• Christian’s smashed coffin is still there in the caves, and Jack recounts to Hurley how he found this place: by chasing the “ghost” of his father. He smashed the coffin because his father wasn’t in it, echoing the off-Island Locke’s comment that Oceanic didn’t lose Jack’s father, they just lost his body. The fact that Jack is repeating those events in a kind of macrocosmic sense during this episode escapes him completely, as it would escape me completely were I in his shoes.

• The house that Jack’s Ex and David live in (and which Jack presumably also lived in at one point) is number 233, with the “23” conspicuously featured. 23 is Jack’s candidate number, and prior to his leaving this house, there were 3 people inside. Fun with Numbers!

• As mentioned, Jack lifts a stone bunny to retrieve the emergency house key, a moment that directly recalls the Miles flashback in which he found a dead body in his apartment complex, and further underlines the connections between this episode and White Rabbit.

• Jack’s comment that he was stupid enough to think the Island would “fix” him brings back my theory from the beginnings of the Rewatch. Jack needs to fix himself. No one is going to do it for him, and no Island is going to just intervene and make things alright. Jacob may be nudging these folks along, but the decisions they’ve made, and the state in which they’ve found themselves after five seasons of struggle, is arguably a result of their own choices. Physician, heal thyself. The Island is a place where healing is possible, but as we’ve seen, “God” tends to help those who help themselves.

Jack: “I don’t understand – how is it that we’ve never seen it before?”
Hurley: “I guess we weren’t looking for it.”

• We get still-another ancient structure in this episode, following last week’s reveal of The Cave, and further strengthening the impression that these places served as proto-Dharma Stations on the Island, prior to Dharma’s arrival. The Lighthouse’s appearance recalls The Pharos, one of six Lost Wonders of the World, just as the Statue’s foot recalls the Colossus of Rhodes. The Pharos was constructed in the harbor of Alexandria, Egypt, and used a mirror to reflect sun and firelight in order to guide ships home.

• There’s really no way, given the sailing/hiking routes the castaways have taken during the show, that this Lighthouse wouldn’t have been seen at one point or another. So, either Hurley’s comment is smirky, kinda-annoying acknowledgement of this (and one that probably would have been better served without any comment at all), or there’s some sort of deeper meaning to the comment. Is the Lighthouse only visible once you know where to look?

• According to Justin, the Others brought Claire to the Temple because she was “out here in the jungle, picking our people off.” While in the Temple, Claire was apparently subjected to the same “tests” that Sayid was shown enduring. She’s been branded, and I have to wonder now whether the “brand” is actually a part of the test at all, or whether it simply serves to mark the “infected.”

• AXE TO THE BELLY! Lost is never afraid to go gruesome on us – yet another reason to savor it. Claire kills Justin (which is a shame, as I really dig this guy) after learning the truth – Kate took Aaron, and the Others have never had him. This pretty much confirms Claire’s descent into Island-fevered, “infected” insanity.

• The “Welcome all Candidates” line on the above poster is the sort of detail that makes me smile.
 
• David is playing the same classical piece which we saw young Daniel Faraday attempting, but where Hawking bent Daniel’s future to her apparent will, Jack will bless his son to follow his own destiny – a very Jacobian thing to do.

• The wordless moment in which Jack fully absorbs his son’s ability, and the way in which this sequence is shot, is incredibly moving to me.

• The mysterious Dogen appears in the off-Island universe as the father of one of the other Williams Conservatory “candidates.” Given that Jack doesn’t have a son in the on-Island universe, should we assume that Dogen doesn’t either? Or will his son play a factor in how he arrives on the Island?

Dogen: “They are too young to have this kind of pressure, aren’t they? It’s hard to watch them and be unable to help.”

• I’d like to single this line out, since it seems to me to resonate with Jacob’s apparent approach to castaway orchestration. In the metaphorical sense, we’re all “young,” and dealing with the pressures of the world. As children, our parents could have attempted to step in and make things “easier” for us, but arguably that sort of direct interference doesn’t help children – it certainly didn’t do much for Jack. Instead, that kind of direct meddling tends to stunt growth. As Locke pointed out in The Moth, he could help the insect free itself by cutting open its cocoon. But doing so would only hurt the moth, despite any good intentions. Children must be free to learn how to deal with life, to make their choices, in order to grow and become strong adults. And Jacob’s actions and demeanor seem to reflect this attitude. Despite comments to the contrary, Jacob has not been running around all season solving things by being magical. He’s popped up to ask Hurley for help twice, and in both instances, does absolutely nothing else. In a sense, his nudges might be compared to a concerned, but ultimately distant parent figure who knows that these castaway “children” must fight to free themselves or be damaged irreparably.

