SMOKE AND MIRRORS: DECODING LOST
Four years into the magical mystery tour that is Lost, I think it's safe to say, if we're at all honest with ourselves, that there isn't a one of us who has any idea what the hell is going on. There are so many clues in play now, so many images, mysteries, themes, characters, symbols, all swirling around our heads like the chickens and bicycles in the twister that took Dorothy to Oz. We get a sense from time to time that we're glimpsing the secret behind it all, and then just like that, it's torn away from us again and we're as confused as ever before. What none of us know yet, is whether or not Lost is ever going to make any sense. It spins us around in a big whirlpool of pictures and slogans and icons and books and maps and drawings and numbers and faces. It's only natural to wonder sometimes if we're just being dazzled with bullshit.
The bare bones of this mini season's plot don't take long to thumb through. As expected, Jack's phone call to the freighter was the worst! idea! evah!
The barbarian hordes were unleashed.
They came, they saw, they slaughtered.
It was not a good season for redshirts.
Not a good season for lots of characters.
The freighter seemed to have been commissioned by Widmore, who also may have staged a fake crash site for Flight 815.
Jack didn't SAVE EVERYBODY, as he spent the last four years promising he'd do. He did, however, manage to save himself.
And we got to watch him have a three year long nervous breakdown. In fact, everyone who escaped the Island ended up pretty miserable.
Except Kate...who just went back to being Monica.
When the shit hit the fan, Sawyer did the far, far greater thing.
The boat blew up. The Island went poof.
Ben jumped off the sinking ship to a life raft ten months into the future.
Penny found Desmond.
Somehow, Locke turned up in a pine box in L.A.'s most anagrammatically accurate funeral home.
And Jack finally accepted Ben as his AA sponsor.
That was pretty much it for the story this year.
But...as the season recedes, we're left on the deserted beach to pick through the flotsam and jetsam floating around in the tide pools. Where to start? Even the most mensa ready minds in this fantasmagoria of a fandom can't seem to come up with a comprehensive theory, so who are we to try and compete? But let's give it a shot anyway. Because Lost is, if not a game show, a show that is a game.
Think of it as a kind of Picture Tic Tac Toe puzzle, where we try to synthesize random bits of cultural trivia , both classical and pop, into some great transcendent jigsaw puzzle. I think it's clear they want us to follow these breadcrumbs. Otherwise they wouldn't have the primitive symbols of sun-fish-tree-boat, first seen on the Hatch mural
repeated on both Hurley's loonybin chalkboard
and Kate's gleaming simonized refrigerator.
It really doesn't matter which point we choose to leap into the whirlwind so let's just pick a theory, any theory. Like this one:
THE ISLAND IS A MAD SCIENCE EXPERIMENT GONE AWRY
A casual fan looks at this picture and they see a big burly curly haired bear having a panic attack. But the keen eyes of the Lost obsessive go straight to the tinker toys in the background, oh so coincidentally arranged in the shape of an H (the 8th letter of the alphabet) and an O (the 15th letter of the alphabet.) Add in the episode's prior references to ghosts among the Ho-Hos
and Hurley going up by H-O against Jack Shephard at Horse
and who among us doesn't think immediately of the rare earth element Holmium? Come on! Tell me that’s not the first thing that popped into your head! ... And what is Holmium? Not that it isn't common knowledge, but our tricky wiki defines it most concisely this way:
Because of its magnetic properties, holmium has been used to create the strongest artificially-generated magnetic fields when placed within high-strength magnets as a magnetic pole piece (also called a magnetic flux concentrator).
You hear the word Magnet and your Lost infused mind races instantly through the places the puzzle pieces might fit. The timey wimey wonkiness! The crazy cracked out compasses! The vortex of swirling electromagnetic forces that make our island invisible to the outside world! Maybe you don't understand it (psst....neither do I) but you don't really need to.
Look! Here's a nice magnetic clue - Faraday! (Never neglect the clue power of namedropping on Lost.)
I haven't been able to verify if the 19th century Faraday had a thing for skinny black ties, but he definitely knew his way around a magnet. One of his lesser known accomplishments was that "If a bar magnet is set spinning, the differential in velocity, down the radius, of each turning magnetic element, sets up a magnetic vortex....At a certain threshold of angular velocity, the magnetic vortex sets up an inter-dimensional energy portal through a vortex resonance." And no, I don't know what the hell any of that means, but I'm seeing my clue words in there - magnet, spinning, vortex, inter-dimensional energy portal!!! By George, I think we're on to something! But....uh, what?
