Some Thoughts on Lost

Before tonight's show, I wanted to share my theory on this season: that Jack has already "missed" his opportunity. I believe the entire series now revolves around Jack saving the young Benjamin Linus, preventing him from ever joining the others. Jack refused to save Linus because he knew, positively, that Linus was evil. Had he believed in Locke (the character not the philosopher--its his allegiance to the positive philosophy that's got him in all this trouble), he might have allowed the other to overflow his certainty, to interrupt his self-assurance. He might have given his-self over, face to face. (You didn't think I would get through this without a trace of Levinas, did you?)

This is why his character now seems so, well, lost. Or useless. He has missed his purpose. My guess is that we will eventually see Jack back in time again, in front of a young dying Benjamin Linus. And by that time he will come to believe in Locke, in something beyond positive knowledge, in taking a chance on something other than what he knows.

On a causal side-note: I believe the island designed Sayid to shoot Linus to present Jack with this opportunity. But, this doesn't actually break a linear possibility for time: in the previous past, Linus could have reached the other's any other way. All I am saying is that the island wants to undo Linus' affiliation with the others (perhaps to purify them?). I believe this reading coincides with how the show is revealing much of the island's history from the others's perspective--and, if you were paying attention last week, implying that, if left to their scientific-utopian devices, the Darhma Initiative likely would have undone the island's space-time continuum.

A final note: I think the fact that Sayid's name can be presented as "Say-id," given his compulsive, animalistic, lustful, and emotional nature is probably not coincidental. Then again, perhaps I'm analyzing this a bit too much.


Casey said...

Your last point is probably your best. I quoted Emily Dickinson, recently, saying,

"Conversion of the Mind
Like Sanctifying in the Soul—
Is witnessed—not explained—"

For me, that's the entire game of LOST -- it's forcing you (precisely you, Wrangler, and analysts like you) to stop your games of analysis and simply experience. As so many of the gurus and shamans point out, including Linus' Castaneda, "Understanding" is only one of about eight modes of living in the world.

In fact, your description of Jack's conversion seems so "you" to me... maybe you're about to admit something beyond positive knowledge. But I'm afraid that, having analyzed it, you won't experience it.

"Had he believed in Locke, he might have allowed the other to overflow his certainty..."

Don't make me write that on your tombstone.


Do I understand you correctly?

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Hmm... I don't think the show stops the act of analysis as much as it calls for it, expects it--the human desire (perhaps need is more accurate) for a narrative to make sense of it all (and here we interject--making sense is not sensing, experiencing).

Of course, I can't stop you from labeling me a positivist, but I can say that I don't see myself that way. In fact, my work is more and more rejecting the traditional academic preoccupation with knowledge as certitude with ethics as questioning.

But there is no consciousness without language [what I will term "analysis" in your lexicon]--and here is the rub. We are linguistically structured creatures, all our experiences are experienced through language, even if we do not understand all their grammars (and I was reading Ong today--he points out that the etymology of grammar is spell or witchcraft--we are bewitched by language).

Casey said...

So language is your a priori... I can see why. It does seem to be pervasive. I'm curious: doesn't Ong's association between grammar and witchcraft "frustrate" you as a subject? That is, does it make you wish that you weren't bewitched? Does it make you long to be un-bewitched?

That was a sweet episode tonight. That side-conversation between Ben and Richard Alpert on the beach confused me: Alpert saying Locke's going to be difficult, and Ben saying that's why he tried to kill him. What, other than the knowledge that there is no death--or that death is, as Whitman said, "different, and luckier, than anyone has supposed--what other than that is Locke's power over Ben and Alpert?

And Jacob!?

Wishydig said...

1) what does an etymology (and incorrect one at that) have to do with the nature of a concept represented by a term. it's a popular trick. but i'm not sure how it's any more convincing than numerology.

2) can you set me at ease by at least telling me that when you say "language" you're not talking about the same thing i talk about, and that when you say "all our experiences are experienced through language" you're really just saying that after we experience something we use language to label the patterns that we note?

or do we have to step outside and settle this?

Casey said...


Now that's some heavy (bull?) shit.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

@wishydig--on your second point--but I think we might be at the verge of fighting words. I'm saying that we require language in order for consciousness to order what it has experienced: that language mediates our experience of reality. I cannot have a pure experience of a thing--and, furthermore, my ability to relate an experience correlates to my ability to think, say, articulate it in language. That is not to say that there aren't parts of the brain that don't think in language--only to say that consciousness arises through language. Since Nathaniel's often better at articulating this stuff, I'll link to him.I've left the Ong article at work--I'll check it to see how he connects grammar and witchcraft. He's pretty diligent in his scholarship, so the error there is likely mine.

Casey said...

Santos: I can't speak for Wishydig, but this is precisely the "experience" I was trying to speak about on my blog comes (centrally) into play. You think consciousness is mediated by language, and I know that it's not because I've experienced being conscious without "naming" or "ordering" what I see around me with help from language. The inability to communicate that experience is the only evidence I have for it-- and maybe that should count as evidence?

Insignificant Wrangler said...


This is likely where we differ. I would say that you haven't had the experience (where you is understood as the conscious being expressed through language) even if you (as a biological organism) have had it. You've otherWISE than had it. And that "you" that transcends the you is really your own Other, for whatever that is worth. When I feel something but can't articulate it, then "I don't know what I feel." I believe ethics proceed from these moments of uncertainty, hesitation, and doubt--but only if we orient ourselves to the distance, and attempt to retain it, rather than close it. And only if an other is there who can usurp my ipseity and hold me (or my words responsible). I am finding myself more and more drawn to pathos the more I study Levinas.


Here's the passage in question; it comes from Ong's Orality and Literacy, page 92:

Writing is often regarded at first as an instrument of secret and magic power (Goody 1968b, p 236). Traces of this early attitude toward writing can still show etymologically: the Middle English "grammarye" or grammar, referring to book-learning, came to mean occult or magical lore, and through one Scottish dialectical form has emerged in our present English vocabularly as "glamor" (spell-casting power).

Ong might be wrong about the etymology, but the connections between (first) rhetoric and (later) writing and magic are pretty well-established. William Covino has "the" book on the subject--but Ong's work crosses into these grounds as well, especially detailing the influence the written Word had on Christianity.

Casey said...

Pathos...!? Yes. I'm going to keep coming at you Wrangler. Don't take it the wrong way. I just miss the 215 conversations, and what you're saying seems at once hugely important and outrageously wrong, from where I sit.

Cheers. :)