Anti-Locke: The people who dug this well did it completely by hand. God knows how long it took them.
Desmond: “It seems like a lot of work just to get some water.”
Anti-Locke: “Oh, they weren’t looking for water. They were looking for answers. A long time ago, places like the one you’re standing at right now made compass needles spin. And the people holding the compasses needed to know why – so they dug.”
• Desmond jokes that Anti-Locke “read his mind.” But isn’t that essentially what the Smoke Monster does?
• The well that Anti-Locke leads Desmond to was built by ancient people who were trying to understand the Island’s strange magnetic properties. That description brings to mind the other groups of science-minded people who’ve attempted similar explorations – both Daniel Faraday with his experiments and the Dharma Initiative with their Stations. In fact, the well strongly recalls the Hatch of the Swan Station, which Locke reveals to Boone in Season 1 just before Boone becomes an Island sacrifice, and which Anti-Locke reveals to Desmond in this past episode just before tipping our favorite Scot over the edge and down the “rabbit hole” (echoes of “Alice”); another possible “sacrifice.”
• The idea of making compass needles spin recalls Sayid’s moment in Season 1, where he notes that his compass is off by several degrees.
• Anti-Locke tells Desmond that the people who dug didn’t find what they were looking for. So what did they find?
• Anti-Locke also tells Desmond that Widmore isn’t interested in answers, but in power. That’s entirely consistent with the character of Widmore as he’s been presented, and Anti-Locke, despite his willingness to lie, tells the truth a fair amount. So is Widmore self-motivated? Does his interest in containing the Man in Black intersect with his personal interest in the Island’s “pockets”?
Anti-Locke: “Why aren’t you afraid?”
Desmond: “What is the point in being afraid?”
“The Absurd man…stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him. He experiences the “divine irresponsibility” of the condemned man.” – Sartre
• Desmond doesn’t fear death. As previously mentioned, he appears to have taken Hurley’s Season 3 advice: “It’s time to look death in the face and say ‘whatever, man!’ This makes him fascinating to watch, and it also makes him a living metaphor – an actualization of Jean Paul Sartre and Soren Kierkegaard’s concepts.
If you’ve been following these columns all season, you’ll remember that I’d previously touched on Soren Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” on a few occasions. I discussed it first when Hurley found that book on the corpse of armless Montand, and then again during the Column for Dr. Linus, where I talked about Kiekegaard’s and Camus’s rejection of suicide as well as the notion of “the Absurd,” bringing our old friend Sartre into the mix as well:
“Jean Paul Sartre (who should be familiar to you if you’ve read the Lost: Rewatch columns), Soren Kierkegaard (the author of “Fear and Trembling,” the book Hurley found in the tunnels leading to the Temple) and Albert Camus all wrote and thought about “the Absurd,” or “Absurdism.” What’s Absurdism? The “simple” answer (haha!) is that Absurdism is a philosophy stating that “the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning in the universe ultimately fail (and hence are absurd), because no such meaning exists, at least in relation to the individual” (a very Existentialist POV). The disconnect between the meaning we seek and the apparent meaningless of the universe results in “the Absurd.” If that sounds a lot like Existentialism, you’re right. It does.
Sartre, that famed Existentialist, wrote on the Absurdity of existence, Kierkegaard on the Absurdity of certain religious truths, and how they can block us from finding “God.” Camus focused on the dualism of life (two sides, one black, one white). Camus believed that happiness was momentary, but death was forever. Morbid as this sounds, it was meant to be a positive and life-affirming idea. We KNOW we’re going to die. And as in Existentialism, the Absurdist believes that life and the universe are meaningless, rendering our lives meaningless. And yet, despite this knowledge, we crave meaning. This is Absurd. It is a paradox. And yet it’s still true, says Mr. Camus.”
• In his book, Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard also tackles the notion of the Absurd in conveying to us his ideas on religious faith, the Absurd sacrifice of Abraham on Mount Moriah (the name, as you’ll recall, of Desmond’s vino-making Monastery), and the figures of the aesthetic “slave,” the Knight of Infinite Resignation, and the Knight of Faith.