It is possible to imagine that a powerful electromagnetic force field exists around the Island, which bends light in such a way as to make the Island appear to be invisible, like some cosmic magician's sleight of hand.
Maybe the Island is surrounded by a violent moat of electromagnetic turmoil, a vortex of forces, a whirlpool, a maelstrom of force lines, all distorted in such a way that matter attacking the vortex can only enter at one specific point of entry, on one precious bearing....like say, North 3:05,
the bearing Faraday ordered Frank to follow in order to escape.
Or North 325, the bearing Michael ran away on and the angle of this arrow in the Swan Hatch painting.
But, without trifling over these petty continuity errors, let's just assume we've got a hellacious swirling vortex of electromagnetic bitchery surrounding the Island, ok? And maybe this force field is generated by the Island itself, ok? From someplace deep in its bowels, like where the big frozen wheel was. With the way the hatches started magically multiplying this season, I'm not going to be surprised next season if they've got a freaking exotic matter generator hidden down inside that thing someplace, something to feed the maw of the interdimensional wormhole that uses the Island as its portal.
"Science fiction deals with improbable possibilities, fantasy with plausible impossibilites." - Miriam Allen deFord
The thing about Science Fiction , seems to me, is that it has to be intelligently constructed enough to intrigue the kind of people who actually do understand stuff like inverse tachyon pulses and chronoton particles and fermions and bosons and mirror matter (known alternately as Alice matter) .... yet still amuse those of us whose scientific accomplishments extend about as far as using magnets to find all the paper clips we dropped under our desk. But since there are probably about 10,000 of us paper clip picker uppers to every one quantum physics hobbyist out there, I'm operating on the proposition that whatever scientific principle is found to underly the great mysteries of Lost, it's going to be something any ten year old could grasp. So I'm not sweating the small stuff here.
Perhaps the electromagnetic forces will someday explain the mysterious "sickness", that seemed to also afflict the unfortunates who signed aboard the doomed Kahana. It might explain the "wellness" as well, the fact that certain chosen beings have their illnesses and deformities reversed by the Island's power. It could explain the killer pregnancy phenomenon....although I kind of think they decided to forget about that one.
We've been familiar for some time with the two tone retro 60s lab techs of the original Dharma Initiative,
but the depth and breadth of their hatch building was truly a revelation this season.
Seems like there was a new hatch discovered each week!
Makes Locke's Season One walkabouting seem a bit incompetent in retrospect, doesn't it? But now's no time for quibbles. This season brought a new batch of inquiring minds,
dealing with improbably possible and plausibly impossible things, from time dilation to interdimensional communication, so the avenues for new dropped plotlines in future seems wide open.
But we shouldn't cling to any one theory. Not when there are so many other possibilities...
THE ISLAND IS A PORTAL TO AN ALTERNATE REALITY
You know what else is magnetic? The North Pole, that’s what! The Tibetans believed that the North Pole was a portal to a mythical kingdom within Inner Earth, ruled from the holy city of Shambahla.
Shambahla is also the seat of power in Willis George Emerson's 1908 science fiction story, "The Smoky God", where a Scandinavian sailor enters the portal of the North Pole to find a land ruled by "The Smoky God, the great pillar or mother cloud of electricity".
Legends of Hollow Earth describe a race of Other-ish immortals,
called "Old Ones", who steal children, and have built elaborate systems of temples, palaces and underground tunnels.
Sound familiar? You thought they were making this stuff up, but really they're just cribbing off dime novels from the days of Teddy Roosevelt and the rantings of crackpot dystopians.
An imaginary photograph of Hollow Earth even looks a hell of a lot like this image isolated from the famous Hatch Mural
(though some say it's just an eye...or a boob). The symbol is also reminiscent of the boy scout tracking sign for "Gone Home", which in certain unfortunate circumstances can also be used as shorthand for "Dead Boy Scout".
And this image of Hollow Earth,
made by the astronomer Edmund Halley (of Comet fame), brings us back to circles...inside circles
...an image we've seen again and again on Lost, most recently this season on one of it's magically materializing hatches, The Orchid.
And then there's this picture.
