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Episode 4x05 - The Constant (or Once in a Lifetime)

Intro: “We don’t know why, but when watching a show about going to and coming from the island, some people can get a little…confused."

I confess, I am a long-time fan of time-travel. The idea has always fascinated me, so of course I have been secretly hoping that there is indeed something wacky with how time passes on the island. But after viewing “The Constant”, I had no clue that
this is where the creatives of LOST would take it. I’m not sure I totally understand it, either, but according to our newest Nutty Professor, Daniel Faraday:

  • A “side effect” of traveling to and from the island is a type of time travel that takes place within one's mind/consciousness. The effects seem to be brought on by exposure to radiation, electromagnetism, and/or by traveling through the 'barrier' that seems to surround the island.
  • The effects, frequency, and duration of the trips are unpredictable but seem to increase in length and intensity.
  • The swapping back and forth from one time to another can cause such a strain on the brain that the synapses cannot keep up and 'short circuits'. Death by brain aneurysm results unless one has a “constant” - something important from both times that one can use as an anchor for the mind.

But now, what about the paradoxes that might have been created? A lot of time-travel stories have been able to elude this problem by the use of alternate timelines. The idea is that once a character travels to a different time and changes something, a new timeline is then started from that point onward.

I do not believe this is the case, yet without this device, it would seem the only way to avoid a paradox is to suspend the entire “chicken and egg” question. This means we must trust that there is one “original timeline” and that Faraday would have discovered time travel no matter what because he ALREADY DID, without Time-Tripping Desmond having to pass along the variables he needed. Desmond’s venture backwards only allowed it to then happen sooner. The same endpoint was reached though the journeys were slightly different, and we do not have to worry about paradoxes nor those pesky alternate timelines. With this perspective time can almost be seen as a loop…or
Ferris Wheel…it will all be coming around again…just like it already has…

The Same as it Ever Was

I found it even more interesting that Minkowski (the ship’s communications officer who died as a result of his time-traveling) mentioned a Ferris Wheel because that is exactly the metaphor I have been using to describe the island in relation to time. If the island is the center, or axle, of the wheel, then one can imagine the different spokes representing the different “bearings” one would use to travel to and from the island. It seems that this is where the issue of time becomes confusing and relative to the traveler. Each spoke or bearing might actually take a different amount of time to travel, resulting in one ending up at one’s destination at a different time than expected.

This is why Daniel expressed to the pilot, Frank, how very important it was that he keep on the bearing given to him NO MATTER WHAT. The storm at the island’s event horizon made this difficult however, and since the helicopter was forced slightly off course, they ended up leaving at a different bearing - and arriving at the freighter about a day later than anyone expected.

And You May Find Yourself in Another Part of the World

That purple sunlamp-beam that Daniel used on his rat Eloise was not only a nice visual nod to the consciousness-invading intelligence from Phillip K. Dick’s
VALIS (mentioned in last week’s episode 'Eggtown'), but it also reminded me of an event that was almost like a larger-scale version of this technology. I am not sure we have yet to see all of the effects that the destruction of the Swan station has caused on the island. What if the ‘sky turning purple’ caused more than just a disruption to communications? Is it possible that our island inhabitants’ consciousness could have somehow been affected as well? If anything we might see the stage being set for potential problems when more of the survivors try to cross the ‘barrier’.

But wait, they DID cross the barrier. Desmond’s initial lack of button-pushing ‘flair’ and the subsequent system-failure caused the electromagnetic burst that crashed flight 815. So then why aren’t all of the survivors experiencing these random mental leaps through time?

Or maybe they are. There has been a ton of speculation about the character flashbacks and how valid they are, so I won’t get in to all of that here. However, the question that permeates all of the different theories is the one of connections. Why do all of these people seem to be connected in some way or another? Why do they seem to show up in each other’s flashbacks? Is it all just a coincidence? Or are they all predestined to be on the island? Are the passengers eventually going to be revealed to be
each other’s Constants?

And You May Ask Yourself – Well, How Did I Get Here?

To those of you who have held the faith, I commend you. I am now almost ready to believe that Jack’s father, Christian Shepard, is alive on the island. After all this time spent thinking it was just the Smoke Monster, or Jacob taking his “form”, I am finally seeing this other theory as a real possibility.

Well, sort of. My thinking: during the plane crash/electromagnetic surge, the past consciousness of C.S. re-entered his dead body, and he now roams the island in that ‘dead but here’ kind of way. Icky, I know.

Speaking of the dead, I mean, speaking to the dead, is Miles, our resident Ghost Whisperer. And after all of this experimentation with consciousness and time, I am really beginning to question his methods.

One of the first clues was given to us in ‘Confirmed Dead’, when Miles asks to have a moment with Naomi’s lifeless body. He is then seen sitting over her, speaking to her, telling her "
You gotta see it through". As if that was not a strange enough thing to say to a corpse, he was actually saying it backwards. It was not until reversing the audio from the scene that this dialogue could clearly be understood.