The Man in Black has done a nice job of illustrating how Jacob has kept things from the castaways, but I’d argue that this doesn’t mean Jacob is “evil,” or that the MiB is “good” or even right. If anything, judging from the metaphors the show has already provided us, the Man in Black seems to be advocating for cutting open the cocoon, consequences be damned. And while that kind of brutal insistence is undeniably attractive, it’s also undeniably simplistic.

• With the revelation of the Lighthouse and the mirrored miracle that it contains, Lost introduces another Wheel to its mythology. Whereas the Frozen Donkey Wheel was buried deep within the earth, and had the ability to shift the Island and its castaway inhabitants through time, the Lighthouse Wheel appears to offer glimpses in time and/or space. Are we looking at different places in the same time-stream? Are we seeing possible worlds? No clue. But there’s a lot of names on that Wheel (see Lostpedia for a listing of the visible ones).

• Note that the center of the Wheel seems to contain a stone basin with ashes, suggesting that, like The Pharohs of Alexandria, fires were set to reflect the light from this place to guide ships, or to illuminate the inner visions of the mirrors at night. Is the lighthouse meant to bring people to the Island from other places? Or is it instead meant to bring people who are already on the Island to a new place within themselves?

• So, what’s with all the mirroring/reflective imagery in this episode? And how does it potentially tie in with these Existentialist ideas that seem to be directly referenced by the show? Before I answer that, take a gander at this:

“The thirty birds read through the fateful page
And there discovered, stage by detailed stage,
Their lives, their actions, set out one by one –
All that their souls had ever been or done:
And this was bad enough, but as they read
They understood that it was they who’d led
The lovely Joseph into slavery –
Who had deprived him of his liberty…

The chastened spirits of these birds became
Like crumbled powder, and they shrank with shame.
Then, as by shame their spirits were refined
Of all the world’s weight, they began to find
A new life flow towards them from that bright
Celestial and ever-living light.
Their souls rose free of all they’d been before;
The past and all its actions were no more…

They ask (but inwardly; they make no sound)
The meaning of these mysteries that confound
Their puzzled ignorance – how is it true
That ‘we’ is not distinguished here from ‘You’?
And silently their shining Lord replies:
‘I am the mirror set before your eyes,
And all who come before my splendor see
Themselves, their own unique reality…
Though you have struggled, wandered, travelled far,
It is yourselves you see and what you are.’”

- The Conference of the Birds, by Farid Ud-Din Attar

Isn’t that lovely?

The Conference of the Birds is a 12th century poem which tells the story of a flock of differing birds that undertake a journey to find “the Simorgh,” aka, The Lord, aka God the Father. Each of these birds represents some aspect of humanity – love, vanity, pride, doubt, faith, and so on. Each is flawed, and unsure about their quest. Passing through seven valleys (which represent seven stages on the path to enlightenment to the Buddhist’s eight stages), they finally arrive face-to-face with their Lord, their Father, and discover that he is them, and they are he. They arrive to find a mirror, a reflection. As in Existentialism, they are all that exists.

The poem was written by the Sufi mystic Farid Ud-Din Attar. Sufism is an “esoteric” belief system that was (and probably still is) considered heretical, in part because “it was held to be incomprehensible and dangerous if expounded to those who had not received the necessary spiritual training.”

Because Sufism was a closely-guarded doctrine, only its outlines are available to us. Those outlines, as presented through books and/or Professors of theology, present a belief system that verges on Existentialism, but a kind of “Existentialism-in-reverse.” A “Mirror image,” if you will, of the belief that there is no divine “God.” Existentialism argues for a universe in which there is no inherent meaning, in which there are no “higher Forms” to push us around, shape, inspire or judge us. Under an Existential view of the world, the “shadows” on the cave wall that Plato spoke about are all that is real. There’s nothing behind us, unseen, making those shapes in the firelight. It’s just us, huddled ‘round the flames, telling stories to keep the dark at bay.

Sufism exists as a kind of Looking Glass reversal on those ideas, in that it claims that only God truly exists, and that all other things in the universe (including you and I) are essentially his “shadow.” Under Sufism, all religions are useful in some way in that they all encourage a search for universal Truth. Under Sufism, our human notions of “good” and “evil” are meaningless to God, “who knows only unity.” Sufi mystics believed that recognizing this would help a person find the road to “enlightenment,” and to eventual “oblivion in God.” Sartre called this kind of confrontation/meeting and subsequent annihilation “Othering.”

