Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lost Time Sickness

Yes I'm painfully aware that much of what I'm now spouting here in my blog about the ABC TV series Lost may become out of date - in fact completely and totally wrong come January when Season Six kicks in. However, after watching the last five seasons I think I'm piecing together what we've been shown, and I've come to a number of conclusions. Chiefly among them? Danielle Rousseau might have been right. There is a sickness among people on the Island. However, not quite the way she had anticipated.

Why did she think there was a sickness? Well, she tells Sayid (and by proxy us) in season one episode nine "Solitary." Then, we get to actually see the events happen before Jin in season five episode five "This Place Is Death." What happened? Well, Danielle Rousseau is separated from the rest of her research team members. They go into the catacombs underneath the island that lead to the temple. When they come out, they all immediately try to kill her. She responds in self defense and kills them before they can kill her. We see no indications any of them hate her prior to their disappearance into the catacombs. In fact one of them was her betrothed. These events drive her crazy. She's left alone on the Island.

Ben later comes along and literally steals Danielle's baby Alex from her crib. We see this in the fifth season twelfth episode titled Dead Is Dead. He had been ordered to kill the baby by Charles Widmore. Ben opted instead to take the child and raise her as his own, with a warning to Danielle never to seek her daughter under penalty of death. Not the best of compromises, and this not only secures animosity between Ben and Charles but more importantly for our purposes here, it further drives Danielle into insanity. However, her brand of insanity doesn't match the insanity her copatriots from the research vessel exhibited. They tried to kill her. No warning. No explanation. They just turned on her and she fought back out of instinct more than anything else. Now, why would they do this if they weren't sick? Why would they try to kill her if they weren't crazy? We're not told what happened to her research team to turn them on her.

Again, we're not privy to what happened to her team during their disappearance, but we can speculate. What if somehow they were given a glimpse into their futures, and were made to understand in simple terms that they were fated to die at the hands of Danielle Rousseau? They'd be exposed to the events of their fate and made to believe them real. From their perspective this would be ludicrous, and yet it's true. They would be unable to deny what they were shown. With this knowledge they would return to the surface with every intention of taking out Danielle before she could take them out. So they go up with some quickly formulated plan. This plan fails and she kills them. What is not made known to them at the time they are told about their fate is the fact that what they were shown would be the events that would play out after they were told she'd kill them. Essentially, their change of behavior towards her caused her to become defensive and fight back, which led to their deaths. It would be a case of self-fulfilling prophecy.

They chose to try to change their fate, but the very fact they make that choice seals their fate.

Similarly, the events that lead Sayid to Ajira flight 316 are myriad and too complicated for me to explain here, but ultimately when he is faced with young Benjamin Linus in the late 1970s, and he is given an opportunity to murder the man who would be responsible for so much pain and suffering in Sayid's more recent past (and young Ben's future), he makes the choice to murder young Ben in cold blood. Indeed, he's been working towards this his entire life. The events of his life had molded and shaped him into being a cold blooded murderer. It is a choice that he makes, but the choice is essentially the only logical choice given his state of being at the time. In fact, the audience would have difficulty NOT understanding why he did it, whether an audience member can condone the action or not. It certainly makes sense, like killing Hitler when he was but a janitor.

However, many argue that it is Sayid's act of vengeance to a young Ben that turns Ben evil. Failing to convince Jack to save him, Sawyer and Kate take young Ben to Richard Alpert, who does the one thing he knows to do in order to save young Ben's life: he takes him down into the catacombs that lead to the temple. Richard cautions Kate and Sawyer that Ben will be forever changed from then on. He will irrevocably become one of Richard's people. Years later we know from the episode Man Behind The Curtain (s3e20) that Ben works with the "Hostiles" or "Others" to purge the island of the DHARMA Initiative. He even kills his own father. Sounds very much like the behavior of Danielle's friends after their return from the catacombs under the island that lead to the temple. However, Ben's plans were more complicated and took years to complete.

Ben's also given multiple indications that he can predict the future. At least up to a point. In season five there's a moment where he admits that for the first time in a long time he honestly doesn't know what's going to happen next. Now, whether we can believe him or not is difficult to determine, since we've witnessed Ben lie about every other sentence. However, his behavior since his return to the Island has been that of an outsider. If he does know more than he's letting on, he's uncharacteristically good at hiding it. He's manipulative, and good at lying, but before now his actions would often betray his lies.

In season five he no longer knows the future. So whatever happened to him in the temple as a child seems to have only affected him up to a point. We've also witnessed him glean information from extensive files made for him by Patchy and others about most if not all the inhabitants of the Island. In the episode Confirmed Dead (S4E2) Ben is able to recite information about Charlotte Lewis having never met her before as if he were reading her obituary stamped on her own forehead. He must have read her bio long before and committed it to memory. If he could do similar feats with all the inhabitants of the Island, it would explain how he's been so skillful at manipulating everyone: he knows their weaknesses.

