Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heisenberg Was Right

No matter what Lord Jacob says during any given episode of Lost, his mere presence on the Island affects everything else on it.   Forget Lost theory and literary precedent, because even the real life world of science makes that clear, and has since 1925.

It's called The Uncertainty Principle and it has all sorts of applications when it comes to Lost.  And since Ab Aerterno was the first Lost episode to do absolutely nothing for me, let's get all pretentious and dive far too deep into Lost subtext than is probably mentally healthy, using the Uncertainty Principle as our jumping off (into the abyss of crazy) point.  Remember, tongue is firmly planted deep into cheek here today.  If not, I'd have to do a couple of thousand words on Richard's beard and Isabella's heaving bosom, and that could get real ugly real fast.

The Uncertainty Principle was devised by a dude called Werner back in Germany in 1925.  Some people call it the Observation Effect, because it basically states that the very act of observing something inevitably has an effect on it.  For good old Werner, that meant that if he ever tried to observe a sub-atomic particle called an electron, what he would come up with was not where and how that electron was moving in space, but rather where and how that electron was moving in space after it had been altered by his observing it.  If he had left that poor little electron alone, it would have been in one spot; but by just looking at it, Werner had altered its speed and direction, thus changing the very thing that he wished to objectively examine.  Later experiments proved Werner Heisenberg's theory to be correct, at least when it comes to atomic particles.

As time went by, other men in other fields began to use old Werner's principle in a philosophical and cosmological sense, and some of those men interpreted it as meaning we can never know anything for certain.   And while Werner Heisenberg was talking about sub-atomic particles, many a learned man has taken Werner's work and found applications for it in pretty much every single aspect of life---with the practical upshot being that the observer affects the behavior of the observed whether the world being observed is micro or macro---as I would think anyone who has ever seen a reality television show could attest.

When Big Brother is watching, behavior is always altered.  This has shown to be true whether in a lab, in a (cash) cab, or while you are doing your job while being reviewed by your boss. 

It is the philosophical aspects of  Heisenberg's equation to which I think any viewer of Lost can relate, and to which any theorist of Lost must adhere .  For if we cannot really know anything for certain in the physical world---the world we can see and touch---then how can we ever really know anything for certain about the metaphysical world, be it the afterlife or on a television show?  Until we actually die and find out (or until we reach The End), it's all just so much speculation.

Or put another way---until the clock strikes 11:00 on May 23rd, 2010, we simply cannot know for certain what-the-frak Lost is about.  And no matter how much Jacob doth protest, he has never been able to not interfere, because his mere existence is interfering with everything on the Island, which I am fairly certain our man Jacob knows all too well.

But if you want to know what I am uncertainly certain about, read on after the jump. . .

Recently Ryan McGee over on Zap2it wrote a fine piece on what he perceived to be a dearth of intensely crazy and obsessive theorizing about the Grand Meaning of it All on the Lost comment boards this season (which means that I started my blog at exactly the right time, eh?).  Ryan speculated that being so close to the end now meant that people were becoming more and more content to sit back and simply wait a short while longer, because in a matter of weeks we will know what the final answers really are, while simultaneously wondering if perhaps after six long years of head fakes and double takes, people were generally exhausted at this point; too tired and brain numbed to keep reevaluating their theories week after week after week, revelation after revelation after revelation.

Ryan, like Will Rogers, obviously never met me.

But Ryan's theory even applies to me to some extent, as I have found that even though my desire to parse the story has actually increased as we get closer and closer to what Stephen King called End-World, my seriousness about it all has molted away like the feathers of a Hurley Bird.

So, while I don't want to stop picking nits off all the "clues" which Darlton (or DamCar, as Lindelof prefers) have given us so far, I now recognize it as more a game to be played for fun than as an actual attempt to divine what is really going to happen.  Those Powers That Be over in Hawaii are very smart dudes who have been exceedingly careful not to let too much slip for six years.  I know they feel (quite rightly) that you only get to hit people with a jaw-dropper one time, and so they have layered in enough flotsam and jetsam amongst the real clues (Jacob was eating a red herring in last season's finale, after all) so as to preserve the integrity of the overall mystery.  I'm not going to figure it all out if I write a thousand blog posts between now and then.  And if I were to accidentally do so, I wouldn't recognize it anyway.

