Wednesday, March 24, 2010

LOST Ab Aerterno, first thoughts

Looks like my thoughts from last week gained some traction this week.

We'll start there after this epic, epic episode.

Perhaps Jughead does play a role in the split, but I maintain that the split doesn't happen unless Jacob is dead. Remember, Jughead didn't go off until after Jacob was killed.

Jacob tells Richard that the Island is a cork keeping evil inside. When Jacob gives the bottle to Esau/The Man in Black, Esau doesn't remove the cork to free the wine that represents himself (and interesting that wine is used to represent him, considering that wine in Christianity represents the blood of Christ), but instead breaks the bottle. Making Jacob the bottle in this analogy.

The Island is the cork, but Jacob is the bottle, and Esau frees himself by destroying the bottle, by killing Jacob.

The implications of this is rather huge.

At the end of the episode, Hurley tells Richard that his wife said one more thing. "You have to stop the Man in Black. Stop him from leaving the Island. Cause if you don't... We all go to Hell."

My friend Kristen tweeted a few things during the episode that I found interesting, especially since I was in class and had no idea what she was referencing. Well, I felt pretty good about the last thing she tweeted as the show was ending and as I was on my way home to watch it...


But what interested me was this tweet...

"I'm gonna be REALLY ticked off if #LOST is going where it seems to be going...."

As soon as the episode ended, I called her to see if what I assumed she meant from that tweet (not knowing exactly where it occurred within the episode) was what she meant from that tweet.

It was.

She sent it after Esau told Richard that they were in Hell and that he was dead, confirming what Richard believed he had been told by his deceased wife.

Of course, the episode continued, presumably moving on from this explanation (which at this point would seem unfair), and Kristen would be able to send her OMGOMG tweet.

Now, here's the thing.

I think that this explanation is actually a true one.

I think that the show with this line actually gave us an answer.


Just not for the Island.

I think that the answer provided is for the LA X Timeline, for the Flash Sideways world.

If LA X is of a world without Jacob, a world where the cork is at the bottom of the ocean, then it is a world where the evil has escaped into the real world. It is, as Hurley described it, Hell.

So, while many people have been theorizing that Sideways World, LA X Timeline, is an epilogue post-Island, I now say to them that I believe it is the exact opposite. It is Hell, that which our LOSTies must try to avoid, try to keep from becoming the true reality. That is what the show is now about, keeping the cork in the bottle, keeping the monster trapped on the Island.


There is more to get to from this episode.

We got some answers,specifically how and why Richard was brought to the Island, how the Statue was destroyed, and how the Black Rock got to the middle of the Island (which by the way was waaaaaay simpler than I think anyone theorized, and while some people might be disappointed by that, I think it is pretty funny, good job LOST).

There was some interesting Smokey stuff in this episode as well, and even though we know a whole hell of a lot more about Ol' Smokey than we did prior to this season, it seems to me that Darlton are holding to their promise that we will learn something new each and every time Smokey makes an appearance. I now think that it is safe to say that dead people appearing to their loved ones on the Island when they aren't really on the Island are definitively courtesy of Smokey.

When Smokey does his whole Photography Flash thing, he is somehow getting into the mind of the person he's flashing so that he is able to project back to them someone from their past.

I will reference Eko and Smokey presenting him with his brother Yemi after Eko confronted the Smoke Monster earlier without getting killed.

Pretty much the exact same thing happens in this episode to Richard.

There are more similarities as well. Eko felt guilt for Yemi's death, Richard felt guilt for Isabella's. I think that that is important for a few reasons.

One, the show is clearly on some level about redemption. I don't think anyone would argue that redemption is not an important theme in the show.

Jacob and Richard have a talk about redemption. When Richard is offered the job, Jacob asks what he wants, he says he wants his wife back, Jacob says he can't do that, then he asks if he can be forgiven of his sins so that when he dies he doesn't go to hell, Jacob says he can't do that either.

But just before this part of the conversation, Jacob has something else to say about redemption. He says that he brings people here because Esau "believes that everyone is corruptible because it is in their very nature to sin. I bring people here to prove him wrong. And when I bring them here... their past doesn't matter."

