Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Anti-Christmas Carol...

It's the holidays, and that has me contemplating a classic:

The moral of A Christmas Carol is that it's never too late to change your fate. I used to think the same was true of Lost -- that its resolution would involve changing the fate of humanity to avert our prophesied extinction. But I've come to believe that Lost is more Tao than Dickens. The message of the show is to embrace your destiny. Fighting the future inevitably fails and backfires, causing needless suffering for those affected.

My posts typically focus on the mythical and sci-fi elements of Lost, but the show is ultimately character driven. Not surprisingly, therefore, the stories of principals like Locke clearly reflect this theme of accepting fate. A great example is Locke's refusal as a teen to embrace his destiny as a man of science. One of my all-time favorite scenes on the show is where Locke's teacher urges him to accept Alpert's offer of science camp -- to no avail.

Really, though, no storyline exemplifies the moral of Lost better than Desmond's futile efforts to save Charlie. I've previously praised Desmond's interventions for changing "the picture on the box" by making Charlie's death heroic. But the consequences of this heroism, particularly the rescue of the Oceanic 6, have proven less than positive. Indeed, the grim flash forwards seem to bear out Locke's insistence that the O6 were "not supposed to leave."

The mythology of the show, particularly the Valenzetti Equation, similarly embodies this fatalism. We know Dharma tried to save the world through the power of physical science but ended up creating in Swan Station the very same threat of human extinction they sought to avert. I suspect the Others also seek to save the world albeit using "para" science (i.e., psychic power). That's why they covet children with special abilities like Walt.

The problem is not just that these attempts are doomed to failure. They also suffer from an inaccurate -- or at least incomplete -- understanding of the Valenzetti Equation. I've argued previously that its prediction of extinction may also refer to our evolution into a new post-human species capable of transcending time, space, and even physical form. Altering the Valenzetti's core factors risks delaying this evolution or even derailing it completely (i.e., by destroying the world).

I believe Ms. Hawking, Brother Campbell, and maybe Matthew Abbadon are working to fulfill the Valenzetti's evolutionary mandate. These Chronology Protection Agents, as I've dubbed them, manipulate people and events along the timeline to nudge destiny back on course. The show depicts the culmination of their intricate plan, executed over many decades, to mitigate the distruption and delay caused by Dharma and the Others.

Like the eponymous device in the game Mouse Trap, however, Hawking and Co.'s machinations have a Rube Goldberg quality. There are several critical stages where their plan can fail, breaking the desired causal chain of events. One key point (pun intended) is Desmond's activation of the Fail-Safe. If Des delays going to the Island by marrying Penny, he risks missing this linchpin event, in which case "every single one of us is dead."

Ms. Hawking managed to avoid that outcome by persuading Desmond not to propose. But her speech on course correction was less successful in achieving its other intended effect. The lesson of the man in the red shoes was meant to dissuade Desmond from trying to save Charlie. Ms. Hawking knows the Oceanic 6 are not supposed to leave the Island. In fact, their presence is a prerequisite for fulfillment of the Valenzetti -- they are its six core factors.

The Oceanic 6 are thus pawns of prophecy. Their miserable existence is the universe course correcting them back to the Island. The problem is that these pawns have a measure of free will. They can postpone fate indefinitely -- or at least as long as they can stand the misery -- but their friends and loved ones will also suffer. The Chronology Protection Agents must nudge the Oceanic 6 back to the Island and bring the suffering to an end.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Spoiler: New Dharma Symbol

Thanks to fellow Lost blogger Dark UFO for pointing us to the latest installment of the official Lost Book Club. In a new video, Team Darlton plug James Joyce 's Ulysses (an even more referential work than Lost) and reveal that episode 5:7 will be titled "316." At the very end of their video, a new Dharma symbol flashes on-screen for a split second.

I believe this new symbol is a lantern, which may also be the name of the station it represents. The graphic evokes the lamp post in the woods marking the entrance to Narnia in the classic series by C.S. Lewis. Nor would this be the first such reference on Lost. As we've discussed before, the name Charlotte Staples Lewis seems a clear shout out to the author (i.e., Clive Staples Lewis).

The Narnian symbolism fits well with the episode title (i.e., 316) also revealed by Darlton. Regular readers of this blog may recall my post Purple Sky wherein we discussed the possibility that moving the Island would reorient it in spacetime "such that a bearing of 305 no longer provides safe access." I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that 316 is the new bearing for reaching the Island safely.

That, in turn, raises another possibility we've kicked around recently. In the Island Needs a Constant, I suggested there might be another Dharma station, either on the Island or somewhere else across the planet, that the Oceanic 6 must find to get back. How fitting would it be if this hypothetical station turned out to be none other than the Lantern?

UPDATE (December 14, 2008): A poster on the Fuselage named Founder raises another plausible explanation for the title 316. It could refer to the number of people who purportedly died in the crash of Oceanic 815 -- i.e., 324 passengers minus the eight who initially survived impact. The episode might therefore deal with the unraveling of the lie told by the Oceanic 6.