In short, I have accepted the same thing Heinsenberg did back in 1925: we can never truly know anything.

But that doesn't mean we can't fool around.  After all, sex doesn't always need be practiced solely for means of procreation.  There doesn't have to be a point to everything that is fun.  And given that I'm never really going to figure it all out based on the handful of clues (and the bushel of anti-clues) that Darlton have left strategically placed for me to find, why not go whole hog and start digging around in the dirt of Lost theory like a boar digging around in the gut of a Spanish slave?

And so we shall.

So, Jacob needed a half crazed, half starved, soul torn esclavo from the Canary Islands to tell him that Man might succumb to Evil's machinations and tortures when Evil is allowed to act unchecked in the form of a demi-god with magical powers?


Jacob needed this pointed out to him after eons of watching that very fact play out before him again and again and again?

Are you telling me that Jacob is learning disabled?

This one moment in the last episode of Lost struck me as so outrageous, so totally beyond the pale, that I simply could not take it at face value.  Maybe I have been head faked once too often, but at the moment I refuse to believe that what Ricardo said in broken English after getting his ass pummeled to pulp on Stone Foot Beach was a revelation to a man who seemingly walked straight out of Revelations.  I know it's been a tradition to portray angels as thickheaded when it comes to humans, but come on!

But I don't think that is what they are selling.  I think they are too careful how they play everything (save for sonograms) to make that kind of mistake.  I felt that moment was really the only one that seemed totally artificial when it comes to what Jacob said to Richard, and I don't believe for a moment that wasn't intentional.  No less than Carlton Cuse has said this week that we cannot take everything Jacob told Richard as true, so I'm thinking that Jacob let Richard believe it was all his own idea in order to soften him up for the job proposal that was coming, if not for the job itself---all 140 years of it.

Now, it could be as simple as Jacob always plays it this way; that every time he loses a group of lab rats he then starts anew by first picking one man to be his liaison.  In this way Jacob plays the game over and over again, letting each Ricardo think he is the first man to convince Jacob to take a more active role, and then sending him out to proselytize the philosophy I will call Soul by Jake.

But it might not be that simple.  What on Lost is?

Last post out, I mentioned the idea that Jacob might actually be the devil (or Devil, if you prefer) the Man in Black claims he is.  This idea occurred to me while trying to relate aspects of Robert Heinlein's book, Job: A Comedy of Justice, to a Unifying Theory of Everything Lost.  In that post I mentioned that Heinlein had posited a Christian Devil and God that were at right angles to those of which we normally think.  God, in Heinlein's book, turns out to be a bit of a prick; while Satan turns out to be a pretty decent guy with a really dirty job to do.  Locked up in Hell by God, Lucifer has to dole out the temptations and punishments which God long ago decreed were a necessary part of trying Man's soul.  By day, Satan has to tempt Man into breaking God's laws, and by night he was supposed to be torturing and punishing those who had died unabsolved by God after first succumbing to Satan's aforementioned temptations.

Talk about a frakking Catch-22.

But the Devil really wasn't into it.  He felt that Man deserved a fairer shot than God had set him up with, and he believed an eternity of damnation for a finite number of sins (many committed thanks to Divine Entrapment) was childish and wasteful, so the Devil looked for a loophole that might just allow him to turn the tables on God.  Satan wanted to close up the Fire and Brimstone Wing of Hell, and he wanted Man to get the opportunity to explore his fairer nature without having to constantly fend off all the harsh manipulations and rules that God had laid on Man's darker nature.

But most of all, I think Lucifer just wanted a vacation.  He was sick of being a pawn in someone else's game, and he had learned over Eternity that enjoying the little things was really what made life worth living for eternity.

In short (too late), what made Satan evil wasn't that he wanted to corrupt and harm man; that was just the job which God had stuck him with.  No, what made Satan evil was that he believed the best way to help Man out was to abolish religion and let Man work his soul out for himself.  Satan felt his brother, Yahweh, was an egotistical dick who was more interested in adoration and subservience than in helping Man find divine fulfillment.   And Satan, after having spent millennia carrying a load of guilt for his part in the torturing of the original Job (as part of a bet), decided he was no longer going to play God's games any longer.