From The Inventio Fortunata, a famously Lost Book, allegedly written by a 14th century friar from Daniel's old stomping grounds, Oxford,
who drew this map of his travels to the North Pole, describing it as a magnetic black rock, The Rupee Nigra,
surrounded by a great whirlpool, and further surrounded by four islands separated by channels. The book was lost but recreated by Jacob Cnoyen, then...uh, lost again. The mythical mystery of a black rock persists, in the legend of the Chintamani Stone, whose powers are many, not least of which is its being the key to all futures, all destinies, a kind of "nontechnological quantum vortex".
And when it comes to rocks, black or otherwise, we can't leave out the famed Philosopher's Stone, allegedly created and then lost (again with the losing!) by Albert de Groot, a/k/a Albertus Magnus, a medieval alchemist who claimed his black rock contained the Secret to Immortality. He made a lovely Puzzle Box for it, covered with arcane geometric patterns
which seemed to be related to the kind of things Daniel liked to sketch in his free time.
Alas, that no fun mopey pants, St. Thomas Aquinas, destroyed de Groot's magical creation, deeming it blasphemous and diabolical....and so it is lost to time and space. The images of lost worlds and lost books and lost secrets whisper half heard in the background of our story. One of the most famous of all lost world myths is the story of Atlantis, a mythical island kingdom that, according to Plato, sank into the ocean "in a single day and night of misfortune".
Some of the proposed locations for the site of the mythical Atlantis are the Caribbean,
all locations a good Lost geographer would find instantly familiar. The mirage of a mythical lost world is a not inconsequential echo throughout the story. A Brigadoon, a Shangri-la. Maybe even the ultimate wishful fantasy land...
THE ISLAND IS A FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
A forceful new story stream was injected this season with the battle of wits...and guts...between Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore. It turns out we're not so far removed from reality that rich old white guys aren't still controlling it all behind the scenes. These two were locked in a balletic pas de deux of jealousy and murder, all played by the most gentlemanly of rules. What are they after exactly? And why are their innocent daughters being caught dead in the middle of it all? We learned that Ben has never been bound by time and space like other mere mortals.
And neither, apparently, has Widmore. But we got no meaningful clue as to what these two old boys are fighting over. Perhaps it's the healing properties of the Island, the thing that gave Locke back his legs, that cleansed Rose of cancer, that keeps Richard looking so mahvelous from decade to decade
and perhaps even deeper back into some infinite antiquity. There's not much meat here for us to chew over with speculation yet, but one thing we can be sure of. If the Island does have some precious resource to be exploited, you can be certain there will be cutthroat capitalists willing to disembowel one another to keep it all to themselves.
And speaking of men and throats to be cut, perhaps....
THE ISLAND IS A METAPHOR FOR THE MYTHICAL JOURNEYS OF MANHOOD
It's a man's world, baby. Especially on Lost. Not content to choose one manly archetype to carry its story, the writers have instead composed a kind of Heroic Opus, told in four voices. There's the Romantic Hero, the social outcast and rugged individualist,
whose dark side always threatens to overwhelm him.
Typically, he is also unconventionally intelligent.
The Romantic Hero was described by Lady Caroline Lamb in the 18th century as "mad, bad and dangerous to know."
200 years later, we call him "the bad boy".
He is an erotic figure.
He's passionate, impulsive and dangerous.
But his passions have a purity that pull him towards the light.
Ultimately, the bad boy's inherent goodness triumphs.
He does the right thing without ego, without navel gazing, without seeking praise.
And that's why, in the end, the Romantic Hero is the one who finds true love.
He's Han Solo, which the writers never fail to remind us...
...and without a doubt, the coolest kind of hero to be.
Not to take any glory away from the Classical Hero, who is born of a virgin and raised by surrogates,
who flees from a murdering father figure,
only to return in time to the land of his true father,
to embrace his true destiny,
by performing great deeds of magical heroism,
only to die mysteriously,
though not, perhaps, irreversibly.
There's Campbells Monomythical Hero, whose convolvulated description was best summarized by the author himself: "In the monomyth, the hero begins in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unknown world of strange powers and events.
If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world,
the hero must face tasks and trials,
either alone or with assistance.
At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge,
often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift or "boon."
The hero must then decide whether to return to the ordinary world with this boon. If the hero does decide to return, the hero often faces challenges on the return journey.
