Author Topic: Are you buying what SWM is laying down?  (Read 4443 times)

Offline ericd543

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Re: Are you buying what SWM is laying down?
« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2010, 08:57:49 PM »
I've been doing some more reading about existentialism and would like to share what I've found. I started out looking for a darkness and instead found a life-affirming philosophy, but an existentialist would point out that we create our own meaning in life. lol, Now that's something I can really latch onto.

The existentialism in Lost that I find has do do with the big themes, and in existentialism those are understanding your existence by facing death, and that by doing so one experiences angst, depression and despair, but through understanding the absurdity of life, we face the meaningless by creating our own meaning. It is a very subjective philosophy and part of that is the concept of The Other. No kidding, that's what the call it. Sartre has a whole chapter in his book Being and Nothingness about otherness. (more on that one later)

First I'd like to point out to my religious friends that existentialism is a philosophy and not a religion. I'd like to put a lot of these thoughts in my own words but am such a beginner at all of this that I find it better to simply quote the good stuff I've found.

Quote from: Existentialism for Dummies
Existentialists who believe in God. Atheistic existentialism has come to be seen as the dominant strain, largely because it was the orientation of Sartre and the other French existentialist who popularized it. But from the time of Kierkegaard, there has always been a persistent and important strain of existentialism that embraces the existence of God. Thinkers like the Catholic Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973) and the Jewish Martin Buber (1878-1965) have developed theories that stress, among other things, that the relationships between people and god Like all existentialist they value the concrete, the personal, and the intimate over the systematized and the universal. They see religion as the lived experience of individuals rather than the systematized philosophy of the church or even the Bible.

Like Kierkegaard, the original Christian existentialist, they reject the notion that faith and reason can or need to be reconciled. Reason has it's place, but it shouldn't be allowed to trump the personal, the individual, and the free choice to believe, to have faith, in the absence of a complete and final rational proof. Like so much of human life, faith and the experience of the love of God are essentially irrational, and these existentialists so no reason to try to apologize or cover up that fact. In many ways, their philosophies are a call to return to an earlier time -- to a time when religion was a personal, immediate, and passionate experience, as opposed to an overly structured and overly intellectualized pursuit of the proper procedures and the proper belief with regard to some obscure point of theology.

It reminds me of Jack's existential journey. He needs to reconcile what he believes with his head and what he believes with his heart, that it is possible to be both a man of science and a man of faith.
       

Nietzsche's statement that "God is dead" has obvious Lost connections to Jacob's death. But I found something that sheds some more light on Nietzsche's famous phrase.

Quote from: Existentialism for Dummies
Nietzsche will forever be remembered for saying "God is dead." if you're unfamiliar with Nietzsche, and especially if you're religious, it wouldn't be surprising if you presume that his tone is mocking or gloating. Nietzsche could be quite mischievous and certainly wasn't above taking this tone with his adversaries (or his friends!), including Christians and other theists. When he speaks of the death of God, however, his tone is more somber.

Quote from: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/nietzsche-madman.html
Nietzsche: Parable of the Madman

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"---As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?---Thus they yelled and laughed

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars---and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

So there ya go. Nietzsche says God is dead and the blood is on our hands. I am reminded of the unnamed boy we saw in the jungle with bloody hands. I am also reminded of the current war in the middle east and my participation as a US citizen. Ok eric, stay on target, this is about battling philosophies and Lost. Did you notice the bit above about continually plunging backwards, sidewards, and forward? That gave me a Lost chill.

Life is meaningless, choices and freedom

I thought it was quite interesting when Jacob and Richard had a talk on the beach in Ab Aeterno.

Jacob: You're not dead.
Richard: I am in hell. I know that I am in hell.
Jacob: You really think you're dead?
Richard: Where else would I be?
Jacob: Alright then.
(Jacob takes Richard to the ocean and holds Richard underwater)
Jacob: Still think you're dead?
(more struggling and dunking)
jacob: Why should I stop?
Richard: Because I want to live.
Jacob: That's the first sensible thing you've said. What's your name?
Richard: Ricardo.
Jacob: Get up we need to talk.
(Jacob serves him a glass of wine, Richard asks if he's the devil, "no" he replies, then he tells him his name is Jacob and that he brought his ship to the island. Richard asks why.)
Jacob: Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell. There are many other names for it too, malevolence, evil, darkness, and here it is, swirling around in the bottle unable to get out because if it did it would spread. The cork is this island and it's the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs. That man who sent you to kill me believes that everyone is corruptible because it's in their very nature to sin. I bring people here to prove him wrong and when they get here their past doesn't matter.
Richard: Before you brought my ship, there were others?
Jacob: Yes. Many.
Richard: What happened to them?
Jacob: They're all dead.
Richard: But if you brought them here why didn't you help them?
Jacob: Because I wanted them to help themselves, to know the difference between right and wrong without me having to tell them. It's all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything. Why should I have to step in?
Richard: If you don't, he will.
Jacob: (thinks about it) Do you want a job?