This would also mean he knew about Locke's missing a kidney. So if he actually had wanted to kill Locke, why would he aim almost point blank at the one place where it would do the least damage? Perhaps because he didn't want to kill him, but he did want someone to believe he was trying. Could Ben even be manipulating Jacob and his nemesis? Just who isn't Ben trying to trick?

But again I digress. The sickness. What is it? What causes it? Well, to understand that, we have to understand time. And time is difficult to understand. It's like trying to explain to a square what it's like to be a cube. Having never been three dimensional, the square would not have any frame of reference from which to understand. If a sentient cube were to appear before a sentient square, and try to explain that life is more than just two dimensions, the square would no doubt be changed forever, and perhaps not for the better. A square in a cubical world would be a fish out of water, unable to interact properly with its surroundings, yet unable to deny that its perspective of reality had been changed forever. This is known as The Flatland Phenomenon and Carl Sagan makes an interesting and successful attempt at explaining it in that link.

Now imagine if you will that you're in that square's predicament, but you are not a square. You are a cube. You are a sentient three dimensional, temporally linear being, and you are touched by a sentient being who is four dimensional. You are exposed briefly to the reality that there are more than three dimensions. Like the square facing a cube, your life is changed forever. You may not be able to comprehend the full implications of what this means. For a brief instant, you witness your own existence from birth to death outside of a linear framework. You witness for an instant your entire life and how your life interacts with that of others also trapped in a linear three dimensional existence. Then you come back to your three dimensional senses, like a completed cake being forced back into the cake mix box.

I believe this is the sickness. I believe that many - if not all of the major characters on the television series Lost are three dimensional beings who in various ways have been exposed to a fourth dimensional existence. This has affected some characters indirectly, and others are more directly affected. I can start with the easiest among them first. Charlotte Lewis was getting nosebleeds and brain hemmoraging from the time hops that she and the others were going through. However it seemed to have affected her worse than the others. She was more susceptible. Some theorized that was because she was already on the Island as a child but Miles was too and he didn't die from temporal exposure. As I said, it affects different people in different ways, and in Charlotte's case: This Place Is Death (s5e5).

The nosebleeds also affected Miles, Juliet, Faraday, Jin, and Sawyer. Each to lessening degrees of severity. I am speculating that time hops are dangerous for three dimensional linear beings. Not only are they traveling through time but also space. The Island itself is moving, as is the Earth itself which constantly rotates and revolves around the sun, which moves relative to the rest of the galaxy, which is constantly expanding. The time hops that were happening to these characters in season five are not occurrences that third dimensional beings were even remotely designed (or evolved depending on your beliefs) to experience.

However, because these characters were exposed to time travel in their adult lives, it's very possible that such exposure could have affected their entire existence as linear three dimensional beings. This could explain for example how Miles is able to glean information from dead bodies. He's able to tap into their fates, similarly to how the smoke monster makes one able to witness events of their life to characters like Ben, Eko, or Locke. Miles has a similar capability inherent inside him. He's not able to witness the entirety of time, but he can get occasional glimpses under specific circumstances, probably because of his exposure at any point in his life to temporal anomalies. Though his life is linear, temporal anomalies can affect a three dimensional linear being at any and all points across its past present and future.

Another example of this "side effect" behavior in response to temporally anomalous stimuli can be seen in Hugo Reyes aka Hurley. Throughout his life he appears to have been exceptionally lucky. He survived an accident that killed twenty-three people around him. He blamed himself for the event because of his weight, but it's equally possible that what happened to him was an act of distorted probability. Because Hurley has had exposure to a temporal anomaly at some point in his future, any possibility along his linear existence that might have killed him cannot successfully kill him now, because he is meant to exist perpetually on his linear axis for the duration that the temporal anomaly dictates. So if a knife is nonchalantly thrown in his direction, in that moment he will just happen to have a canteen in his hand that will catch the knife and protect him. He can't die until the temporal anomaly allows him to. However, this probability distortion around him may adversely affect others who are not so temporally charged. So whenever he pushes his luck, it can cause bad things to happen to those closest to him.

We've seen that Hurley is uncharacteristically lucky when it comes to games and sports. He beat Sawyer at table tennis. He never missed a shot when playing basketball with Jack. However, he lost to Walt repeatedly when playing backgammon. This might be because Walt is even more temporally charged and probability ridden than Hurley. Walt is also strangely enough able to confuse birds into flying towards him, usually when he's upset. I can't see how this would be a temporal distortion. It sounds more like gravometric or electromagnetic. Walt may cause birds to think he is whatever direction they were flying if they get to close to him, like a compass going wonky. They might mistake him for true north.

We witnessed Michael Dawson repeatedly try to kill himself after leaving the Island, but he was unable. This is because he was destined to return to the Island. Or at least that's what Tom told him in the episode Meet Kevin Johnson (s4e08). We see him try but he fails. A gun misfires. A car crash leaves him relatively unscathed. Like Hurley, he seems to aquire a probability field around him that protects him from harm. This could be because he was destined to be on that frieghter when it blew. It could also be because his destiny isn't over yet.