If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world."
Hmmm, well, I guess we'll have to wait and see about that last part.
But what about the guy who never answers the call to adventure,
the guy who spends his last ounce of energy refusing to answer the call,
the guy who returns to the world - not with any magical boon - but with a nasty drug habit instead.
The Aristotelian Tragic Hero is distinguished by his noble birth.
Often he is literally the son of the king...which is, as he usually finds, a dubious honor. The Tragic Hero is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a bad guy. But he is inevitably, and hopelessly, undone by his fatal flaw
- most typically, the sin of excessive pride, of hubris.
His flaw can be something as innocent as an unwitting error in judgment. It can even be a well intended action, performed in ignorance, that results in great disaster. The folly of the Tragic Hero in this story is his egotistical belief that his will supersedes that of fate. Come what may, he never takes the hint that maybe, just maybe, he's not the one in charge here.
There's no way this kind of hero gets out of the story alive. He's trapped.
Step by step,
no matter how hard he works to avoid his inexorable fate,
the tragic one is drawn, by his own actions, often against his own will, to his inevitable doom.
From Hamartia through Catharsis, the arc of the Tragic Hero grinds relentlessly through the merciless gears of his destined destruction. All things considered, even factoring in the perks of post mortem glory, this is by far the suckiest kind of hero to have to be.
All these manly heroic archetypes tend to be trapped in bitter battles with their dear old dads, so The Island of Bad Dads makes the perfect backdrop for their sagas. But whether or not the story is actually presenting these four dudes as a heroic quadrant is just another theory. Maybe it's even simpler than that. Maybe...
THE ISLAND IS LOST
Too obvious? Maybe. But think about it. A hell of a lot of things get displaced around here. Like plotlines, for instance.
And logic. Like, what happened in between Jack mocking the concept of miracles (after he saw the Island disappear) and his sudden lifetime commitment to selling the Big Whopper of all inconsistent lies? Why didn't anybody notice that his cavalier lies at this press conference
differed on material points of fact with his even more confident perjury at Kate's clowny trial?
Why didn't anyone question that Sun, based on the whopper, would have been pregnant for like a year? Or that Kate had somehow nursed a chubby, oversized infant with milk free boobs? Or that Jack disembarked from his raft trip with a fresh, neatly sutured surgical wound? How in fact did the lie protect them from anyone wanting to cover up the 815 hoax? And what on earth possessed any of them to believe it was protecting any of those they left behind?
I know, I know, don't be a nitpicky party pooper. I get it. We blame stuff like this on the Island. The Island doesn't want this lie to be questioned. Case closed....but still. Things do get lost very easily when the Island is involved. When our Island disappeared, during its single day and night of misfortune, it created a maelstrom, a whirlpool in its wake from which only a few souls were tossed free. And they carried with them this melancholy spirit that pervades the story, the theme of constant loss.
Hurley has lost his mind.
Sun has lost her husband.
Sayid has lost his soul.
Jack has lost his dignity.
Aaron has lost his mother.
And Kate has lost her….
All vestiges of original flavor Kate were lost this year. The last traces of the wily, guilely, frecklefaced tomboy murderer were subsumed into an antiseptic, synthetic Stepford mommy-bot whose sole function to the plot seemed to be blowing smoke up the ass of Dr. Druggy.
But it wasn’t only Kate whose personality was lost. Women in general were the Lost Gender of the season. If they weren't being murdered,
they were being marginalized.
It's far worse than I'd imagined it could ever become when I wrote my piece on Lost Women almost a year ago. I think the boys in the writers’ room need to get their heads out of medieval monasteries and 19th century pulp fiction and start reacquainting themselves with some grown up women. This was a good start.
This was even better.
(gif courtesy of susan14509 and Helena)
But it's all about the follow through, and honestly, we’re not holding our breath. Perhaps we’re being too harsh. Maybe it wasn’t only the women who were lost. The real loss of this season was the loss of humanity in all our characters. Too often, characters were pushed around like chess pieces on a board, without coherent motivation, without the kind of heart and soul these characters used to make us feel. In this ever clever world of Byzantine plots and puzzles, maybe characters are only meant to be seen as another set of clues. Maybe Kate’s farcical trial, for instance, wasn’t intended to be an insult to our most basic understanding of simple American civics. Maybe it wasn't meant as a sign that female characters don't deserve anything more than the cheapest of rushed, crappily written bargain basement style redemptions.