Do I even need to spell out how all of this might apply to Lost?

If you wish to play this game with me, the question then becomes---on Lost, who is Satan and who is God?  You can sub in any religion's deities when it comes to the names, or you can sub in any number of metaphysical words if you are an Agnostic (or, if you are an Atheist, what are you doing watching this frakking show?) but in the end, our two Men of Mystery have to represent something.  Who represents what is still, however, the eternal question.  

But I submit that not only did Jacob's stunning naivete when it comes to the nature of Man keep him squarely in the gray category, but also that none of Smokey's actions so far firmly put him in the black category.

Like Satan in Heinlein's book, the MiB could simply have a dirty job that he never asked for and that repulses him, and he just wants to take his ball and go home (if I may continue to mix metaphors haphazardly).  Whatever we think of the Sideways World (and I do think it's exceedingly hinky), perhaps the MiB knows that by leaving or destroying the Island, then everyone who died on it gets another shot at life?  Put aside your opinion of both the Sideways World and Smokey and ask yourself this question:

"If I knew that the consequence to any action I took would ultimately result in something good happening for the people I encounter and harm, is there anything I would balk at doing---especially if the alternative is to stay in a hateful job that would require me to do the same depraved things to people that I need to do in order to escape?"

If Smokey's two options are either; one, stay and hurt people for eternity, or; two, hurt people for a finite amount of time so he can finally leave and never have to hurt anyone again (and maybe even resurrect the people he has killed in the process), then there is really no choice to be made at all.  Either hurt people for a while longer so he can leave, or stay and hurt people forever.  If that were our choice, would we all not be doing the same things Smokey is doing right now?

Ok, this is going on and on, but how did I get here?  What makes me buy into this idea of Smokey as reluctant Evil-being?  What makes me think that he only kills because he is being forced to do so?

Well, let's start with the fact that Lost threw at us a brand new form of Smokey behavior in the last episode.  Previously, Smokey only appeared as either the black smoke or in the form of a dead person.  Yet in Ricardo's tale, for the first time Smokey appeared to be manifesting as both at once, and the person that he apparently manifested himself as was someone whose body did not reside on the Island.

Those are two big new things we are now supposed to believe that, out of nowhere, Smokey can do (I'll get to Ben's mom in a minute), and I have a hard time swallowing that Lost would pull that Deus Ex Machina out of the bag at the last minute.  I think that when something different happens on this show right now, Lost wants us to be asking ourselves why.  And I don't think the answer to any of the whys is going to be, "Well, they just haven't shown us that before."

The only other dead person we've ever seen whose body did not reside on the Island was Ben's mother, and she also appeared in a way we've never seen Smokey appear before or since: inside the sonic fence when it was turned on.  She appeared in the Dharma compound, far inside the fence, almost at Ben's window, when we saw her.  So, appearing as both Ben's mom and inside the fence is, again, two things that Smokey's not supposed to be able to do, or that we have ever seen Smokey (or anyone else) do before or since.  And again, I don't think they do things like that on Lost without a reason, and that reason has never yet turned out to be, "Oh, we can't think of any other way, so let's just do it and continuity be damned."

So, I think it was Jacob who was appearing as Isabella and Ben's mom, and I think it is Jacob who has the ability to appear as dead people who did not die on the Island.  Because if Smokey had that ability, then I find it hard to believe he's been hiding that light under a bushel all this time.  That's a hell of a trick to leave in your bag when eternity and damnation are at stake.

So, I think Jacob appeared to Ben as his mother because he needed to lead Ben to Richard (because Jacob had apparently figured out a way to make Ben his loophole as well as Smokey's), and I think Jacob appeared as Isabella because he was in league with Smokey.

In league with Smokey, you ask?  What am I smoking?

