"At the Bottom of Everything" as written by and Oberst....
We must talk on every telephone
Get eaten off the web
We must rip out all the epilogues
From the books that we have read
And to the face of every criminal
Strapped firmly to a chair
We must stare, we must stare, we must stare

We must take all of the medicine
Too expensive now to sell
Set fire to the preacher
Who is promising us hell
And in the ear of every anarchist
That sleeps but doesn't dream
We must sing, we must sing, we must sing

While my mother waters plants
My father loads his gun
He says death will give us back to god
Just like the setting sun
Its return to the lonesome ocean

And then they splashed into the deep blue sea
It was a wonderful splash

We must blend into the choir
Sing a static with the whole
We must memorize nine numbers
And deny we have a soul
And in this endless race for property
And privilege to be one
We must run, we must run, we must run

We must hang up in the belfry
Where the bats and moonlight laugh
We must stare into a crystal ball
And only see the past
And into the caverns of tomorrow
With just our flashlights and our love
We must plunge, we must plunge, we must plunge
And then we'll get down there
Way down to the very bottom of everything
And then we'll see it, we'll see it, we'll see it

Oh my mornings coming back
The whole world's waking up
This city bus is swimming past
I'm happy just because
I found out that I am really no one

Lyrics submitted by Hunter, edited by sarahbelum, Cafehollander

"At the Bottom of Everything" as written by Conor Oberst

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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At the Bottom of Everything song meanings
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  • +8
    General CommentOk so here is my analysis.

    I think that the intro is really imperative to the entire song, because this guy, whom of which this supposed woman has never talked to, is telling her that they're going to a birthday party. Birthday party is really just a term that screams they're begining a new life now, and that she shouldn't be sad, maybe because he really doesn't care about life, or maybe he sees some sort of light that she doesnt.
    *first stanza*
    It is saying "we must talk in every telephone, get eaten off the web" These are just things that people get caught up into. It's like everyone in society has to "live life for a purpose" rather than actually live life. They're always doing busy work, instead of making themselves feel better. Also, it is putting social implication into question. "Into the eye of every criminal, we must stare" Instead of treating them like normal humans who might have made a mistake or two, we shall ostricize them, and distance ourselves from them.
    *second Stanza*
    "We must take all of the medicines too expensive now to sell
    Set fire to the preacher who is promising us hell
    And in the ear of every anarchist who sleeps but doesn't dream"

    He seems to be making fun of society as a whole, rather than make ourselves better for us, we are attempting to make ourselves better for other people. The preacher may not even be a preacher, he may just be someone who is looking down on you, that you try to conform. He is also making fun of people without vision, people who just want to be a cliche. ie the anarchist.

    *third stanza*
    It seems insanely funny that his father and mother are doing this busy work, and talking about getting back to god. His father is loading his gun, and it doesn't seem as if he's really trying to do anything really, he's being a hypocrit in a sense. **IMO**

    "And then they splashed into the deep blue sea
    It was a wonderful splash "
    Death isn't something to be afraid of, to be afraid of the enevitable is to be ignorant. We all must prepare, we all must be okay with whom we are.

    *fifth stanza*
    We're blending into society, with this stanza. We memorize social security numbers, but we don't know who we are. We sing in the choir, but don't know the words. We're trying to be something we're not, for the "greater good" of our concious. He's saying we've gotta leave this idea that money has power over us. Even though it might, it shouldn't be the number one priority.
    *sixth stanza*
    We still put too much onto material goods. We look back as if we have failed society, just because we don't have things. We tend to look back rather than forward, on mistakes rather than opportunity.

    and finally

    "I'm happy just because
    I found out I am really no one"

    I find true solice in this line. In the greater picture of things, we as humans are simply a pixle in the huge picture that is the world and history. He's not really found out anything, but he's found the biggest thing. It may be sarcasm, i'm not exactly sure.

    jvenrickon January 24, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI think the most meaningful line is this wonderful excerpt right here:

    "We must take all of the medicine too expensive now to sell,
    Set fire to the preacher who is promising us Hell!
    And in the ear of every anarchist who sleeps but doesn't dream,
    We must sing, we must sing, we must sing!"

    What he, to me, is speaking about at this part is religion (or more specifically, religious beliefs). When he refers to the "Preacher," he's speaking of those who become to vehement with their religious beliefs, and want to impose them on everyone they meet. Metaphorically, he's telling those who do this to back off, and let others have their beliefs as they have their own.

    Then, he moves automatically to the "Anarchist," which, to me, symbolizes atheists and atheism. "Who sleeps but doesn't dream," is in reference to Oblivion, the state of eternal unconsciousness. Thus, the line is symbolic of an atheist pondering Oblivion. However, by "singing," he tells the atheist to wake up, and enjoy life as it comes to him.

    This line is very fascinating in the context of the beginning, which, well, is symbolic of life. We are all ultimately on a plane, headed towards our demise; death is inevitable, there's nothing we can do to stop it, and, calling back to the original parallel, there's no way we can get off the plane while it's in motion. However, those who worry should not, as it's best to just enjoy life while we still have it, and not to dwell on the petty details of what lies at the end. This is recurrent through the entire song, up through the middle to the very end...

    "And then they splashed into the deep blue sea! It was a wonderful splash!"