Maybe it was just meant to remind us that, like Alice, when we passed Through the Looking Glass, we ended up in Wonderland, where trials like the one in Eggtown make perfect sense.
"... `For instance, now,' she went on, ... `there's the King's Messenger. He's in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn't even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.'
`Suppose he never commits the crime?' said Alice.
`That would be all the better, wouldn't it?' the Queen said ...
The trial in Eggtown seemed like the low point of the season, but perhaps we just missed the obvious point. Maybe....
THE ISLAND IS A MIRROR WORLD
I'll admit it. I thought the rabbit imagery last year was a signal that pregnancy was going to be a featured theme this year. But pregnancy is so ... girly. And we know how much these writers hate that stuff. The rabbits had a more practical storytelling purpose.
They're the soul brothers of this guy who keeps chasing time down the rabbit hole.
The world where everything is upside down
There were persistent hints about reversal, from C.S.Lewis
and her Narnianesque journey back to the forgotten land of her childhood, to Kate's midnight backwards phone call, to Locke getting this close to the secret of Island driven time travel before the tape rewound on him. But the biggest reversal was in the fortunes of those who managed to escape the Island's thrall. Having traveled through the looking glass, for the Oceanic Six, everything is wrong.
Mirrors, as we know, don't just reflect reality. They reverse it. And from the minute Hurley's car crashed into a parking lot of mirrors,
mirrors were most definitely one of our signal clues of the season.
Strange as it seems, the real world that the Oceanic Six so desperately wanted to return to is no longer a reality where they belong. Just like Jack was never meant to raise Aaron, Sayid was not meant to find Nadia, Hurley was not meant to ever put the Camaro on the road, Sun was not meant to leave Jin and Kate was not meant to putter around suburbia picking up the drycleaning for Sarah's workaholic husband. The world beyond the looking glass is the opposite of everything these people were meant to do. And we know this is true, because Sci Fi history tells us so.
The beard is the dead giveaway.
Mirrors are also a symbol of vanity, of the kind of narcissism and egomania that might cause a doctor to try and micro-manage his own unanesthetized gut surgery, for example.
But mirrors can also be helpful. When a person is ready to stare honestly into the looking glass, they may find they are able to face their True Self, and that's when it's possible that the soul can finally awake from its delusions of addiction and insanity and lies.
"Make truth your island,
make truth your refuge;
there is no other refuge."- Buddha
THE ISLAND IS A RIP IN THE FABRIC OF TIME
We've known for some time that clocks and compasses and measuring devices don't work properly in the Lostverse. But this was the season Time Travel came out of the closet. Not very coherently, it's true, but they stopped pulling their punches. First there was Daniel's packet that arrived 31 minutes later than it was received.
Then there was the ship's doctor who washed up dead two days before he was killed.
Then Desmond's consciousness did a nifty zig zag between 1996 and 2004
that ended up reuniting Odysseus and Penelope about 32 episodes earlier than expected. And then for the grand crescendo, Ben did the actual deed down in the frozen belly of the beast, and definitively moved his adorable corporeal self in both time and space. 10 months forward, and about 90 some degrees of longitude to the West. (Always like to keep track of the numbers.)
Now time travel has a tendency to short out our logical thinking. There's paradox, which our creators have sworn to avoid, but which really can't be avoided. If you go back in time to kill your granny, you can't ever be born to go back in time to kill your granny. But if you don't kill your granny, then you can be born...which means you can go back in time and kill your granny. I mean, if you're into that sort of thing. But then again, if you kill her, you can't ever be born to go kill her. It can make you seasick just thinking about it.
It's an endless loop, another circle, another spiral, another big sucking vortex.
“The future is only the past again, entered through another gate." - Arthur Wing Pinero
It's all well and good as long as all the time travel moves in a forward direction, but the minute a traveler to the future returns to his own past, granny needs to start fearing for her life. So when Desmond went back to the future to learn what he had to teach Daniel about how to zap Eloise so that Daniel could get to the Island to teach Desmond from the future how to go back in time and teach himself....You see the problem here?
