Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

23 February, 2010

In Ragle Gumm Territory

LOST is almost over and I'm dreading going down to but one American TV that I have any interest in watching. And so I'm trying to enjoy the ride to May when the most enigmatic, Easter egg-laden show on television will end its run.

Some thoughts on the final season so far:

What's the nature of the flash-sideways timeline? The island is underwater and flight 815 landed safely in Los Angeles in the season opener. Yet Jack runs into a Desmond who is a fan of Salman Rushdie and experiences déjà vu.

In episode 3, "What Kate Does", our heroine is fleeing the airport in her hijacked taxi. She spies Jack out in the passenger loading area and gets a look of recognition on her face.

The timeline in which flight 815 crashes seems to be bleeding into this one and it reminds me of this book:

In Time Out of Joint we follow Ragle Gumm who lives in a nice little suburb and dutifully does his newspaper puzzles. Soon hints that his nice little community and his nice little routine in 1959 are not what or when they seem to be. Anothe world slowly bleeds into Gumm's. Dick's protagonist has been brainwashed and a quaint suburban reality constructed for him so that he keeps doing those newspaper puzzles which are really equations for determining where the rebellious colonists on the moon will be hitting next with their nuclear arsenal.

While certainly not an exact analog to LOST, the puzzles and nuclear weapons thing is perhaps reminiscent of the show's Valenzetti Equation which supposedly predicted "the exact number of years and months until humanity extinguishes itself." The numbers – 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 – represent the "human and environmental factors in the equation". In one of the LOST alternate reality games, it was revealed that the Dharma Initiative failed to change any of the environmental factors. So what about the human factors?

LOST is filled with dualities and now that we've been told (by a highly unreliable source, granted) that the numbers refer to our Losties, or at least people with the same surnames, I can't help but wonder if Jacob is handling the human factors that the Dharma Initiative neglected. Remember when we first met Jacob and his buddy? (I like to refer to him as Esau.)

JACOB: I take it you're here because of the ship.
ESAU: I am. How did they find the Island?
JACOB: You'll have to ask them when they get here.
ESAU: I don't have to ask. You brought them here. Still trying to prove me wrong, aren't you?
JACOB: You are wrong.
ESAU: Am I? They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.
JACOB: It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.

It's like they're the Duke brothers from Trading Places.

Jacob seemingly brings a never ending parade of people to the island hoping that they'll do something other than fight, destroy, and corrupt while Esau remains skeptical, to say the least. It's like Jacob was calculating his own Valenzetti Equation. He monitors how the people he brings to the island act over a number of years, factors in technological advancement, and concludes just how long it will take for humanity to destroy itself. Jacob allowed the Dharma Initiative to setup shop in the island, if he didn't outright do something to bring them there, because it showed promise in humanity to not fight, destroy, and corrupt. The DI, to use Jacob's word, was, at the start anyway, progress.

Did you notice that bullets go through Flocke but that knives kill Jacob? There are rules to Jacob and Esau's paux de deux but it still seems odd to me that Ben is able to do the deed. Of course, Jacob isn't really gone as he appeared to Hurley after his death but you get my gist. Since Jacob harassed Ben as he wielded the knife which would make the unkindest cuts, I think that the enigmatic statue dweller wanted to die. In Paul's letters to Corinthians, he explains that Jesus' death and resurrection meant that the End was imminent. Jesus returning to life and busting out of the cave wasn't for the benefit of 21st century street corner preachers to use to inveigle people to convert, it was a sign that salvation was coming anon – within Paul's lifetime. Similarly, I think that crunch time had come for Jacob and he had to shit or get off the pot. (The series only had one more season, after all.) He understood Ben was a fighter, a corrupter but it was time to prove that humanity can be saved. After all, Jacob had his numbers mapped out and so the process of changing one or more of the variables in the Valenzetti Equation had begun.

Last week Sawyer asked Flocke what the island would need protection from and the reply was: ''From nothing, James. That's the joke. There's nothing to protect it from. It's just a damn island!'' Sure, not every island has a frozen donkey wheel to move it through time and space but I am hoping Flocke isn't far off the mark here. With the show ending, I am really hoping that the writers don't explain the island away as an aggregation of midichlorians that we know as Atlantis or some such thing. Don't screw up like George Lucas.

The island is a stage where people's passions play out. It's where there are villains and heroes; people kill one another and they love one another. In short, the island is a generic stand-in for anywhere on earth where there are human beings because we take our logic and our emotions, our science and our faith with us wherever we may go. I hope TPTB take heed of Iris DeMent when she sang "let the mystery be".
|| Palmer, 4:24 PM


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