Although Richard doesn't hear it, Jacob is saying that regardless of what sin occurs, or has occurred in the past, he believes that people are capable and ready to do what is right, "to help themselves, to know the difference between right and wrong without me having to tell them". Why should Jacob have to step in? In other words, Jacob is saying that he has given humanity the access to free will, in order for them to prove Esau wrong, he believes that they should do it without his interference.

Later, of course, we see Jacob taking a slightly different path. He still is big on free will, but he definitely does some stepping in.

However, he never does so with coercive power.

I'm not sure how many of my readers are familiar with Alfred North Whitehead and Process Theology, and it might just be because we spent a majority of my Kazantzakis class tonight discussing Whitehead and Process Thought, but it seems to me that Jacob is definitely in the mold of the Process view of God. There is also a lot of other stuff going on, including a very Dualistic thing happening, that whole Good and Evil aspect which doesn't really fit with Process Theology or most modern Christian theology at all, but as for the core of who Jacob is and how he acts, I think that Process Theology might have some interesting things to say.

Process thought in a nutshell is responding to and arguing against the idea of God as the Unmoved Mover, the idea put forth famously by Aristotle, the idea that God causes motion and change, but is unmoved and unchanged by anything.

In Process thought, God is very present with us, God changes with us, God is active with us.

However, God is not the omnipotent God of classical theism. Alfred North Whitehead says in his book Process and Reality that God does not have coercive power, but instead has persuasive power.

Whitehead explains the issue of our understanding of God’s power as being related to the power of Caesar. “When the Western world accepted Christianity, Caesar conquered; and the received text of Western theology was edited by his lawyers.” Whitehead argues, “The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar.” Because Caesar’s unlimited power was of a coercive nature, the belief became that God’s power must also be coercive, and unlimitedly so. However, Whitehead argues that this is incongruent with God. Instead, God's power is persuasive.

So, we've seen Jacob change, like the God of Process thought, and we've seen Jacob persuade those he has chosen as opposed to forcing them to follow through with his plans, and he has repeatedly talked about his belief in the free will of those that he has chosen.

What I guess I'm saying is that I am now fully on board with Jacob being the God-type character of the show. What his having been killed says about that... well, in this post I've already quoted Whitehead, I suppose we'll leave Nietzsche for another time.

What is interesting, however, is how Richard falls into this. Jacob and Richard in their talk discuss how Jacob doesn't want to step in to which Richard replies that Esau therefore will. Jacob asks Richard to do that for him, be his representative to Jacob's chosen people. If Jacob in this scenario is God, does that make Richard the Jesus-type?

I certainly think that that argument can be made.

After all, Jacob literally baptizes Richard just before this discussion, he says that he is unable to redeem people of their sins perhaps intimating that Richard will be able to do that in Jacob's place, and then he gifts Jacob with everlasting life.

Seems like a fit to me.

I don't think that LOST is strictly, however, a Christian show. I think that there are a lot of Christian themes throughout the show, but there are also a lot of Hindu, Buddhist, and classic mythic themes being played out as well (including a lot of the Egyptian myth, such as the statue, the hieroglyphics, and Richard's home, the Canary Islands, named after the original inhabitants who worshiped dogs and mummified them, something that has distinct ties to the Egyptian god with a dog's head, Anubis, the Egyptian god of the afterlife, who was replaced by Osiris, and if power struggles between leaders of a place that is often tied to the afterlife isn't LOSTian, I don't know what is). The point is that there is a lot more than just Christian themes going on here, so I don't think that we can take the Jacob is God and Richard is Jesus comparison too far, but I definitely think that the show wants to make the case that those archetypes work for Jacob and Richard at least to some extent.

Another thing that really struck me about this episode is the fact that it greatly resembles the Darren Aronofsky film The Fountain. You probably know Darren Aronofsky from the films The Wrestler or Requiem for a Dream or maybe even Pi (which also has a lot of themes in common with LOST), but chances are good you haven't seen or even heard of The Fountain which is a shame, because it is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Without giving too much away, The Fountain is about a character named Thomas (played by Hugh Jackman) and his wife Isabel (yes, Isabel, played in the movie by Rachel Weisz who bears a bit of a resemblance to Mirelle Taylor who plays Isabella in this episode). In the movie, the two characters are together in three distinct time periods, the year 1500, the year 2000, and the year 2500. In 1500, the characters are (like Richard and Isabella) in Spain. In the year 2000, Isabel is dying and Thomas is trying with all his might to cure her (like Richard and Isabella). And in 2500, Thomas is attempting to reunite himself with Isabel and has found a way to have everlasting life (like Richard, still searching for Isabella). It is too big a coincidence to ignore, so I will share with you the themes of the film and let you make of that what you will.

