Fringe is Back (to Where It’s Never Been)

Fringe returned last night with the episode “Back To Where You’ve Never Been.” It featured all the surprises, twists and turns we have come to love from the show, and from J. J. Abrams shows in general, while continuing to feel more satisfying than LOST in giving answers as well as raising questions.

While this post does contain spoilers inasmuch as it talks about a specific scene in the episode, it is not going to recap the episode in detail. Others do that well elsewhere. Instead, I would like to focus on one scene and reflect on its relationship to a major component of numerous religious traditions.

When Peter travels to the alternate universe, and meets that universe’s version of his mother, she realizes it is him. However she became convinced that other universes exist, she says that after her own son Peter died, she took comfort from the knowledge that somewhere else there was a version of her son that survived, grew up, fell in love, and lived a happy and full life.

This struck me immediately as being akin to the comfort that many people take from belief in an afterlife – the belief that, even though a loved one has died, that person exists somewhere else and is happy.

I’m curious whether there are in fact people who eschew any traditional sort of belief in an afterlife, but take comfort from something based in scientific possibility, such as an infinite universe or a multiverse in which there are other versions of ourselves and those we love.

LOST fans may note that what Fringe is doing here appears to be the opposite of the final season of LOST, in a sense. There we saw what we thought was a parallel universe and it turned out to be an afterlife. Here we see an alternate universe and it is being thought of as providing comfort of the sort belief in an afterlife might.

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  • Gary

    Don’t forget M Theory, eleven dimensions. Michio Kaku says “M stands for “membrane” but can also mean “mystery”, “magic”, even “mother””. Hawking says the other dimensions are curled up so small, we can’t detect them. So you have a choice for the mother, exist in another universe, or right beside you, occupying additional dimensions. The nice thing is that no one knows for sure. The old – two dimensional characters living on an infinitely thin sheet of paper have no concept of a three dimension object. So we have no concept of an eleven dimensional “anything”. Then multiply that by potential additional universes.

  • Sabio Lantz

    I agree that survival after death of both self and others is almost a universal desire and thus fear.

    It is my suspicion that our brains create many “solutions”/illusion for us to address this fear.  “Many”, because we have no unified self but instead many interacting modules that work out, often independent, contrary solutions.  And often we are not aware of the solutions.  Thus I believe even atheists can have inner, hidden theists.  The unified-self is also an illusion our brains create for us.

    Sorry, but I needed those prelims to explain my answer to your query:

    So, depending on one’s mental diet (TV and book choices, relationships, work life and such) the brain could give people comfort of an afterlife that involves other time lines — I am not sure this sort of thinking has penetrated society deeply enough to make it a common phenomena, but I agree, James, it could be possible.  That was a fascinating thought, James.  I think many Americans (both Christian and non-Christians) have “reincarnation” comfort modules (consciously or not) due to the prevalence of that image in US media.

    I think many atheists would be uncomfortable thinking they have an inner theist or an inner Fringe god — but sometimes the truth is surprising.

    I loved the episode!