    Death has come, but in the end, who cares? "I'm happy just because: I've found out that I'm really no one!"

    Therefore, I love this song. I'd love to do a full analysis of every line, but I fear it would monopolize the page. Bright Eyes is truly a lyrical master. It is, in a way, art.
    Ryonneon February 29, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentReally, I think this is about how we do all sorts of things in our lives to try and figure out purpose and where we are going (So we stare into crystal balls and rip out the epilogues). To do this we conform ("we must blend into the choir...") and all sorts of stuff and we hate it but we feel like we have to to get the answer. And we're so afraid to die without knowing it.

    And then, finally we "get down there, way down to the very bottom of everything" and realise that our life is pointless. So we're happy we found it, but sad because we realise it was all a waste of time.

    That what I think, anyways. I love this song though. It's so depressingly beautiful.
    clay1234on February 20, 2008   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationI just re-listened the song last night and got a very new insight on the spoken part.
    So it definitely depends a lot on where and how you've been living and if I am right and there really is what I think beyond this song, then it is quite impressive that he got the idea even though he is living in...uh, civilized world?

    The intro has a girl who doesn't really get what the important bits of life are and she holds on to the society standards - like, you don't just sit next to the other person on a plane. You are supposed to make them single-serving friends just like it was in the Fight Club movie, right? And you have to pretend to be interested in 3rd world countries because otherwise you would be judged, right?
    And this man gets it and doesn't really want to talk to her because what can you explain to a person who is not open to anything new. But then the plane starts crashing and the idea starts coming to the girl "Is this the end already? But do I actually have anything to wrap up?" so she asks, where are we going and seeks help from outside as her life story is shrinking into one isolated point and she starts to realize that her days were just copies of some social "prescription" on how to do things right which is basically a new-age ideology (except that she thought she was free). And the man sees through it and decides to make a show for her (it's your bday party!) so that she doesn't die in a momentarily frustration because it is too late to change anything now and you should only get desperate over things that you still can change. (otherwise it is just self-pity). And then the plane splashes into the deep blue sea and that splash is the last and only thing that is left in the whole universe after the whole life of this ordinary girl because she didn't make a difference. But the last lines of the song give some role to those people as well: When you want to make a difference and want to put yourself out there (like, when you are starting a company or when you are an actor or a musician/singer, in this case) you always have these little monkeys telling you "what if I am not good enough (to be a singer)? what if people find out I am fake and that I too have doubts? what if I fail?" because it is risky. If you want to do some work on your own and you know it is not what society favours that much (yet), then people like the girl on the plane actually can give you peace of mind - You really are no one, just like them, and it's perfectly OK. If you fail to make a difference, you'll be just ordinary. It won't cost you your health etc. So you can carry on creating independently because what's the worst that can happen, really.

    Background: See, I used to listen to Bright Eyes when I was living in Cologne and Berlin, Germany but since half a year ago I've been living alone in Brazilian countryside. It is basically like living in Alaska when it comes to social living: there is not even a coffeeshop where you could go each morning more for the sakes of building a ritual to forget the emptinness than for coffee. I am definitely biased by my experience but then again the song doesn't have to have just one meaning sharp.
    farofa100on August 24, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is a poem in itself as Oberst often does

    The idea of the young girl, and an older guy (the video totally helped to enhance the imagery of the intro) make this contrast, she's lost and not worried but clueless, the old man is cynically happy, and very confident saying HEY WE'RE GOING TO A PARTY! A BIRTHDAY PARTY which is obviously sarcastic and a bit sad

    I haven't looked into it much but i get that it's a bit about getting lost and a bit freed from all these rules "we must, we must, we must" and at the end the complacency of just being.

    Another striking detail is the mother watering the plants, nurturing and taking care of their life while the father loads his gun -- which i think is his father killing himself. This is like a memory while they're about to die.

    Also the fact that they're going into the ocean gives a sense of purification and being cleansed and giving up to something larger than them.

    It's a beautiful song
    Reminescent of the feeling you get from reading something like Camus or Fitzgerald

    =] complacently ddepressing
    Salamaniron December 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis intro is soooo unbelievable beautiful, these cds are soooo amazing.
    anniinnaon November 29, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentconor has the sexiest voice ever.
    mrs-mojo-risinon December 08, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti think the story is there to emphasise this part:
    "Death will give us back to god,
    just like the setting sun
    is returned to the lonesome ocean."
    because he then continues the story to say they crashed into the ocean, just like the sun returns to the ocean.
    -=TiedToTheTracks=-on January 22, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentohh, and he says "it was a wonderful splash". and "Death will give us back to god,
    just like the setting sun
    is returned to the lonesome ocean." is even an optimistic view. and with the man telling her its her birthday and they love her, its optimistic in such a situation..so i think the whole song is supposed to shed positive light on death.
    -=TiedToTheTracks=-on January 22, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat my earlier post was trying to poke at is that this song is sarcasm against human society. Society tends to be inherently hypocritical. We have all of these rules that people must conform to, we have our god and we don't acknowledge him only when we need something. No one really wants to die, but once you do it's not like you'd really know any better. These are some ideas i think he's pushing in this song. Society is complete malarchy, and we shouldn't take ourselves so seriously.

    jvenrickon February 06, 2005   Link

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