The idea of the movie is that death is an important part of life. That ultimately it is death that makes us as humans special. Jackman said of the movie, "The moment Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge, of good and evil, humans started to experience life as we all experience it now, which is life and death, poor and wealthy, pain and pleasure, good and evil. We live in a world of duality. Husband, wife, we relate everything. And much of our lives are spent not wanting to die, be poor, experience pain. It's what the movie's about." The same could be argued about LOST.

Aronofsky says of the film, "If [Adam and Eve] had drank from the tree of life [instead of the tree of knowledge] what would have separated them from their maker? So what makes us human is actually death. It's what makes us special."

Pretty interesting stuff when you compare it LOST. And anyway, it is a fantastic film and very worth seeing if you haven't seen it before.

One last point that I'd like to make, although you probably noticed it yourself, when Esau sent Richard to kill Jacob, he did so with the exact words and actions that Dogen used when he sent Sayid to kill Esau. Interesting.

Until Next Time, thanks for sticking with me through this massive post. I wonder what we're all going to do when LOST ends? Probably better not to think about it.


  1. Whenever they say stuff like "we're all in hell," I mostly just dismiss it. Every other conception of Christian metaphysics on LOST is at once seen as meaningless and then understood with different meaning. I think the creators are explaining the miracles and wonders of religion with science and humanity, honestly. The hell-speak was all a way of controlling Richard Alpert because of his superstitious Christian background. I do think its interesting to think of hell as the worst place and to understand what the worst place would be for other people.

  2. Yeah, I'm not saying that Hell is a literal place in LOST, but that the idea of Hell (and all of the other names that Jacob gave it in his discussion with Richard) is where the characters are living in the Sideways universe.

  3. I like playing with the idea of what hell really is. Think back to Bernard, who felt trapped in his own hell on the island and wanted nothing more than to get off. That is, until he realized that the island was the only thing keeping her alive. Suddenly, his prison became his salvation.

    On the other hand, the theme of getting everything you ever wanted actually being a curse is a big one (Hurley, Richard, etc). Much like the Tree of Knowledge story in Eden.

    Amy thinks the island is Eden, though I argue that proscribes its significance too much to the Christian tradition. I think it has to be bigger than that, as you note.

  4. Hey Josh

    Kristin told me about your Lost blog. Nice. Maybe you could share your thoughts on some religion-themed events from this last episode that I scratched my head over.

    > The MIB provides food for Richard and Jacob provides the wine....last supperish?
    > I see you comparing Richard with Jesus but wouldn't that also apply to him acting as Moses? He killed someone in the heat of passion, ends up in a far away land, and acts as the interpreter for Jacob (God, in this comparison) with the seeming goal to help lead people to....whatever destination it is they are on the island to find (since they are Lost)

    On another note, I'm getting confused over the free will/deterministic themes. With the existence of a flash-sideways that almost automatically means that decisions they make have consequences and therefore, they have free will right now.(alternate universe/timeline...take your pick) But if that is "hell" does that mean that determinism takes over? I didn't get that from the flash-sideways but I wasn't really looking for it either. too many layers.

    last item: what is the continued significance of Jacob touching somebody? It brought many of them there, and the long, long hand on Richard's shoulder was focused on by the scene when he received "eternal life". (after kicking his ass, of course)

  5. my girlfriend Natalie gave me your blog address, interesting takes on a few things. but i have some questions

    -Perhaps Jughead does play a role in the split, but I maintain that the split doesn't happen unless Jacob is dead. Remember, Jughead didn't go off until after Jacob was killed.-

    Granted I haven't had a chance to go back and read all your other posts on other episodes, but Jughead detonated in 1977, and Jacob was killed in 2007, or are you saying "after" in terms of the narrative? in which case that shouldn't really have any implication on what caused the split.