Lost does an amazing job of mixing different religions, myths, and philosophies into the show. There are religious connections to baptism in the beginning of the scene, and the saying, "God helps those who help themselves" comes to mind.

But I am also seeing an existential message here -- that life is meaningless without owning the choices one makes. It goes something like this. We only know what's in our own mind. We all live in a subjective reality. You are a unique individual, just like everyone else. We exist in the world with other things -- objects and other people. These objects and people don't have any meaning except for what we give them, again, in our own subjective view of the world. We create our own reality in that way. We create our own heaven or our own hell.

To understand the meaning of life is to understand that the one thing we do know for sure is that we will die one day. The idea that you may get a chance to do it over again (reincarnation) or that you will get to live forever (heaven) can cheat you out of the realization that you only get to live once. And that choice, made easier to realize when your head is underwater, is that "I want to live."

"Life is meaningless" doesn't have to lead to the despair of nihilism, the defeatist attitude that without any greater meaning that life is not worth living. On the contrary, since we create our own meaning it is important to lead a passionate life.

I'm not going to say that Lost is all about existentialism because obviously there are various philosophies in the mix. So I'd like to revise my theory to "existentialism, it's in there." making it much easier to be satisfied with my theory when Lost is over. There's much to be revealed in these final six episodes and I am excited to see how it unfolds.

What was that about objects?

One of the things that got me investigating existentialism in Lost was a commentary track from the show Firefly. This is a snippet of the commentary by writer/director Joss Whedon from the episode Objects in Space.

Quote from: Joss Whedon
Now let's go back in time to me when I'm sixteen. It was at that age that I became old enough to realize that I had no faith. And very soon after that I had what I can very pretentiously describe as an existential epiphany. And I had it, almost embarrassingly yet somehow appropriately during a Speilberg movie. I was in London by myself during a school break in the fall when i watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind the special edition, and something in me kind of snapped, I started to think, for the first time, in an adult fashion about life, about time, about reality, about dying, about all of the things that are right there in front of us every day but as children and often as adults, we take for granted or find some easy explanation for if we can. In my case I was presented with the totality of things but with no coherent pattern to put them in. I just suddenly understood that real life was happening.

A friend of mine, soon after, when I got back to school and tried to describe this experience gave me the most important book I've ever read, which was Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea. And apart from that and a little bit of The Myth of Syssyphus by Camus I really haven't read extensively about existentialism or absurdism. I don't want to paint myself as an intellectual. I really don't know anything about philosophy but I did know that this book spoke to what I believe more accurately and totally than anything I gad ever read.

And what it talked about was the pain of being aware of things, and their existence, outside of their meaning. Just the very fact of... object, in space. That we cannot stop existence and we cannot stop change. That we have to accept these things. And again, if we see no grand plan in them we have to accept them as existing completely on their own and existing totally.

Part of what that means I can't really explain. I know there's a passage in the book that says, "nothing can exist only slightly."  and the protagonist is so overwhelmed by this fact, that every piece of paper he picks up off the ground exists so completely, is so much there it actually makes him nauseous. It makes his stomach hurt, it's too intense.

For me it has a kind of rapture to it, and I find meaning in objects to be a beautiful thing because I have no plan to put the object in. I find the meaning of the object to be within the object, with however it's functional, and the fact of it's existence.

I have not read Nausea yet but I know that understanding the existence of plain old objects is important in existentialism to understanding our own existence, and Joss sums it up nicely.

In Lost I see the importance of objects like the compass, Isabella's necklace, and I suspect we will see Christian's shoes again. I think objects give a grounding to reality. I'll even make a prediction here based on this theory that we will hear a character say "I know this is real" while holding an important object and trying to fight the suggestion that they are remembering it wrong. Widmore's attempt to make the crash of 815 unreal by placing objects at the bottom of the ocean shows how far one might go to do this.