I do not think Miles is really speaking to the dead. I believe he is instead using his consciousness to somehow reach through time and is speaking to the dead person’s consciousness from the past when they were still alive. Think of it as a recording that Miles is using his brain to tune in to a specific ‘track’ from. Normally, his customized dust-buster creates the electromagnetic field he needs to send his consciousness back. He does not seem to need this device at all on the island however where we know already there are existing electromagnetic “properties”.

And what about those picture frames that changed entirely after Miles spoke to the dead grandson? Well, if he is indeed speaking to the past consciousness of a dead person, perhaps this then changes some things in that person’s life from that point on. Perhaps a time loop is then created. Those changes would for the most part be small since, as the Ms. Hawking suggests, time eventually course-corrects.

Oddly enough her pin suggests exactly the opposite. Another wheel symbol, the Uroboros is a snake swallowing its own tail, and is an ancient representation of the infinite, cyclical nature of the universe. Why then, does hers seem to be incomplete, or broken? Does this then suggest that our characters can in fact break the “cycle” and alter the course of fate? I am not saying I have thought this through entirely, but I am still sure we are dealing with something much larger here.

This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife.

Poor Daniel. He discovers a form of time travel but then somehow ends up living with a caretaker. What happened to him in-between? What is the nature of his disorder? Is there more to the cause than just lack of protection from the radiation during his experiments? Why does he seem to have memory loss to such a degree?

If you remember back to the Lost Experience, we learned of a place called the Vik Institute, a mental health facility in Iceland run by the Hanso Foundation. This location was discovered to have a dirty little secret: autistic savant patients were forced to work on the Valenzetti Equation and subjected to memory tests.

I am not sure if this at all relates to our friend Faraday, but it might be something to keep in mind for later.

Letting the Days Go By

Overall, I have a bad feeling that whoever is running the "Freighter Show" is somehow related to Dan’s memory loss. I am sure his consciousness experiments interested the Powers at Play, whether they be Dharma or some later form thereof.

For one thing, we know there was a part of Dharma/The Hanso Foundation interested in life extension. If a person could send his consciousness through space-time, could he not literally then live forever? Is this how Richard Alpert seems to never age? Have some of the “special” people learned how to control this ability and shift themselves forwards and backwards through time at will?

We have seen hints at something like this in Walt as well. In fact, several of our castaways have demonstrated some kind of “vision” or other unexplainable ability. Is this why the Others are so interested in people who seem to be “sensitive” – those who seem to exhibit psychic traits? Again, if we think of the brain as a radio transceiver, then we can also use the idea of tuning into different frequencies as a metaphor for accessing different moments in time.

Sidestep: Island Cows Go MU

I found an interesting connection when reading up on the brain’s electrical activity. I was led through current research into human brain-computer interfaces, and how eerily close we are getting to the point where we may someday even be able to ‘download’ our memories, store them, and even transfer them into another brain.

Dan’s magical frequency of 2.342 at 11 Hz allowed one’s consciousness to become “unstuck” in time. Mu waves are brain waves associated with the motor cortex of the brain, and appear with the thought of performing movement or the intent to move. These waves oscillate in the frequency range of 8-13 Hz, and are also associated with mirror neurons. Researchers are not only interested in how therapy involving mu waves can help with disorders such as autism, but also with the physically disabled who could be taught to move a mouse cursor with only their thoughts.

Another fun tidbit: apparently, mu waves are also referred to as “wicket rhythm” because their appearance on EEG measurements resembles croquet wickets.
(I am sure you have also heard of the Lost Island of Mu? Perhaps more on this another time…)

And You May Ask Yourself, Am I Right…Am I Wrong?

We’ve gone Through the Looking Glass - mirrors have been showing up everywhere. Both literally and metaphorically, up seems to be down, forwards is now backwards, and our castaways have even become the New Others in town.

Since the beginning, LOST has dealt with the dualistic nature of life. I believe all of the opposites at work on the show are there to remind us NOT that we exist in these extremes as either good or bad, or followers of either faith or logic. Instead I believe we are presented with these opposites in order to then tear them back down again, flip them over, and remind us that duality is an illusion. Yin and yang cannot exist without each other. Neither can light and dark. Or space and time. No one person is completely “good” or completely “bad”. It is all about perspective.

Eyes are the Mirror of the Soul

Once again, the love between Desmond and Penelope saved Desmond’s life. The first time was when he turned the failsafe key. At that moment, the only thing grounding him and giving him the courage he needed was his love and faith in Penny…as if at the very core of his existence, he already knew that he would live to speak to her once more. At the same exact moment Penny’s search team was able to pinpoint the resulting electromagnetic burst, as she had also been trying to find Desmond and the island during the entire time they had been apart.

The ending of the episode was one of the most heart-wrenching and emotionally exciting moments in LOST’s entire story so far. Desmond and Penelope’s love for each other reached through time to bind their souls together. In the middle of all of the physics and quantum theory, time travel and flashes, we too are grounded – and given a Constant - by this very human story of an attraction that transcends every boundary.

Gives love a whole new dimension.