“Telescope” by Cage The Elephant from their album Melophobia is a song of self-reflection that dives into the human experience of being alone and of feeling like you are going through the motions of life. The song talks about a man who lives as a recluse, separate from the rest of society, and the listener can subsequently connect in a variety of ways. They may themselves feels like that recluse, know someone who fits that description, or fear becoming like the person the song describes. Ultimately, “Telescope” invites the listener to reflect on their own lives, and what they choose to spend their time doing or find meaning in.
The song begins setting the scene of the reclusive man:
In a far and distant galaxy
Inside my telescope I see
A pair of eyes peer back at me
He walks and talks and looks like me
In these beginning lines, Cage The Elephant presents a juxtaposition between how this person seems strange and separate but also very familiar. The “telescope” in the second line emphasizes the distant nature of this man, but the fourth line encourages the listener to note the similarities they have with him. The listener is instantly pushed to think about how they may relate to the rest of the song. As the song continues, the lyrics include a simile in the chorus:
Time is like a leaf in the wind
Either it's time well spent or time I've wasted
Don't waste it
This simile gets at the main purpose of the song. The artist wants the listener to reflect on how they spend their time and what they find worthwhile. The comparison of time with “a leaf in the wind” emphasizes the fleeting nature of our own lives, and how quickly it can blow by. The manner in which Cage The Elephant ends this chorus, with a direct message to the listener, persuades the listener to continue in their own self-reflection. The next verse brings the song back to the story of the reclusive man:
Desperately searching for signs
Too terrified to find a thing
He battens all the hatches down
And wonders why he hears no sound
Frantically searching his dreams
He wonders what it's all about
These lines detail things that many listeners could relate to. Some of the things the man is doing seem irrational and contrasting, searching for answers he does not want to find. The last line of this verse suggests that the man is searching for meaning, something many people do. They don’t know where to look and they are afraid that they won’t find meaning or that the meaning they do find isn’t enough. The word “dreams” in this verse can serve two meanings; many people attempt to find their purpose in their goals and aspirations in the future, but this man seems to be looking in his dreams as he sleeps for hints of the answers he searches for, because he has prevented himself from finding any in his daily life.
“Telescope” provides listeners the opportunity to reflect on their lives and their own ideas of meaning. If we spend too much time searching for meaning, we may miss out on important things; if we don’t find meaning in anything at all, we may feel as though we are going through the motions and not truly living.