There is an interesting thought experiment that it is all a dream. Could you tell the difference between a very vivid dream and reality? All you really knows is the thought on your mind right now, plus memories of what has happened to you before. Could you tell the difference if you just came into existence this moment complete with memories?

It's a movie cliche to have a character wake up and we find out everything is just a dream, but I suspect Lost may use this "what is really real" for a dramatic twist, or for a way to resolve the timelines we are seeing now, perhaps giving our Losties a happy ending, or at least a way that we can think about their existence in the future in a good way.

Ending a show like Lost is a tough writing challenge and I'll feel cheated if it's just Hurleys' dream. In a way I want a surreal ending like we've seen in shows like The Prisoner, Twin Peaks or a good Twilight Zone episode. Plus that will give us much to discuss during The Great Lost Rewatch.

There's always more

I've been working on this follow-up post for a while and there are some more interesting aspects to existentialism I want to get into. But Damon tweeted that "In one week, the conversation is going to change." So I felt compelled to post what I have for now before Happily Ever After airs tonight. If I don't this will turn into an even bigger block of text!   :D

I didn't cover the existential concept of The Other in any detail because I am still trying to grok that. There is also the idea that one should lead an authentic life, being true to yourself, and I think that our Losties will be judged in some way based on this. And Room 23 has a message to the viewer to go on your own inner journey, ask yourself the tough questions.

I talked with my brother recently about Objectivism (he is a fan of Ayn Rand) and I think the "war" between Jacob and MiB might be a battle/debate between the rationalists (Locke, Hume, Widmore, etc.) and an existential point of view. Here's an interesting article he sent me about Lean-Paul Sarte and Ayn Rand.

Quote
To Rand, man's potential is a path already forged. He just has to choose to take that path. It is like the embryo of the oak tree which is already in the acorn. The choice is to become a strong or weak oak tree. Sartre would rather see man as facing an open field where the path must be forged by him, that being a man means deciding what a man will be. Any hint of a pre-existing path that may be better than another is a threat to man's freedom and responsibility. It keeps morality descriptive rather than allowing it to be prescriptive. It keeps us from moving from "is" to "ought." Where's the challenge, after all, in just determining the best path and taking it? What happens when the field is open or all paths are the same or there is not enough information to weigh to determine the best pre-existing path? Existentialism allows for man to create his own best path, even if it may go too far in ignoring facts of survival with which we all must deal.

The song Amazing Grace was used in the teaser of Happily Ever After and the wiki article on divine grace is quite interesting to me, especially the idea that "From a nontheist, naturalist, and rationalist perspective, the concept of divine grace appears to be same nonexistent concept as luck" which reminds me of backgammon, lol a game where you face choices based on the dice roll you are given, hmmm… I know a bit about backgammon and will definitely follow up on that. It should be fun.

Bringing it home

I think Lost is a parable for the modern age and it is asking the tough questions. It should ask the believers what proof they have for miracles, how they can believe in a God that they cannot see. And it should ask existentialists how, if they believe that people create their own moral code, then how does mankind rise above cruelty and barbarism.

I'm an extrovert who has done a lot of introspection lately, a man of science who has learned something about faith. Lost has got me thinking about lots of stuff, told me a wonderful story, and taught me a powerful lesson. And for that, I am thankful.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2010, 09:03:06 PM by ericd543 »

Offline zeekloveslost

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Re: Are you buying what SWM is laying down?
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2010, 05:49:21 PM »
Eric - I love your passion for researching connections to Lost. I think most of your connections of spot on. Thank you for sharing them!

When making a connection, I often stop myself and think if I am trying too hard to make things fit, or if it's just too easy to make anything fit because of all that has happened, and all the little details we have memorized (as hardcore fans). I feel, sometimes, like I can make anything fit to Lost.

If the positive realization that comes out of existentialism appeals to you, you would probably love Buddhism.  Although the Buddha (the man, Siddhattha) was raised believing in reincarnation, and even recounted that he saw all his past lives as he was achieving enlightenment, Buddhism does not dabble in any thoughts of what happens after death.  It is simply not relevant so there is no teaching about it in that philosophy (and it really is more of a philosophy than a religion).  The philosophy (like existentialism) confronts death as a reality, and in doing so yields a greater appreciation for life.  The first truth of Buddhism is that life is/contains suffering. Once you acknowledge and accept that, you can see all the beauty and wonder in the world.

I think both Jacob and MIB understand that people have Free Will. 

RM's comment that both Jacob and MIB understand that everyone has free will got me thinking. Perhaps they are representative of the two possible outcomes of existential thought.

