying to describe the way he’s thinking but the human language just doesn’t fit his thoughts. So he’s stuck in a dark room, which means he doesn’t really know where he is, or maybe that others don’t know where he is, and so they don’t understand where he’s coming from and what he’s trying to say? As well as them not understanding him. And he’s waiting for the day to end, which may mean death, or it may mean that the next day is kind of ‘the answer’ or a way to explain things, a way for people to understand him.

    “And these clocks keep unwinding And completely ignore Everything that we hate or adore Once the page of a calendar is turned it’s no more So tell me, then, what was it for? Oh, tell me, what was it for?”

    The first two lines seem to describe how time moves on without our permission, and time doesn’t know if we have to go to work or if we’re seeing an old friend, the time has to move on and we can’t do anything about it. Time is just time, and that is all it is, we can’t change that or do anything about it. The next line is similar, saying that we have to accept that time is over, and we also can’t do anything about it. And then the very last two lines may be asking what we did with the time, or if it was worth it? Questioning life, maybe? Asking what all that time was really all about, the meaning of life, the meaning of time, the meaning of everything. I don’t think its supposed to be viewed as sorrowful or regretful, its just a question.

    DreamGeniuson September 10, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Whenever I hear "Now I know a disease that these doctors can't treat You contract it the day you accept all you see is a mirror and a mirror is all it can be a reflection of something we're missing"

    I think of the story of creation in the Bible... man being created in God/YHWH/whatever's image, and Eve taking from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The disease is becoming truly aware and knowing everything you lack inside, and that you can never obtain what you lack. In the story, man is made into God's image, but isn't made to be like God. After eating the fruit, they become aware of what they are missing.

    I also like that it can mean that you never see anything the way it really is. Everything you perceive is filtered through your thoughts and perceptions and gets distorted. There's also the way light reflects off of surfaces, then is processed by your eyes and then your brain... that takes time (too short for us to notice) so you never really see anything, only the light that reflects off of it. And that reflection is never from the immediate present. Everything we see is just light made into shapes that we interpret with all of our different minds. Sound is just vibration. We never actually touch anything due to electric repulsion. None of us have literally ever touched anything else, ever. Only the illusion of touch.

    So it's this knowledge of everything that we aren't, and this isolation, and when you finally see it, it's like a disease that will never go away.

    winteronmercuryon February 03, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    It's amazing when you think about the meaning of all the elements Conor uses in this song... that's poetry at its best.

    skies are grayon May 25, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    "I know a disease that these Doctors can't treat. You contract it the day you accept all you see is a mirror and mirror is all it can be." That line is brilliant! It is like people usually look into themselves to understand themselves...but sometimes you look and you understand nothing.

    popnoiron June 29, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Or, maybe, accepting the world as viewed by yourself is limiting it to what you see. Like any image is distorted when viewed through a mirror, our own conceptions of the world are distorted when we only accept our own as truth.

    Also, why is it that Conor can mix-and-match themes in his songs? It works so well, somehow. But, I can't see anyone else working it so well... another testament to his brilliance, I suppose.

    NickDoggon August 03, 2002   Link

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