Michaelemerson_lost_s5_240

Lost” has

always involved philosophy as part of its complex package. From the

use of various names of philosophers in the naming of its characters

to the fundamental problems faced by everyone it its universe, the

show has constantly striven to provide a philosophical underpinning

to its fantastical world. But in dealing with the repercussions of

Sayid shooting Ben, it’s forced the audience more than ever to

confront the problems faced by the fictional characters they have

followed for five seasons.

In essence, the show is all but

breaking down the fourth wall to ask the audience: “What would YOU do?” The playful

interplay between Miles and Hurley is undoubtedly a prescient take on

Darlton’s part to anticipate the various questions we would

have upon seeing Young Ben amidst his future antagonists, but it’s

the way in which Jack, Juliet, Kate and Sawyer deal with Ben’s

life-threatening condition that forces us to put us in their

footsteps. Forget about asking yourself about what you would do if

you found yourself on an Island with a smoke monster; ask instead if

you would save the life of someone you thought could cause

unspeakable harm later in life.

I use “could”

intentionally, because the four are acting in an air of relative

uncertainty. When they signed up to return to the Island, the Oceanic

6 did not know they would end up in 1977 living alongside a younger

version of their nemesis. Had they known, then the philosophical

inquiry would have taken place in modern-day Los Angeles, deep in the

bowels of a church hiding a Dharma station.

The question is

NOT, “Should we go back and kill this man before he can do any

harm?” For one thing, the ability to even do so is in question

thanks to Faraday’s beliefs about causality and Hawking’s assertion of course correction. Secondly, I doubt

any of the 06 would have preemptively agreed to such a plan, even without Ben there

to stare slack-jawed as they argued the merits of killing his younger

self. What we’re dealing with post-Sayid’s attack are people coming to grips

with an action they couldn’t have predicted that fashions a

future that is far from clear.

It’s one thing to say

“whatever happened, happened.” It’s quite another

to say “whatever will happen, will happen.” The former

assumes a universe in which certain elements are

irrefutable/unchangeable. The latter assumes there’s an

invisible hand up all our posteriors, denying us both will and

responsibility. I don’t buy that’s what’s going on,

which is why I’m less worried about “fate” as a

guiding principle in the “Lost” universe than critics

that state that nothing that happens anymore matters due to its being

predestined to happen.

What’s playing out is not some

sort of puppet theatre, but the series of choices made by people at

certain times that led to a particular outcome. It’s the choice

that matters in the “Lost” universe, and if you want to

assign some master plan to an individual, assume said architect

selected people with certain dispositions, psychological makeup, and

yes, philosophical outlook. If you put those people into a specific social scenario,

you might have a good chance of decently predicting how they will

act. But you can’t actually MAKE them do anything.

Let’s

take an example from my life. I met my wife back in 2003. I met her

at a housewarming party in Manhattan; I happened to be living in

Boston at the time. So the popular, romantic notion is for people to

say, “Well, if you hadn’t gone to that party, you never

would have met, and you never would have gotten married.” Which

is not only extremely dumb, but also completely ignores the work put

into this relationship afterwards. As if the work of this

relationship was somehow locked down by some cosmic force making my

friend move during that month while pushing me onto a Greyhound Bus

while kicking her out of the door that night instead of staying in.

As Aristotle once said, “As IF!”

One can look at

our life now as the inevitable course of action, or as a series of

discreet decisions that led to this point simply because we MADE all

of those decisions. If you view it as the former, than we weren’t

actually involved in our lives. We just coasted along the ebbs and

flows of Father Fate. Or, you’re Jack right now, waiting idly

for the Island to do its thing while Ben bleeds. If you view it as

the latter, then you see Kate and Juliet’s desire to save Ben

not as a part in some cosmic screenplay but making a choice based on

personal morality.

Further complicating this choice? The

parties involved are not guaranteed that either of their options will

actually have the desired outcome. Tomorrow, I’ll look at the

affect of this choice made by the “Lost” leading ladies,

abetted by Sawyer. Are either Faraday or Hawking’s theories

infallible? How much wiggle room does the time/space continuum allow?

Is change not only possible, but inevitable from here on in? We’ll

discuss more in detail in the next entry.

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude. He invites you to join the hundreds already in Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Facebook group. He also encourages you to subscribe to the Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Twitter feed.