Jacob has said he uses the Island as a testing ground for Man, and the facts seem to bear that out.  But there is no evidence other than Jacob's word to make us believe he is (or ever was) actually hands off.  In fact, simply being hands off when Smokey is there to exercise his own powers is in fact action by omission, as even a lowly serf of a Spaniard with a ten-gallon headache could figure out in two minutes flat back in 1867.  So, his protestations of innocence and inaction aside, Jacob has never truly been hands off.  When you are that powerful, any stand you take has a gigantic effect.

Jacob is liar on this point; of that I have little doubt (but some doubt---this is Lost, after all).  And it is no coincidence that another text I wanted to examine in this post is the book Jacob the Liar by Jurek Becker.  Also a film starring Robin Williams, it tells the story of  WWII Jew living in the Warsaw Ghetto who lies to his fellow oppressed about salvation (in the form of fictional Russian soldiers about to liberate Warsaw) for what he believes to be benevolent reasons.

Our Jacob the Liar is using the Island as a testing ground for Man, and he's a participant in that test no matter what he does or does not do.  The observer has an affect on the observed even when it's just some shlumpy guy named Werner, rather than a demi-god with miraculous powers.  No matter how hands off he tries to be, Jacob is a significant part of the Island equation one way or the other.  Given that fact, and the fact that Jacob must understand this, I think he is (and always has been) doing a lot.  I think Jacob is anything but hands off.  I think he works with Smokey from time to time, double teaming people to use them for his own purposes.  And I don't think Smokey has a choice in the matter---or at least didn't have a choice until he found his loophole.

For, in the end, who have we actually seen Smokey kill?  Can anyone name for me a single good person Smokey ever smote (and please do so in the comments if you can, because I couldn't think of a single one)?  I guess you could say Eko, but Eko was an unrepentant murderer, and he was also played by a guy who wanted off the show.  I cut them a pass on Eko.

So, aside from Eko, I cannot think of a single time we have seen Smokey smite a single person whose scale appeared to tilt to the white.  He always appears when there is anger and conflict brewing between people, and he scares the living bejesus out of everyone, but he only actually kills only those who are easily counted in the bad column.

That is his job: to judge and slay those who tilt to the dark side.  Those who are white, or whose souls are in balance, he must then harass and confuse in order to see which way their souls then lean under duress.  And if they go dark, then he gets to eat them.

Now, that is not to say that sometimes Smokey has not been able to persuade others to kill innocents for him (witness The Purge), but that is what the loophole is all about.  The loophole is getting others to do the dirty work which he is not allowed to do.  It took a lot of time to get there, but that work, which began when he tried to talk Richard into killing Jacob, ultimately resulted in him holding enough sway over one Benjamin Linus that Ben finally and limply thrust a dagger into Jacob's upraised heart nearly a century and a half later.    

I'm not convinced that Jacob is the Devil or that Smokey is the good guy (and I never will be until I get more info one way or the other---which is how it should be right now), but I do believe that Jacob is at least a liar.  He and Smokey are the champion tag-team soul wranglers of Craphole Island, and therefore any theory must at least account for why Jacob would be doing that and lying about it to everyone.  And any theory must account for Jacob being a far more hands on landlord than we have previously believed.  And, finally, any theory that paints all poor Ricardo's torment in the bowels of the Black Rock as being solely the work of Smokey, must then account for and explain how Smokey can do things that are so seemingly at odds with the parameters of the power that Lost has spent all these years defining as his.

I don't have that theory.  I don't even begin to presume they have even given us half the amount of info we need to postulate that theory.  But I do think we now know what that theory is not.

What that theory is not is this idea that Jacob was a hands off guy who just decided to take up arms---on a whim, no less!---back in 1867, thanks to the wisdom of our own little Maybelline Man, Richard.

I think Jacob, like Darlton, has been running the longest con in the history of his genre.


  1. Funny stuff, dude. And deeper than average. Hey, you're above average. Way to aspire.

    Not sure I buy Jacob as the Devil, but I see what you mean about him being learning disabled. It does seem strange that he needed Richard to clue him in to the MIB needing a counterbalance on the Island. Isn't the Island all about balance in the first place?

    This is one guess I am going to be eagerly waiting to learn about. If Jacob turns out to have been lying to Richard, then good on ya.

  2. Took me time to read the whole article, the article is great but the comments bring more brainstorm ideas, thanks.

    - Johnson