'Lost,' a la Descartes

STEP 6: I don't know.
And this is where ''The Man Behind The Curtain'' tripped me up. In my original theory, I stated that Dharma was trying to harness the psychic power of the Island to broadcast a message into the collective consciousness, a sort of subliminal command: ''Search anew for the true meaning of life.'' My contention was that this message needed to take the form of a story, just like the myths of old, and so to that end, the Dharma Initiative was to stage an elaborate psychodrama that mimicked ''The Allegory of the Cave,'' Socrates' enduring model for the nature of human ignorance and sporadic quest for enlightenment. My theory posited that before Dharma could begin that endeavor, it first needed to study the Island and come to a full understanding of how it could be exploited. (I'm thinking now that Dharma was still in its research phase when Ben and ''the Hostiles'' initiated ''the Purge.'') Finally, my theory was going to argue that Ben had come up with a way to fulfill the Dharma mission and redeem its legacy by staging an Enlightenment saga of his creation, one in which he plays the role of antagonist.

I don't think ''The Man Behind The Curtain'' completely invalidated this theory. For example: if Locke really did present a huge threat to Ben, and if Ben really is the tragic monster the episode painted him to be, why didn't he make absolute sure that Locke was doornail dead when he shot him? Why not a bullet in his head for good measure? I've argued that Ben is far smarter than even we know — that, like Desmond, he may be in possession of knowledge of future events. This is all to say, I think it's possible that Ben shot Locke not because he really wanted to kill Locke, but because he knew that a debilitating bullet in the gut was exactly what Locke needed at this moment in his journey, and the larger redemptive story unfolding on the Island. Nonetheless: I'm going to send the rest of this theory back to the lab for more work. But I do believe everything up to this point still stands. If you're looking for a bottom line, it's this: Lost — the defining ''mythology show'' of our age — has taken as its core concern the lack of mythology in our Postmodern age.

Nothing like a little light reading to start your weekend, huh?

Reactions? Complaints? Write to me at JeffJensenEW@aol.com.

And join me back here on Wednesday for your letters, my responses, a theory or two, and some news about the last two Lost episodes of the season.

Doc Jensen


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