LOST: in need of a constant

Tonight’s episode of LOST was wonderful. We learned how Daniel Faraday, in 1996, was working on an experiment that would allow the consciousness of a living thing (in practice, a rat named Eloise) to be “unstuck” in time. He meets Desmond, after his future self tells him to go find him at the Department of Physics at Queens College in Oxford. We later learn that Desmond will be Daniel’s “constant” in both times if something goes wrong, just as he advises Desmond to find his own.

If LOST has been well planned from the beginning, we need to go back through Desmond’s flashes and piece together his story. He was dishonorably discharged from the military – presumably because of his time-travel episodes that kept getting him into trouble? He doesn’t call Penny, but he sees her at least once or twice before the boat race.

By this time, Penny’s father knows about the Black Rock, from the journal of someone on board which had been owned by Tovard Hanso, and then auctioned for a remarkable sum of money. Who were the other bidders? Did Widmore already know about the island somehow by this point? At what point does Penny know that Desmond’s consciousness has become unstuck in time? Presumably Desmond himself will give Penny the frequency of the Looking Glass station in this method, perhaps even tell her about the island, tell her to have researchers look for a large burst of electromagnetism, and give her the frequency to contact the boat (where someone else will warn George Minkowski, in charge of communications, not to answer). George too, we learn, has come unstuck in time.

The symbolism of the episode is powerful. We all feel unstuck in time and space, and we all need an anchor, a constant. Our constant can be a person – indeed, it is hard to see how anything could anchor us in the way the love of another human being can. Perhaps this also clues us in to one of the biggest mysteries of the island. It is a source of magnetism, and it seems that the soul or consciousness of those who have died are prone to reappear there – and that those who die there may appear elsewhere as well. Jack’s father, Charlie, Ben’s mother: that which can become unstuck by the power of the island and move about in time (and space?) presumably can move about in this way even when the body is gone. And so the show will presumably explore not only time travel but immortality. Indeed, it has begun to do so already.

Finally, I’ll just mention that Penny’s number in London is 7946-0893. Given the importance of numbers on LOST, I’d be surprised if there is no deeper meaning to them, and to Daniel’s frequencies.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05830094293166211231 Robin

    I haven’t been watching Lost (I think I lost interest after Season 1 or 2, no pun intended), but Joshua still watches it, which means I get snippets just from being around it.Am I the only one who noticed Desmond talking to someone named “Billy” as he came “unstuck in time”??I can’t imagine that WASN’T a Slaughterhouse Five reference.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03089281236217906531 Scott F

    Is Science Fiction so bankrupt now that it’s only refuge is time travel? See Star Trek MDCVII

  • Anonymous

    This episode of Lost really affected me. My wife passed away two years ago. Since then, there are times I have felt lost, reliving the things we did, and missing her to the point of heartbreak. Just like Desmond. But my faith in Christ has been my constant. I know that our love is still alive. I know that we are both alive in Him. And I think maybe that all humanity can find love this way, be set right this way. Maybe the world is broken because we have lost that constant. Or we reject it. We want to be our own constant, and that doesn’t work. We only want to love ourselves. Without love of others we die. Love your neighbors as yourself or die. Learn how to love your neighbor by following Jesus. Doing what He says, surrendering to His will. Jesus is my constant. His life and teaching and death and resurrection is my constant. Eternal. Through Him I love the world and through me God loves the world. Maybe that’s the whole point?Maybe that is why Locke is having problems? He is developing a religion (with the island as its focus)and that is turning him away from love. He is really turning into a jerk. Has Christendom done the same thing? Losing the message by focusing on buildings and conquests?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks for sharing such a deeply personal reflection on my post and this episode of LOST. I explored a similar point to yours in an earlier blog entry. Do take a look at it if you haven’t already…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07609987407926836519 Paul Levinson

    Good comment on constants, anon – and good post, James.Scott – why do you consider time travel an indication of science fiction’s “bankruptcy”?I guess I’m biased – I love time travel as a reader, viewer, and science fiction author

  • elisabeth

    James- thanks for your link to Paul Levison’s blog… which explained a lot about time travel. Something I wasn’t keen on being a part of LOST, until reading his thoughts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04088870675715850624 Sam Norton

    Can I just say that I’m SO glad to have discovered another theologically educated person who loves LOST. Though I have to read your posts one week behind…BTW I’m not convinced that Locke is turning into a jerk – I’m prepared to change my mind in the future, I just think he’s responding to pressures that haven’t been fully explained yet. I’d certainly have chosen him rather than Jack (self-righteous prig and all that….)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04088870675715850624 Sam Norton

    Oh and I meant to add – that was a laughably bad impersonation of Queen’s college Oxford. One of the East Coast high schools maybe?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks for the comment! I’ve blogged about last night’s episode too, of course…