It can be a dark realization… no higher power is out there, no one answers your prayers, you are not special in God's eyes.

Or it can be liberating. There is no destiny. You are in charge of your own life. The world should not come with a pre-packaged meaning to things. We all create our own meaning. Life's only purpose is to live it.

One (Jacob) sees the great potential of free-will in creating a meaningful life. MIB does not see the potential, but focuses on what he's seen in the past as a predictor of what will always be (they come, they destroy...)  Jacob see progress, or at least the potential for it.

If Jacob steered the candidates toward the island, was he influencing their decisions or guiding their fates?

Indeed, Mrs Alpert! Are Jacob's actions in bringing people to the island an act of fate or is he simply exercising his free-will, which affects the position on others?  His action appear to us to be like a free-will over-ride system, but just because he has some powers, doesn't mean he is fate or guiding the metaphorical hand of fate.

So if both of these guys represent free-will, where does fate come in?

Quote from:  S6e11 Happily Ever After
DANIEL: Just listen, what if, this, all this, what if this wasn't suppose to be our life? What if we had some other life and for some reason, we changed things?

Charlie is also insistent that nothing in the Alternate universe "matters."  What does he mean by this?

I'm hearing a lot of people pose theories on which universe is the best. I've been holding onto the idea that there is no best universe for ALL our Losties.  Some have it better in the "original timeline" while others have it better in the "alternate timeline."  I'd like to bring up another philosophy here. It's called Optimism, and it's the brainchild of Gottfried Leibniz.  Basically he rationalized the existence of some evils in the world by saying that some evil is necessary (since it brings out the best aspects of humanity). His conclusion is that we live in the "Best of all possible worlds" that God created and could not improve on without making something worse in some way.

I'm not a particular fan of Leibniz and I only bring him up to talk about his greatest critic, Voltaire, who satirized Leibniz's philosophy in his play Candide.  In Candide, the main character witnesses so much hardship that he ultimately rejects optimism in favor of the great line "we must cultivate our garden."  Basically - life is what you make of it. Our life is a result of the choices we make in it.

Eric - I also loved your insight on Backgammon. I've never played but a few of my family members are players. It seems to have a great connection to the game that Jacob and MIB are playing. I would love to see that happen.

Lastly, Eric, I'd love for you to expand on this:
And it should ask existentialists how, if they believe that people create their own moral code, then how does mankind rise above cruelty and barbarism
« Last Edit: April 16, 2010, 05:57:26 PM by zeekloveslost »

Offline ericd543

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Re: Are you buying what SWM is laying down?
« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2010, 11:40:01 PM »
Lastly, Eric, I'd love for you to expand on this:
And it should ask existentialists how, if they believe that people create their own moral code, then how does mankind rise above cruelty and barbarism

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. My research into existentialism has got me interested in all kinds of philosophical views. Here's a YouTube clip from Nigel Warburton who responds to the criticisms of existentialism and brings up Sartre's lecture Existentialism and Humanism. He explains it much better than I can, but what I get out of it is that we make choices not just for ourselves but for all humanity, which I can relate to because I don't buy into the nihilistic view that without external meaning then life is meaningless. This choosing for a greater good sounds a bit like Locke's social contract so I'm still working on that. Maybe they're not so different after all, but that doesn't fit into my battling philosophies theory, lol.  :D  I try to be careful, not forcing a fit where one does not exist, but it's difficult with these big themes, plus it's been a personal journey for me. I want to do a write-up and call it Room 23, but we'll see.

Being a man of science supernatural explanations for things are not my favorite, but ironically, going through some introspection and researching existentialism has given me something akin to faith. It's a thankfulness for life that goes beyond my parents bringing me into the world, it's for something else that is... beyond me. And that has been a powerful realization. And it's got me interested in exploring other philosophies like Buddhism (I am intrigued), Egyptian mythology, and the Christian apologists (defenders of Christian view, not apologizing) like St. Thomas Aquinas. And the modern day cosmologists who have some crazy ideas about how the universe works. I am focusing on the stuff that has a Lost connection and going from there. This philosophical rabbit hole that is Lost is a deep and wondrous place.  ;) :D ;D
« Last Edit: April 17, 2010, 05:13:00 PM by ericd543 »

Offline ericd543

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Re: Are you buying what SWM is laying down?
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2010, 05:12:05 PM »
EW's Jeff Jensen is on board the existentialism train. woo-woo! He has a great recap on Everybody Loves Hugo where he has some good stuff on Dostoevsky, Sarte and even quotes some Kierkegaard.