Sartre and Attar arrive at what is basically the same conclusion through radically different means. Sartre uses the rational “scientific” approach of Philosophy. Attar uses the arational “mystic” approach of Religion.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to relate Jack’s journey in this episode with the journey of the flock in the Conference of the Birds. Like them, he’s seeking his father both literally and figuratively, in the missing body of Christian Shephard and in the bodiless apparition of Jacob, the allegorical “Simorgh” of the Island. Like them, in seeking his father he finds himself, reflected. Both literally in the mirror of the Lighthouse, and figuratively, in the face and emotions of his son, David. In fact, the journey of the birds further reflects the journey of all these castaways, who’ve passed through valleys of doubt, confusion and temptation, losing friends along the way, only to arrive and find themselves reflected in a mirror. They are all that exists, because they are God, and God is all that exists. If they had been told this information before they’d set out, would they have made the journey? Would the true meaning of that revelation actually “mean” anything other than in the academic sense? The answer is no. And that fact makes me think about the ways in which the castaways have been kept from information, while still being nudged along the journey.

• The notion of a mystic sect devoted to guarding Truths from an uncaring/hostile/unprepared world, who hide their mysteries in riddles, and reveal them only to initiates – to “candidates” – sounds a fair amount like our old friends the Others.

• Check that out – that’s not the Others’ Temple. So what exactly is it? A glimpse at Dogen’s pre-Island life?

• In the Season 6 thread, people have been pointing out that it really makes no sense for Jack to smash the mirrors and not, say, attempt to figure out what the deal is with the MAGIC MIRROR THAT SHOWS YOU YOUR CHILDHOOD HOME. I agree. But I also think logic is beside the point on at least two levels here: For one, Jack always smashes shit he doesn’t understand. It’s his go-to “I’m-so-aggravated-that-my-veins-are-a’bulgin” signature move. But on another level, it’s symbolic of something larger. Both Sartre and Attar advocate for a form of oblivion – Sartre in the meaninglessness and subsequent resulting freedom of life, and Attar in the realization that God and man are one. Both see a shattering of a “mirror” as being necessary to achieve true enlightenment. For Sartre, it’s the “mirror” of the Other. For Attar, it’s the veneer separating God from ourselves. In shattering the Lighthouse’s mirrors, Jack is shattering his “Other,” and removing that obstacle from the path to enlightenment.

Sound crazy? Note that the scene directly following this particular Jack-Attack involves Jack forcibly seizing the reins of destiny and fixing something – the relationship between him and his son.

Jack: “You know, when I was your age my father didn’t want to see me fail either. He used to say to me that – he said I didn’t have what it takes. Spent my whole life carrying that around with me, and I don’t ever want you to feel that way. I will always love you, no matter what you do. In my eyes, you can never fail. I just want to be a part of your life.”

• Cue the waterworks. Yes, I’m a sap. But that’s obvious, no? On a larger level, Jack is coming to terms with something profound inside himself through the “mirror” that is his son.

Jacob: “Jack is here because he has to do something. He can’t be told what that is – he’s got to find it himself.”

• Jacob appears to Hurley again, post-Lighthouse-breaking, and it’s heavily implied that no one is coming to the Island – that Jacob simply wanted Jack to see what was inside, and to do what he did. What was that? The obvious answer is that Jacob wanted Jack to smash the mirror. But I’m thinking it’s ultimately not that simple. I believe that Jacob simply needed Jack to make a choice – preserve what’s come before, or end the cycle. And I think that Jack’s choice pleased Jacob, because it was an assertion of free will.

• Interestingly, free will isn’t all that’s important to Jacob, and we learn that he specifically wanted Jack and Hurley as far away from the Temple as possible. Ominous, to say the least. Can we assume, then, that either Sayid will soon be “activated,” or that the Man in Black will be arriving at the Temple with his “recruits” in the next episode?

Claire: “I’m so glad to know you were lying, because if what you said was the truth – if Kate was raising Aaron? I’d kill her.”
Anti-Locke: “Am I interrupting?”

• Finally, the identity of Claire’s “friend” is revealed. It’s the Man in Black, and Claire appears to be able to see through his “John Locke” identity to someone else beneath. This is her “friend,” and it confirms that Claire has been “claimed,” though we’re still unsure what that means. Clearly she’s unhinged enough to kill indiscriminately. But is this psychological? Biological? Spiritual? Will Locke, Sawyer, Claire and Jin storm the Temple? Judging by the lack of images we’re given in the tease for next week, I honestly have no idea. But something big is coming, and I can’t wait to see what it is.

*****

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