"Hold to the now, the here,through which all future plunges to the past" - James Joyce, Ulysses
Any time past and future start mingling their bloodstreams, paradox happens. One way to conceptualize yourself out of the paradox is to go all Billy Pilgrim with it and try to think of all moments in time as coexisting. Everything that ever has or will or is happening is always happening all the time right now. Imagine an infinite past, an infinite future, an infinite present and your consciousness just rolling around on it like a big wavy beach blanket made of Timespace.
It sounds kind of fun in a way, except that it pretty much proves you don't have any free will or control over anything since everything that will ever happen is the same as everything that has ever happened. It's kin to the great concept of karma, of inexorable cause and effect, where the concept of human will is nothing but a comforting illusion to helpless fools like us.
This irrevocable chain of cosmic causality feels dark and nihilistic at times. But the concept of an Infinite Present is beguiling. Is it such a stretch to think that maybe....
THE ISLAND IS THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT
A person asked Buddha:
"Are you a God?"
Buddha's reply was
"Are you an Angel?"
"Then what are you?"
"I am Awake."
As in past seasons, religious symbolisms and inferences bobbed to the surface of the story at random points in time. Locke's teenage birth mother didn't name him without calling our attention to his special destiny.
"His name is John!" was a direct reference to the words spoken by John the Baptist's mother. So Locke is the precursor. To who? To Jesus, the Shephard?
Then why is Locke the one in the tomb, being brought back for resurrection?
And speaking of muddled Biblical references to precursors,
who is the Moses that Aaron is preparing the way for? Is Jack supposed to be Moses and Jesus?
If so, he's like the most all purpose Biblical superhero ever!
My favorite name drop of the season was Abaddon,
a name that pops out at us from the eerily numbered passage in Revelations 9:11:
"A king, the angel of the bottomless pit (whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek Apollyon, in Latin Exterminans)."
And Abaddon's abysmal kingdom is described thus
"And he opened the bottomless pit: and the smoke of the pit arose, as the smoke of a great furnace. And the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit. "
I hope Lance Reddick's got a flexible contract on his new show, because I'm interested in where his story is going.
The images and languages of the Bible don't seem all that helpful in following this story's trajectory most of the time.
The Eastern religions seem more appropriate. And more pervasive. The work the Island needs done is dharma , which translates roughly as dutiful observance of the natural laws of the universe. The Swan hatch is marked by a stylized yin/yang.
All the hatch logos are modeled after the Taoist bagua,
with the binary designs within the trigrams correlating to patterns in the I Ching. Maybe the elephants in Aaron's room,
and on Aaron's blanket (below the clue-pointer, Number 1),
are reminders of the white elephant that announced the birth of the chosen one, the Guatama Buddha.
Or maybe Kate's just raising him as a Young Republican.
Even the ladybug cutouts aren't just cheery good luck wishes popped into hopelessly grim surroundings. They're marked with the 8 dots of The Eightfold Path.
Eastern religions interpret good and evil differently than Western ones. Where the religions of Abraham all insisted on a world where good must triumph over evil,
Eastern philosophy teaches that such duality is an illusion. There is no dark without light, no truth without lies, no life without death. It was a great tragedy that created Kate's joy in her E-Z bake motherhood
and more tragedy is where it will lead. Just like Sayid's new life was really the beginning of Nadia's afterlife.
Like how Hurley wouldn't be going insane, if reality wasn't always so painfully clear to him.
Nothing exists without its opposite.
"The wheel goes back and I shall live again,
But the wave turns, my birth arrives and spills
Over my breast, the world bearing my grave." - Muriel Rukeyser
There is no reason to fear death, or cling to life, because it's an illusion to think of them as two separate conditions. Take Christian, for example. He's dead, in a way, but he's actually just gone on a different kind of doctor's retirement, coasting around in The Jacob's Cabin, visiting the grandkids,
making new friends.
The dead are every bit as real in this story as the living.
Maybe the Island is a kind of Shadowland, where the last divisions between the dimensions of life and death are removed. And there are some times,
like the day and night when Sawyer was escorting a dying (?) Claire to the crossing point, where the line between them doesn't exist at all.
It isn't death that we need to escape from. The only thing that causes death in the first place...is birth. What we really need to escape is the suffering that comes from being born again and again into that same endless loop. Samsara, the endless round of birth and death.
The Hindu book of hymns, Rig Veda, describes the process of recovering the Lost Sun, also known as "The Eternal Truth of Being and Becoming".