All of this is heady, heavy stuff (Again: I’m no Professor – this is the work of an enthusiastic layman). Most important for our purposes in this column are the ways in which Kierkegaard’s slaves and Knights have been popping up all over Lost. What’s a “slave”? What makes someone a Knight of Faith, versus a Knight of Infinite Resignation (or the “Tragic Hero”)? Kierkegaard provides the reader with what amounts to a parable – a simple tale that serves to illustrate a moral/ethical lesson:
“Kierkegaard uses the story of a princess and a man who is madly in love with her, but circumstances are that the man will never be able to realize this love in this world ever. A person who is in the aesthetic stage would abandon this love, crying out for example, “Such a love is foolishness. The rich brewer’s widow is a match fully as good and respectable.” A person who is in the ethical stage would not give up on this love, but would be resigned to the fact that they will never be together in this world. The knight of infinity may or may not believe that they may be together in another life or in spirit, but what’s important is that the knight of infinity gives up on their being together in this world; in this life.
The knight of faith feels what the knight of infinity feels, but with exception that the knight of faith believes that in this world; in this life, they will be together. The knight of faith would say “I believe nevertheless that I shall get her, in virtue, that is, of the absurd, in virtue of the fact that with God all things are possible.” This double movement is paradoxical because on the one hand it is humanly impossible that they would be together, but on the other hand the knight of faith is willing to believe that they will be together through divine possibility.”
• This Trinity of figures should be familiar to any fan of Lost. We’ve watched all of the show’s characters wallow in a state of aesthetic “slavery,” far too willing to simply give up on their lives and their various loves in order to pursue pain, seemingly proactively. This pursuit of pain over the possibility of happiness (see: Jack’s failed marriage and his refusal to let go as just one example) is discussed at length in “Notes from the Underground,” where Dostoevsky has his Underground Man speak of the way in which the experience of personal pain can be a perverse pleasure to someone who has hit “rock bottom.”
Above and beyond this, we’ve also watched as some characters have taken on the mantle of “Knight of Infinite Resignation” (like, for instance, Hurley, prior to this episode) – perhaps hopeful that they’ll be reunited in another world or life with their Great Love, but convinced that the possibility of reunion does not exist in this world. In that sense, these Knights are “tragic heroes” (and doesn’t that sum up Jack’s arc nicely).
Finally, we have characters like Desmond (and, it should probably be noted, Sun and Jin), who appear to have transitioned into Kierkegaard’s vaunted Knight of Faith status. The Knight of Faith feels the same ache of resignation that the Knight of Infinity does, but despite this, continues to have faith that he/she will nonetheless be reunited with their Loved one “in this world; in this life.” That faith is illustrated literally in the continual separation experienced by Sun and Jin, and their focused determination to be reunited. It’s illustrated as well in Desmond’s final actions of the episode – something I’ll get into more a little further down.
For now, it’s enough to note that Desmond appears to have taken the “leap of faith” necessary, according to Kierkegaard, in order to become a “Knight of Faith.” He has progressed from being a slave to the finite, to being a Knight of Infinite Resignation, and has returned from a state of elevated consciousness retaining a kind of Absurd faith, becoming a Knight of the Absurd who, in the words of Sartre, “stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him. He experiences the “divine irresponsibility” of the condemned man.” Desmond does not fear death because he has been liberated through faith. Whether you view this faith through a theological lens or through a Quantum, scientific lens, the end result is the same.
• Anti-Locke is suddenly stricken with the desire to do a little murderin’, or so it seems, when he tips Desmond over and into the well. Watch Terry O’Quinn’s face again in their dialogue just before he throws Des over. He goes from confused to concerned to coldly-murderous. It’s a great acting moment.
• As mentioned, Desmond’s acceptance of what seems like everything contains strong echoes of Kierkegaard’s Knight of Faith, and it makes me wonder whether Desmond’s “destiny” involves being thrown down a well. After all, Widmore’s plans for him seem to involve exposure to electromagnetism. Did Anti-Locke just ensure that he’ll be the cause of his own suffering?
Redundant Sawyer Line: “Son of a bitch.”
• Hurley enters Anti-Locke’s camp by torchlight, and it’s the moment we’ve been waiting all season for – the moment of castaway reunion that will bring the surviving members of Oceanic 815 into final, probably fatal, conflict.
Hurley: “You got weapons an’ we got weapons. And I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Or, killed. So, we’re not going to do anything. And we want your word that you’re not going to do anything either.”
• There’s a child-like quality to the way Hurley states his demands, and it brings to mind again the idea that, on some level, this is a game. Games have popped up over and again in this show – from Locke’s Backgammon and Mousetrap sets, to Hurley and Sawyer’s game of Risk, to the “game” between Jacob and the Man in Black, and in the “rules” that we’ve seen a boy admonishing the Man in Black to follow, the rules that Widmore is supposed to have violated with the death of Alex.
