'Lost': The 'M:I 3' connection
Doc Jensen shares J.J. Abrams' tale of his big choice around ''Lost'' -- and how it gave rise to Team Darlton. Plus: Answer a burning ''Fake Locke'' question, meet super-fan Vozzek69, and consider Heraclitus of Ephesus -- the original Man In Black?
BURNING QUESTION: HOW LONG HAS LOCKE BEEN FLOCKED?
A Doc Jensen Poll for the Lost Fan Nation!
”FLocke” is ”Fake Locke,” or the Man In Black entity that disguised himself/itself/Godself/Satanself as Lost‘s (resurrected) man of faith after beard-liberated Frank Lapidus bravely brought Ajira 316 to a skidding stop on Others Runway Alpha on Hydra Island. But many fans have been mulling the possibility that MIB has been impersonating Locke for much, much longer. Reader Thomas Long wrote me this week to say, ”[Remember in season 1] when Locke goes out to hunt boar and ends up seeing the Monster in person? What if at that point, the Monster killed Locke? What if that was the point that MIB or Jacob assumed the identity of Locke?”
I have my own thoughts on this matter, which I will share in a future column. Before then, I want to get a better read on what all of you are thinking. When did Locke get FLocked? Vote ”Before Ajira” or ”After Ajira” and send the emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, I have obtained some exclusive footage of MIB in action. Are you ready to have your eyeballs seared by revelation? Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Other Lost connections evoke both Jacob and the Man In Black. Heraclitus resided in the seaside town of Ephesus, home to the Temple of Artemis, where he often hung out. Artemis was a goddess of fertility, just like the Island’s four-toed Egyptian deity, Taweret. Heraclitus also had a rather dim view of mankind. He was convinced we were too stupid or too disinterested in becoming better people and understanding the significance of the mysterious world they lived in and the forces that shaped their lives. He blasted mankind for being ”uncomprehending” and ”sleepwalking through life.” He blasted unbelievers and believers alike, believing most religious people were ”impious” and ”superstitious.” In his later years, Heraclitus became such a misanthrope, he retreated from Ephesus to live alone in the mountains, though ultimately was forced to return after he got sick from eating some bad plants. If he could have seen ”the Incident” and heard the Man In Black moan, ”They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt…”, I think Heraclitus would have said, ”That’s what I’m talking’ about!” Because of this pessimism, Heraclitus was also known as ”the weeping philosopher.” It’s also why he’s always depicted in paintings wearing dark robes — a man in black.
NEXT PAGE: More on Heraclitus
THE ORIGINAL MAN IN BLACK! (cont.)
And yet, like Jacob, Heraclitus believed mankind was at least capable of improving. ”All men can know themselves and control themselves,” says Heraclitus. Interesting: When I think of Jack and Locke, the stumbling, bumbling heroes that most define Lost, and I think of what trips them up the most in their heroic journeys, I think of their lack of self-awareness and their lack of self-control. And like Jacob, Heraclitus was deeply interested in mankind’s free will and the content of our character. Recall Jacob’s words to Ben right before the latter killed the former: ”Benjamin, whatever he’s told you, I want you to understand one thing: You have a choice.” That choice was to either obey MIB’s order to murder Jacob, or simply walk away. According to Heraclitus, moral choices like these are the stuff human beings are made of. And also recall how Jacob responded to Ben’s bellyaching question ”What about ME?!” by asking him ”What about you?” I know many fans read Jacob’s retort as something of a sarcastic slap (Ben certainly did), but I processed his comment as an expression of deep empathy — of a guy concerned about the state of Ben’s soul and who was challenging Ben to consider more carefully his life. If Heraclitus had written the script, he might have allowed Jacob to elaborate by lending him one of his famous quotes: ”The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny…it is the light that guides your way.”
Heraclitus believed in change — that all of reality was in constant flux, always morphing into something else. He believed that man’s essential problem is his refusal to embrace this quality of flux, transience, and impermanence — or, put another way, mortality. He advocated ”the unity of opposites,” that the ”hidden harmony of the world” depended on opposing values that were forever at war with each other, but also existed in perfect balance, so that one did not dominate the other. Of course, Lost is rife with this kind of dueling duality: faith and reason, black and white visual motifs (rocks; Dharma logos; backgammon), ”Fire and Water” (a title of a season 3 episode about Charlie and his brother), free will, and fate. Heraclitus blasted Homer for his famous pining ”that strife might perish from among gods and men.” To the contrary, Heraclitus believed that strife between opposing, equal values was necessary, even an intrinsic good. Again, from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: ”Heraclitus rejects the view that cosmic justice is designed to punish one opposite for its transgressions against another. If it were not for the constant conflict of opposites, there would be no alternations of day and night, hot and cold, summer and winter, even life and death. Indeed, if some things did not die, others would not be born. Conflict does not interfere with life, but rather is a precondition of life.” APPLICATION TO LOST: Jacob and MIB are flip sides of the same coin — equally matched opposites whose existence and conflict embody the mythic, defining themes of human existence.
Finally, Heraclitus was a Beavis and Butthead kind of guy; he, too, loved Fire! Fire! Fire! For him, fire was the elemental base of everything, plus his symbol for process and change. He believed in fate and the constant expanding and contracting of the universe, from a condensed ball of fire into created order, back and forth and back and forth, but a little different with each inflation, a never-ending cycle of small, incremental movement — until someone or something finally brings it all to a final stop. (Jacob: ”It only ends once. Everything before that is progress.”) Hmmm: Didn’t the conflict between Jacob and the Man In Black end with FLocke kicking Jacob’s dying body into a cauldron of fire? And didn’t the finale’s other story line — the one involving the time-traveling castaways conspiring to change their destinies — also conclude with an all-consuming blaze, i.e., Juliet incinerating the Island by detonating Jughead? From these two destructive acts, we now anticipate creation or re-creation: the resurrection of the castaways; the Big Bang BOOM! formation of a whole new reality. Said Heraclitus: ”There await men when they die things they neither expect nor believe.”
One more Heraclitus connection. As it happens, there was another, lesser known Heraclitus, known as…Heraclitus the Lesser. He was also known as Heraclitus the Paradoxographer, who is credited with authoring a work entitled On Unbelievable Tales, a collection of ancient Greek myths rewritten and explained for modern, non-pagan post-Christ audiences. On Unbelievable Tales belongs to a Classical literary genre known as ”Paradoxography,” which Wikipedia defines as ”dealing with the occurrence of abnormal or inexplicable phenomena of the natural or human worlds.” I’m guessing things like smoke monsters that reside on a (mobile) South Pacific island might qualify for that criteria. I’d like to think of Lost as a paradoxography — a retelling of mythic ideas in contemporary voice, exploring the collision of the supernatural with the naturalistic. I say we should blend our two Heraclituses and call it: The Unbelievable Tales of Lost the Obscure. Now there’s a title sure to drive ratings!
And with that, we conclude today’s exercise in lulling readers to sleep with ill-considered essays on pre-Socratic philosophy and now cede the floor to FlamingNutsack3568 and his friends. Next week, our official month-long countdown to the premiere of Lost begins! A band will perform! Free pie will be distributed! Zombies will show up! And I can assure you that at least one of those three exclamatory promises will come true! PLUS! You will meet the acquaintance of another ”Lost Super-Fan” whose unique creative engagement with the show truly deserves to be called spiritual. Until then, remember these three things: 1. You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/ewdocjensen; 2. You can email me your questions and theories at email@example.com; 3. You MUST have a very, very happy New Year! See you in 2010!