We're talking cosmic solutions here.
But that doesn't mean we should overthink it.
"The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose; do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear to you. Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart." – Seng Ts’an
The way to transcend duality, to escape the vicious cycle of birth and death, it turns out, is the simplest thing in the world. Accept the turnings of the eight spoked Dharmic wheel. Free yourself of the illusion of ego. Submit to your higher power. Become a man of Faith. Open your eyes and face your true self, without blinking.
The recurring theme of Eyes, along with the occasional hieroglyphic design schemes, brings to mind the Eye of Horace
....I mean Horus
- another symbol of the Sun,
but also a representation of our six senses, with which we can perceive the truth of our existence, if we have the courage.
The Tree of Life, a symbol of immortality, is also a symbol of unity. Unity between the spirit world and the material world, between heaven and earth, between death and ever regenerating life.
And it was underneath the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha, after all his struggles to attain enlightenment, finally...and simply....awoke.
I've got to wrap this up now, so I'll end with my own personal favorite theory. I stole it off of Lostpedia, but only because it really does seem to fit so many of the clues I've gathered.
THE ISLAND IS AT THE NEXUS OF THE VILE VORTICES
I don't know why they titled it as VILE vortices. Makes it sound like a bad thing. Maybe a different name, something happy sounding like Whacky Whirlpools. Or something more epic, like Multidimensional Maelstroms. Is it important that the semi-official name for these hotspots anagrams out to EVIL?
The theory itself sounds neutral on the matter.
It is surmised that the Island is a "central dumping ground" - the "middle of a spiders web" to which boats and ships are drawn to through the Vile Vortices. As the Island is ostensibly a tropical Pacific island it is located spatially near the Fiji Vortex - but in another dimension. The Vortices are enterable if approached from certain bearings or positions. Alternately, passing vessels and objects may succumb to a Vortex if it is agitated or inflamed by an electromagnetic surge, such as a discharge emanating from the Island. Such a discharge would also be enough to alert the 'outside world' as to a disturbance via the electromagnetic grid lines.
It could certainly explain a polar bear from the Hydra hatch ending up in Tunisia. Maybe he went for a swim on one of those days when the Island decided to take a hike?
This theory pulls together the greatest number of clues - the geographic locations of hidden worlds, the whirlpools, the wormholes, the portals. A Vile Vortice theory reminds me of the way this story is being told to us - clues and references and symbols and images, collected from every culture and every genre, all sucked down into a funneling maelstrom where they're reconstituted into this one of a kind story. It doesn't explain everything, of course. Some questions remain. Such as...
Is Jin dead?
Now that Kate has stopped groveling and has kicked Doctor Oxy to the curb, is it too much to hope that she might finally become a character self-respecting women can root for?
Did Miles get a chance to change his underwear after someone freed him from Locke's dungeon?
Since it's been shown that the Island has the power to overrule individual free will, might the Island itself be a sentient being, a godlike superpower with its own Consciousness and Will?
Is it possible that Charles Widmore was once the King of Lost Island and that he's just like Ben, trying to return to a place he exiled himself from by turning the wheel?
Given the prevalence of loops in the story, is it possible that Christian Shephard started drinking himself to death for the same reason his son Jack did - because he couldn't find a way to return to an Island he never should have left?
If all of the O6 are experiencing grievous loss, what does this portend for Desmond and his joyous reunion with Penny? Is Penny a goner?
How quickly is Team Ben going to make it back to the Island? Because, if they're taking Jeremy Bentham with them, they'd better hurry, or they're going to run into an odor problem.
If Jack isn't meant to raise Aaron, and if Claire is dwelling in the underworld these days, who exactly is meant to raise the little orphan?
Will there ever be a bigger JackFace bonanza than Season Four?
Is there any truth to the rumor that the show may be renamed next year?
We'll have to come back next year for answers to these questions, and more. But in the meantime, here's one last theory to chew over.
THE ISLAND IS A MYSTERY WRAPPED IN AN ENIGMA PASSED THROUGH A PARADOX BEING REVEALED TO US THROUGH SECRET CODES
You know, something like that. Maybe, in fact, they are dazzling us with bullshit. Maybe it's all a shell game, where we play along and work out the clues, and in the end it's just a big joke they've played on us. It's definitely possible. But it's still fun to play. And it is always, no matter what, so very, very pretty.