• Hurley’s gambit comes down to his essential pacifism. He’s always been the voice of non-violent conflict resolution on the Island, and that, frankly, worries me. While I think that the show values the notion of harmony, it’s also shown that it values the notion of conflict as a means to eventual harmony and growth, and an overt suspicion of Utopian ideals. I worry that Hurley’s reluctance to hurt anyone will result in some serious hurt. But I also admire his quiet strength.
• Notice that before Anti-Locke gives Hurley his word that he won’t hurt them he looks pointedly at Sayid. That’s not good. The devil’s in the details, as they say. Anti-Locke gives his word that HE won’t hurt them, but he’s spoken for no one else. I’m afraid blood is going to start running soon, and I suspect it’s going to be at Sayid’s hands (Taking bets: Will Sayid utter the words “I have no choice,” just before killing a fellow castaway?).
Anti-Locke: “Hello, Jack.”
• It’s the moment I’ve been waiting all season for – the reunion of the Man of Science and the Man of Faith. Of all the moments in this episode, this is the one that’s got me most excited for next week. Expect epic Jackface.
• Desmond seems rather pleased to be running a man in a wheelchair over. Is this because he’s aware of what Anti-Locke’s become in the on-Island universe? Or is he just grinning to himself over the thought of waking someone up by almost killing them?
• That’s a pretty life-like face on that stunt dummy. Nice job, Lost.
• ….Not that lifelike, though.
• Desmond used love to break through Hurley’s conscious “defenses” and unearth the flashes of another life (not unlike the way that Locke unearthed the Swan Station – a place that I’d been associating with the subconscious back in Season 2).Desmond takes an entirely different approach with Locke – running him over in the parking lot like a mad-eyed Abraham obeying his Oceanic, Island God and sacrificing Isaac.
Because, really, that’s what we’re looking at here – a literal manifestation of the Knight of Faith concept from Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. Like Abraham, Desmond is willing to commit a sacrifice (there’s that word again – popping up over and over like an Old Testament Whack-A-Mole game) with faith in the Absurd that things will, essentially, “work out.”
Desmond can’t use Love as the catalyst for Locke’s enlightenment, because Locke’s off-Island love life is a reversal of Hurley’s. Originally, Locke lost Helen, first when his lies drove her away, and next when cancer claimed her life. In the off-Island universe, Locke has gained that love back without Desmond’s help.
But what about the ethical implications of Abraham’s sacrifice? Isn’t running someone over with your car wrong, no matter what the intended purpose might be? Kierkegaard would say no. Or, more accurately, he’d say that the Knight of Faith’s actions exist “outside” of traditional ethics. Kiekegaard called this the “teleological suspension of the ethical.” Desmond’s actions here, if we accept that he’s become a Knight of Faith, transcend our ideas of right and wrong, because Desmond’s devotion to reunion, to unity of consciousness and the Oceanic, to what’s arguably a conception of “God” in some sense, renders human judgment inapplicable.
• Am I wrong in thinking that Locke’s bloodied face here recalls both his introduction in the show’s premiere as well as the scene in which he plummets from his con man father’s apartment building and gets Touched By A Jacob?
• Great episode. And that teaser….that music…..is it Tuesday yet?
Three Brief Notes:
1) As Lost heads toward its ending (Le Sigh) I’m spotlighting independent artists who’ve done Lost-inspired work that I like/admire. Last week you saw Yehudi Mercado’s cartoony takes on Lost’s lead characters. If you missed them and would like to check them out you can do so here, and can buy a pack of six by clicking here.
This week, it’s more posters, courtesy of Ty Mattson:
You can check out all of his creations by clicking this link.
2) If you know of an artist that’s created something Lost-inspired, whether for sale, just for admiring, or so bizarre that it must be remarked upon, shoot me an email at WhatIsWater@gmail.com and provide a link to their work. I’ll feature my favorite suggestions up through the end of the show. Support the creative impulse and your fellow fans!
3) If you haven’t contacted me about potentially purchasing my to-be-self-published book on Lost’s themes, philosophical, literary and pop cultural references, its characters and minutia, you can shoot me an email at WhatIsWater@gmail.com to be added to the list. You will not be bound in any way, just notified on the book’s progress, as well as where and when you can buy it. In expressing your interest you will also receive a sudden increase in your Karmic credit limit. Spend wisely.
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