Desmond was in the Hatch in the episode Live Together Die Alone (s2e23) when Locke stopped him from pushing the button. Desmond responds by activating a fail-safe key which is meant to save the world if the recitation of the numbers and the pushing of the execute button were ever to fail. After Desmond triggered the fail-safe, the sky around the island lit up purple, the hatch imploded, and Charlie, Eko, and Locke managed to escape relatively unscathed. I think Charlie's ears were bleeding and he was temporarily deafened by the blast. Desmond kinda disappeared.

In Further Instructions (s3e03) Hurley encounters Desmond in the jungle, completely naked and a little disoriented. It's only a day later, but Desmond begins behaving in ways that indicate he has aquired the ability to see glimpses of the future. Sometimes he senses these future glimpses as if they were recent memory. Sometimes they come to him in dreams. Sometimes they appear as flashes of inspiration and knowledge: images and sounds that are brief and out of order and difficult for him to interpret. It's as if he was recently exposed to the entirety of his future, but can only now see bits and pieces, because that's all his three-dee mind can comprehend.

Eventually these visions seem to settle on the fate of one person: Charlie Pace. Desmond is able to predict his death, so he acts to thwart it. However, this only seems to give Charlie a temporary reprieve, as another flash tells Desmond again how Charlie's going to die. Through this ability, Desmond is able to help Charlie die a heroic death of choice, that potentially saves everyone on the Island, or at the very least gives them a fighting chance.

Locke & Eko were both exposed to the smoke monster, as was Juliet. The smoke monster appears to show its intended victim something akin to their life flashing before their eyes. It studies the life this individual has led and then it seems to pass judgment. That may not be what actually is happening, but it seems to either let one live with a set of instructions, or just kills them outright as it did with Eko when he refused to comply. We know Locke was exposed to it but we're not quite clear on what was said. We know Juliet was exposed to it briefly, but she was able to use the sonic fence to ward it off. Ben encountered the smoke monster in season five, but that did not seem to be his first experience with it. In fact Ben had reason to believe he could summon the thing. He successfully used it to kill Keamy's men in season four (Shape of Things To Come s4e09), but was unable to use it in season 5 episode 12 (Dead is Dead). How the smoke monster works is still largely a mystery, but I have reason to believe that it too is a remnant or byproduct of temporal physics.

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have freely admitted that the time travel stories are over. Season five was riddled with time hops and yet they say there will be no more. It was necessary for the plot but that it's over. However, they did not say that temporal physics in general would no longer play a part in the events of season six. I speculate that we'll learn in season six that most if not all of the major players in Lost are lost predominantly because Jacob, Blackie, and perhaps others are agents of a fourth dimension who use three dimensional linear entities as their toys. Just as we use squares and cubes to build the world around us, so too do these fourth dimensional entities use tesseracts to accomplish tasks and achieve goals. We may never fully understand what they want beyond Blackie's desire to kill Jacob, but our major characters in the Lost mythology are experiencing the side effects of being touched or 'tainted' by fourth dimensional nonlinear beings. I believe when touched by Jacob or Blackie or other fourth dimensional nonlinear beings, the entire linear timeline of a third dimensional linear being is adversely affected, causing a myriad number of strange symptoms. Since a third dimensional linear being is not supposed to know its future or comprehend that of others, being so affected by a fourth dimensional being is like a sickness. It may happen in a character's future, or it may have happened in their past, but once done, it adversely affects the probability and awareness of the individual, to the point where it could bring about insanity, alterations in personality, strange occurrences of probability variation or brief insights of future events or past clarity.

Our Losties are sick. Temporally sick. Their linear lifelines have been diseased. This could cause friends to turn on one another as enemies, or complete strangers to suddenly know one another as if they were friends. It can turn brother against brother and make strange bedfellows. Each from their limited perception, they will believe they are behaving completely rationally and coherently, but those around them will appear to have gone insane and even bloodthirsty, causing them to respond in kind. If I'm right, the final season will set the stage for a final battle where people we've seen very close may come to blows, and people once believed to be enemies will band together out of desperation for survival.

It's gonna be fun. It's gonna be exciting. However, Danielle Rousseau was right. It's also gonna be sick.

1 comment:

Jon Stueve said...

I'd think the 4th dimensional object they'd all be exposed too was the island itself. It travels through time and space, as a 4thD object wouldn't be able to.

Also the nosebleeds do seem to track alongside exposure to the island. All the jumpers except Daniel had previous exposure in varying degrees.

In order of exposure:
- Charlotte - ~6 years
- Juliet - ~3-4 years
- Jin - < year
- Sawyer & Jin < 6 months
- Daniel perhaps sometime before Ellie left the island.

Also Sawyer and Jin were on the raft that tried to sail away from the island, that we find out at then end of S2 needs an exact bearing to keep from going crazy.

An example is the redshirts on the freighter that were going mad, existing on the edge of the event horizon of the 4th Dimensional island.