Lost recap: Well, Well Well
A Hurley-centric episode sends us into an existential crisis -- which is nothing compared to where it sends Desmond and Sideways Locke


EDIT: looks like he has been for a while, just found this 2007 article by him, posted here by Geronimo Jackson

Doc Jensen Philosophical Differences of Lost and Insights into Catch 22

so much for breaking the existentialism angle, I'll have to settle for "great minds think alike", lol
« Last Edit: April 17, 2010, 08:09:21 PM by ericd543 »

Offline NoraCharles

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Re: Are you buying what SWM is laying down?
« Reply #19 on: April 18, 2010, 02:02:44 AM »
Wow, great research and connections here.

Offline opgelost

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Re: Are you buying what SWM is laying down?
« Reply #20 on: April 23, 2010, 05:25:54 PM »
What was that about objects?

One of the things that got me investigating existentialism in Lost was a commentary track from the show Firefly. This is a snippet of the commentary by writer/director Joss Whedon from the episode Objects in Space.

Quote from: Joss Whedon
Now let's go back in time to me when I'm sixteen. It was at that age that I became old enough to realize that I had no faith. And very soon after that I had what I can very pretentiously describe as an existential epiphany. And I had it, almost embarrassingly yet somehow appropriately during a Speilberg movie. I was in London by myself during a school break in the fall when i watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind the special edition, and something in me kind of snapped, I started to think, for the first time, in an adult fashion about life, about time, about reality, about dying, about all of the things that are right there in front of us every day but as children and often as adults, we take for granted or find some easy explanation for if we can. In my case I was presented with the totality of things but with no coherent pattern to put them in. I just suddenly understood that real life was happening.

A friend of mine, soon after, when I got back to school and tried to describe this experience gave me the most important book I've ever read, which was Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea. And apart from that and a little bit of The Myth of Syssyphus by Camus I really haven't read extensively about existentialism or absurdism. I don't want to paint myself as an intellectual. I really don't know anything about philosophy but I did know that this book spoke to what I believe more accurately and totally than anything I gad ever read.

And what it talked about was the pain of being aware of things, and their existence, outside of their meaning. Just the very fact of... object, in space. That we cannot stop existence and we cannot stop change. That we have to accept these things. And again, if we see no grand plan in them we have to accept them as existing completely on their own and existing totally.

Part of what that means I can't really explain. I know there's a passage in the book that says, "nothing can exist only slightly."  and the protagonist is so overwhelmed by this fact, that every piece of paper he picks up off the ground exists so completely, is so much there it actually makes him nauseous. It makes his stomach hurt, it's too intense.

For me it has a kind of rapture to it, and I find meaning in objects to be a beautiful thing because I have no plan to put the object in. I find the meaning of the object to be within the object, with however it's functional, and the fact of it's existence.

I have not read Nausea yet but I know that understanding the existence of plain old objects is important in existentialism to understanding our own existence, and Joss sums it up nicely.

In Lost I see the importance of objects like the compass, Isabella's necklace, and I suspect we will see Christian's shoes again. I think objects give a grounding to reality. I'll even make a prediction here based on this theory that we will hear a character say "I know this is real" while holding an important object and trying to fight the suggestion that they are remembering it wrong. Widmore's attempt to make the crash of 815 unreal by placing objects at the bottom of the ocean shows how far one might go to do this.

What about the island itself?

Offline LostinLock

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Re: Are you buying what SWM is laying down?
« Reply #21 on: April 23, 2010, 09:39:48 PM »
EW's Jeff Jensen is on board the existentialism train. woo-woo! He has a great recap on Everybody Loves Hugo where he has some good stuff on Dostoevsky, Sarte and even quotes some Kierkegaard.

Lost recap: Well, Well Well
A Hurley-centric episode sends us into an existential crisis -- which is nothing compared to where it sends Desmond and Sideways Locke


EDIT: looks like he has been for a while, just found this 2007 article by him, posted here by Geronimo Jackson

Doc Jensen Philosophical Differences of Lost and Insights into Catch 22

so much for breaking the existentialism angle, I'll have to settle for "great minds think alike", lol

Awe you did your own work and a great job.  I have been thinking some of this off line and talking about it with a person who does not watch lost but i really think that this what MIB and Jacob are discussing on the beach.

And the people Jacob choose well, you can connect the dots.