"I think this song is about how information is always being manipulated and changed. The watch would be the media, so it's face is blank, but it's gears are turning, it's not broken, it's still working, only it doesn't tell you anything. So, sanity is a full time job, for staying totally informed about everything, with the correct information, is quite hard, and requires a lot of time, to figure what's real and what's sensationalism. The shadow on the wall where the paint is peeling, is when some information which was covered up surfaces, they try to put a shadow on it, so nobody can see it. That's my idea, hope you guys like it."
"My take on 'Sanity' is that it is literally about the state of being sane and the challenge of maintaining this state in a world gone mad. The watch with the broken hands but turning gears shows the frustration of being rendered useless and ineffectual by society despite the fact that there is still an interior function and consciousness. It also seems that because of this, the gears have begun to grind away like a disturbed mind. The shadow on the wall evokes an image of someone trying to hide surface imperfections with cheap disguise - like perhaps putting a picture over a hole in the wall. Covering up damage with a false facade, like a madman trying to appear normal to the outside world. But maybe this is all a stretch."
"I like the above given explanations. Perhaps in a song such as this, Brett has found a way to incorporate many meanings which we might not think to do. Personally, when I think of the 'shadow on the wall' i can't help but think of the old 'cave' analogy, in which the shadow is an imperfect projection of reality. If you would buy my contention that schizophrenia is an often recurring theme in this album, it would make sense. Schizophrenics tend to see their own minds as the 'absolute' and thus shrink back away from a 'chaotic scary' world. This, I think, is what the narrator is trying to communicate. And it coincides with one of the two above interpretations: Schizophrenics often see themselves as the only truly sane individual in that with which they are familiar."
"I've taken the part about the wall to mean that he has problems he's dealing with in his head, yet his body shows a normal life to the outside world. I do not know what the song writer's intent was, but that's what I've taken it to mean."
-Just A Kid