Monday, March 31, 2008

Each One of Us Was Brought Here For a Reason . . .

Bet you thought I just felt like quoting Locke from back when he was cool, but no, this is my attempts to link LOST to the second book in C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy, Perelandra.

Perelandra picks up after Ransom, Weston and Devine return to Earth from Malacandra, or as we call it, Mars. Interestingly, Lewis himself is a character in the book. He participates in sending Ransom at the behest of the Mars chief Oyarsa to Perelandra, or as we know it Venus. Issues of fate, free will, determinism and relative morality all play major parts in this re-imagining of the Eden story. Many of those things remind me (okay, everything reminds me) of LOST.

At first it seems that who we are, why we are chosen for something is not important. Ransom explains to Lewis:

"Don't imagine I've been selected to go to Perelandra because I'm anyone in particular. One never can see, or not till long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity. Certainly, it is never for what the man himself would have regarded as his chief qualifications."

p. 22

But once Ransom arrived on Perelandra, that feeling seems to change. "It was strange that the utter loneliness through all these hours had not troubled him so much as one night of it on Malacandra. He thought the difference lay in this, that mere chance, or what he took for chance, had turned him adrift in Mars, but here he knew that he was part of a plan. He was no longer unattached, no longer on the outside." p. 44 Sounds very Season 1 Locke.

Finally, Ransom's fate becomes vitally important. But first a little explanation. At this point in the story, Ransom realizes he has been brought to Perelandra to prevent the Venutian Eve from falling prey to the temptation of the Devil-possessed Weston. Ransom finds that he must step in the void left by the absence of the Venutian Adam even if it means attempting the impossible which could very likely lead to his death far from home.

Ransom argues with himself.

"The whole distinction between things accidental and things designed, like the distinction between fact and myth, was purely terrestrial. The pattern is so large that within the little frame of early experience there appear pieces of it between which we can see no connection, and other pieces between which we can. Hence we rightly, for our use, distinguish the accidental from the essential. But step outside that frame and the distinction drops down into the void, fluttering useless wings. He had been forced out of the frame, caught up into the larger pattern. He knew now why the old philosophers had said that there is no such thing as chance or fortune beyond the Moon. Before his Mother had born him, before his ancestors had been called Ransoms, before ransom had been the name for a payment that delivers, before the world was made, all these things had so stood together in eternity that the very significance of the pattern at this point lay in their coming together in just this fashion. And he bowed his head and groaned and repined against his fate . . ."

p. 125

As you may be able to gather, Ransom the man finds himself in a position to serve as a ransom payment for the entire planet Venus. Quirky naming coincidence?

Nevertheless Ransom still has free will to reject this fate, but in doing so he recognizes: "If he now failed, this world also would hereafter be redeemed. If he were not the ransom, Another would be." p. 126 In other words, the Universe would course correct or Ransom could embrace his fate and if he succeeded it wouldn't need to. [This makes me conclude that Desmond could propose to Penny in 1996 without the world ending. I think the universe would have found another button-pushing patsy. Is that Mrs. Hawking working for Widmore? For Ben?]

Ransom goes on to reason:

"[T]here had arisen before him, with perfect certitude, the knowledge 'about this time tomorrow you will have done the impossible.' . . . His fear, his shame, his love, all his arguments [regarding accepting and acting on his fate], were not altered in the least. The thing was neither more nor less dreadful than it had been before. The only difference was that he knew--almost as a historical proposition--that it was going to be done. He might beg, weep, or rebel--might curse or adore--sing like a martyr or blaspheme like a devil. It made not the slightest difference. The thing was going to be done. There was going to arrive, in the course of time, a moment at which he would have done it. The future act stood there, fixed and unaltered as if he had already performed it. It was a mere irrelevant detail that it happened to occupy the position we call future instead of that which we call past. The whole struggle was over, and yet there seemed to have been no moment of victory. You might say, if you liked, that the power of choice had been simply set aside and an inflexible destiny substituted for it. On the other hand, you might say that he had delivered from the rhetoric of his passions and had emerged into unassailable freedom. Ransom could not, for the life of him, see any difference between these two statements. Predestination and freedom were apparently identical."

pp. 126-27

How's that for blending free will and determinism and even in a way that steps out of all boundaries of what we consider the normal flow of time?

There are a couple of other themes to note as well. First there's this odd way of viewing experiences and whether or not we should want to repeat them.

Ransom was hesitant to over-indulge in any extraordinary experiences (and there were many) on Perelandra. "This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards . . . was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself--perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defence against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film." p. 43

It makes me wonder if this is somehow at play on the Island. Does the Island allows you to control time and how fast and in what direction it rolls, unrolls, and rolls backwards? Is that why Widmore wants it and Ben is determined to keep it? And is their greed in desiring this ability to repeat experiences or extend them what will ultimately undo them both?

Finally, both Ben and Widmore could be like the demon-possessed Weston in Perelandra. Weston claims for himself an ultimate imprimatur on his desires and his methods to achieve his desires for universal domination by the human race. He explains to Ransom:

"The world leaps forward through great men and greatness always transcends mere moralism. When the leap has been made our 'diabolism' as you call it becomes the morality of the next stage, but while we are making it, we are called criminals, heretics, blasphemers. . . ."

Which prompts Ransom to query: "How far does it go? Would you still obey the Life-Force if you found it prompting you to murder me?"


"Or to sell England to the Germans?"


"Or to print lies as serious research in a scientific periodical?"

"Yes. . . . Can you not even conceive a total commitment--a commitment to something which utterly overrides all our petty ethical pigeon-holes? . . . I am the Universe. I, Weston, am your God and your Devil." p. 82

At times we get glimpses that this may be the way Ben feels about the Island. In fact I've often hoped we'd see that Ben acts the way he does, finds justification for his actions and the lives he's sacrificed in some greater good scenario such as saving humanity. But more and more it looks like Ben is merely protecting his corner of the sandbox. Oh well, we'll see.

Perelandra was a tough, but interesting read. And to go out on another Locke quote, it even provides Venus with it's very own Adam and Eve.


Capcom said...

OK, I finally got a chance to read this properly. Good job Memphish!

P.22: I think that initially he was saying that at first it's not important to know your purpose, and that the answer to that will come with time and looking back. Then later, he actually does look back and see the plan in his circumstances, as he described earlier.

P.44: that does sound very much like Locke's island revelation!

P125: awesome paragraph! Like the Bible verse: "...even before you were born, I knew you..."

P.126: that's what I have been thinking about Des and the button! If it wasn't Des, why couldn't it have been someone else? Like Kelvin, or anyone? Well, I guess that TPTB will have a reason.

P126-7: "predestination and freedom were apparently identical"...again, awesome concept.

"Greatness always transcends mere moralism" does sound like a thought that Ben would subscribe to, in labeling himself as the good guy in his fight against Widmore. Although I still call "shenanigans!" on it as a cop-out. :-) You're right, at times Ben's fight does seem very petty, and sometimes it also smacks of a "final solution" as well.

Cool_Freeze said...

yeah. still don't recommend that book. =D

Cool_Freeze said...

yeah. still don't recommend that book. =D